Friday, July 18, 2003

Mock verdict: Put Pete in Hall

Rose finally gets his day in court ... sort of

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Lawyer Johnnie Cochran defends Pete Rose during a mock trial at Harvard Law School
(Associated Press photo)
| ZOOM |
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Former Reds star Pete Rose should be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, a 12-person jury in a mock trial said Thursday at Harvard School of Law.

Based on the evidence, which was presented and analyzed at Ames Moot Court by famed attorneys Johnnie Cochran (for Rose) and Alan Dershowitz (for the "prosecution") for a national TV audience on ESPN, the jury agreed that Rose had bet on baseball. But because he never bet against his team, he should now be accorded baseball's highest honor.

The jury's vote was 8-4 in favor of opening the doors of Cooperstown to the Cincinnati Kid. They bought into Cochran's closing argument that "enough is enough." Rose has been banished from baseball since 1989.

"I don't believe it (betting on your team) is the offense it's cracked to be," said former Boston Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee, who was probably the defense's strongest witness. "Pete's problem was when he didn't bet on the Reds" because other gamblers picked up in it and bet on the other team.

Should Rose be in the Hall? Vote here
"Pretty serious offense, isn't it?" Dershowitz asked.

"Not really," said a smiling Lee, drawing a big laugh from the 400 people who filled the courtroom.

Although the "trial" was merely academic, entertaining and made for TV, it showed the delicate line Major League Baseball must walk in regards to present-day Hall of Famers in deciding whether to reinstate Rose to baseball within the next three years.

It has to happen within three years if Rose is to have his shot at the end of his 15-year window with the voting members of the Baseball Writers of America. His name has never come before them because he is on baseball's "permanently ineligible" list for his connection with gambling.

First-ballot Hall of Famers Henry Aaron and Jim Palmer (both of whom testified on videotape) and two other superstars, Steve Garvey and Cincinnati native Dave Parker (they testified live) all said Rose should fess up if he expects to be reinstated.

Palmer said that if he had a chance to talk to Rose, he would tell him: "This isn't about you and me. ... For you to be where you really belong ... you've got to let us know what really went on, and take responsibility for it."

Aaron and Parker were both defense witnesses, but wound up making points for the prosecution on its cross-examination.

Dershowitz introduced Aaron to the betting slips in Rose's handwriting and bearing one of his fingerprints, and to the sworn depositions of bookies, even though they weren't the most savory of characters.

"If I can be persuaded (he bet on Reds games), I probably would have a change of mind," Aaron said.

Aaron conceded that betting as a manager is worse than as a player, because a manager has more control over the game.

He also said: "Lying is always hard; you have to tell the truth no matter what it is."

If Rose bet on baseball, should he admit it? "It would be to his advantage to admit it, and hope that baseball, the world and the sports world would forgive him," Aaron said.

Dershowitz got Parker to testify that strike one and two against Rose was betting on Reds games and lying about it. Parker stopped just short of saying the constant denials by Rose are strike three.

"It wouldn't help," Parker said.

Garvey and Palmer made major points for the prosecution in explaining that Rose not betting against the Reds shouldn't differentiate him from former White Sox slugger Joe Jackson, who threw games to the Reds in the 1919 World Series.

Aaron said he had talked to Rose recently and found him "depressed" that he is on the outside looking in.

"If you look at his record, he deserves to have his plaque in Cooperstown," Aaron said. "He's been punished enough."

Garvey said he talked to Rose after he was banished.

"I like Pete Rose," Garvey said. "Nobody played harder. ... But he had, and has, a problem. ... I said, 'Pete, if you had looked in the camera and said, "I made a mistake, I ask your forgiveness, I'll do everything I can (to get help),"'" he would be in the Hall of Fame already.

And how did Rose respond?

"With not much to say," Garvey said. It was as though "he couldn't fully comprehend it. ... Recently though, from what I've heard (Rose say), he's getting a better understanding of his situation."

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