An Ohio judge has blocked baseball's commissioner from holding a hearing that could have resulted in Cincinnati Reds Manager Pete Rose's being banned from the game for his alleged gambling activities.
Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Norbert A. Nadel, deciding that Commissioner Bart Giamatti had "prejudged" Rose, Sunday granted Rose a temporary restraining order that delayed today's scheduled hearing until at least July 6.
"Giamatti could not be impartial," the judge said.
Nadel said no action may be taken against Rose for two weeks. The judge said that on July 6 he will
consider a motion for a preliminary injunction that would put the case on hold while he decides whether he or Giamatti should decide Rose's fate.
Over the years, Charles O. Finley, Ted Turner and other team owners have gone to court to challenge the broad powers given to baseball's commissioners, but none have succeeded.
The constitutional guarantees of due process do not always apply to private organizations such as organized sports. The Supreme Court recently reaffirmed that principle in supporting the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. sanctions against Jerry Tarkanian, Nevada Las Vegas basketball coach, for rules violations.
Nadel acknowledged Friday that allowing a court to intervene would be going into "previously uncharted waters."
Rose was not in the packed courtroom for the decision. He was at nearby Riverfront Stadium for Sunday's game against the Dodgers.
In a pregame interview with radio station WLW, Rose said he was pleased with the ruling.
"I think they proved (Giamatti) already made up his mind," Rose said.
"It just wasn't going to be a fair hearing, in my eyes. It was obvious he believed my accusers."
"I think we got justice," said Rose's attorney, Reuven Katz.
Giamatti, the former president of Yale University, issued a statement saying: "I regret the judge's decision. I have absolutely no prejudgment or prejudice regarding Pete Rose. We will contest this matter tooth and nail."
The unprecedented decision came two days after a hearing in which baseball's special investigator, John Dowd, revealed that he has evidence that Rose bet on major league baseball, including Reds games, in 1985, 1986 and 1987.
On Sunday, Nadel, after reading a letter that Giamatti signed on behalf of Rose's chief accuser, Ronald Peters, said: "It appears to this court that the commissioner has prejudged Peter Edward Rose."
The letter, dated April 18, 1989, was drafted by Dowd and signed by Giamatti. It was sent to Judge Carl B. Rubin of the Southern District of Ohio, where Peters was about to be sentenced on charges of cocaine trafficking and tax evasion, and said in part: "It is my purpose to bring to your attention the significant and truthful cooperation Mr. Peters has provided to my special counsel. I am satisfied Mr. Peters has been candid, forthright and truthful with my special counsel."
Nadel also said he thought Rose's career would be irreparably harmed if today's scheduled hearing were held.
Rose could be suspended for a year if it is determined that he bet on major league games. He could be banned for life if he is found to have wagered on Reds' games.
The judge got the case after Rose's lawyers sued on June 19, asserting that Rose had been denied a fair investigation by Dowd.
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