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THE PETE ROSE INVESTIGATION : Cincinnati Is Finding the Attention to Be Difficult to Handle

June 27, 1989|BILL PLASCHKE | Times Staff Writer

CINCINNATI — As the people with microphones and notebooks pushed and shoved in a hot and muggy hallway--"We don't air-condition the corridors in this county," cackled one old observer--it suddenly became apparent. The pushing and shoving were for nothing.

This Hamilton County Courthouse, having been around for nearly a century, had seen just about enough of this Pete Rose business. On Monday afternoon, the courthouse was finally going to have its say.

An hour after Judge Norbert A. Nadel supposedly made public the 225-page report of major league baseball's investigation into Rose's alleged betting on baseball, a court administrator stepped into that hallway with unusual news.

It was about the copying machines. They didn't have enough of them. They didn't have the right ones.

This damaging report about the manager of the Cincinnati Reds, set to circulate throughout the country at 5 p.m., would not be officially available in Cincinnati until Tuesday morning.

"We didn't find out much sooner about it than you did," said Mark P. Schweikert, the Common Pleas Court Administrator who learned at 3:50 p.m. that Nadel had placed the report and its nine volumes of exhibits in his custody.

"We have to make arrangements. We don't have the right equipment."

Court officer Bill Staubitz said later: "You have to understand, our copiers aren't exactly state of the art."

Such have been the recent travails of this river town that long has shielded its eyes from the bright lights and its heart from everything else. A town that is most happy being left alone, not part of Ohio, not part of neighboring Kentucky. A town that has never been much for company, particularly that of scandals involving its living monument.

As every detail in the Pete Rose affair spreads itself across the country today, this is a town that justs want to throw up its hands and unplug its copying machines and say, "Enough!"

"We had our bicentennial last year and everybody was feeling good about themselves . . . and now this," said Dan Hurley, contract historian who was formerly education supervisor for the Cincinnati Historical Society. "We have found ourselves in the national news, and people have been bothered by that.

"Cincinnati has always been sort of a city-state. We've defined our world in our own terms. And then all of a sudden, we're part of the rest of the world. We have broken out in ways that are hard for us to reconcile."

Take, for example, Rose's players. They have heard the evidence, but they are uncertain how to react, or even that a reaction is called for.

"The 24 guys that play on this team don't know half of what is going on," Rob Dibble, a rookie relief pitcher, said. "We just try not to think about it. Mostly, everybody is worried about Pete. Because he certainly doesn't look like he's a criminal."

Also take, for example, Pete Rose. Despite substantial evidence otherwise, he has consistently denied betting on baseball games, including those played by the Reds. And when it was announced Monday that all that evidence was being released, he reacted with astonishment.

"It's 225 pages and two of those pages are positive about me," Rose said, as if such a negative view of him were unthinkable. "It's such a biased report, it's unbelievable. But we'll have to face that."

Just as Rose faced reporters after his court victory Sunday, when his hearing with baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti was postponed for at least 14 days because, Nadel ruled, Giamatti "prejudged" Rose.

"I just want to read all of your articles in a couple of weeks," Rose told reporters Sunday afternoon. "Especially the articles from the same guys who have been writing about me the past few days."

Local newspaper columnists have called for Rose's resignation. That possibility is something Cincinnatians are only now starting to accept. And only because such a resignation would get the world out of their living rooms.

"Forever and ever and ever, the people here have been solidly behind Pete," observed Marty Brennaman, longtime radio announcer for the Reds. "This is the most provincial city I've lived in. I can't imagine a more provincial city.

"But now, there is a segment of the population where, if they haven't completely gone the other way against Pete, there is at least an element of doubt in their minds. People are becoming divided."

According to historian Hurley, it's even harsher than that.

"I think the reaction finally is, 'Hey, they got him,' " Hurley said of Rose. "And for us, that's not very pleasant."

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