U.S. District Court Judge Harry Pregerson declared a mistrial last week in the NFL antitrust case and ordered that a new trial begin in his Los Angeles courtroom on Sept. 21. The mistrial was called after the 10-member jury was unable to reach a verdict during 13 days of often bitter deliberations. The jury was split 8-2 in favor of the L.A. Coliseum and the Oakland Raiders, who were suing the NFL, and some members of the majority accused, one of the two holdouts, a retired plastics manufacturer named Thomas Gelker, of having been hopelessly biased against the plaintiffs. Gelker came under an even harsher light when it was learned that he was a first cousin of Bruce Gelker, a former owner of the now-defunct World Football League's Portland Storm. Like the other jurors, he had disavowed any extensive knowledge of or connection with pro football.
Gelker told reporters that he had simply forgotten about his cousin's onetime involvement in the WFL, and he denied having any bias. But Joseph Alioto, the Raiders' attorney, already upset by accusations that an NFL security officer had tried to contact at least one juror during the trial, demanded that the U.S. Attorney investigate possible improprieties involving the jury. Alioto derisively called Gelker "the artichoke from Anaheim"—artichoke being Alioto's term for an intransigent juror—and said, "We won the fight fairly and got robbed in the decision." Raider Managing General Partner Al Davis, whose effort to move his team to Los Angeles against the will of the rest of the NFL was the subject of the suit, said of Gelker's role on the jury, "I think it was an obstruction of justice. I'd go so far as to say it was a plant." Davis implied that the NFL had somehow been responsible for getting Gelker on the jury.
The frustration that prompted Davis' startling accusation—if not the accusation itself—was forgivable. The Raiders had already spent $1.5 million in legal fees on the suit and are presumably less well equipped than the NFL to incur the expense of further litigation, a fact not lost on a lawyer on the NFL side, who told SI's Paul Zimmerman: "There's a limit to how far the Raiders can go. Al has limited partners. He only owns 25% of the team. A series of mistrials can cut off his oil supply."
The NFL has further reason to be hopeful. Wayne Valley, a former partner of Davis' with the Raiders, was scheduled to be a star witness for the NFL in the first trial but was scratched because of illness. There's a chance he may testify in the new trial. Nevertheless, the 8-2 vote in Davis' favor was a close call, and there's no guarantee the NFL will be so lucky the next time around. In the coming days Pregerson may well renew his past efforts to arrange an out-of-court settlement. It might behoove both sides in the increasingly nasty dispute to heed his plea.
NEXT THEY'LL TRY TO TIE COBB
Be it noted that on Monday, Aug. 10, the night Philadelphia's Pete Rose got his 3,631st hit to break Stan Musial's National League career record, the nine starting batsmen for Oakland in a 6-2 loss to Minnesota collected seven hits to raise their combined career total to 3,191. The A's and Phillies could conceivably meet in the World Series, by which time those selfsame nine Oakland players may well have pulled to within 100 hits or so of Pete. Keep plugging, boys.
Xs, Os AND ZZZZZs
Los Angeles radio station KMPC, the hometown outlet of the Rams, conducts a live, early-morning telephone interview with Coach Ray Malavasi on the day following each game. At 7:20 a.m. last Tuesday a KMPC producer phoned Malavasi at home, chatted with him and then, after putting him on hold, turned him over to an interviewer, Robert W. Morgan, who intended to talk to Malavasi about the Rams' 34-21 exhibition loss the night before to the New England Patriots. But when Morgan, on the air, greeted Malavasi, there was silence at the other end. Morgan tried again. The faint but unmistakable sound of snoring could be heard. Malavasi had fallen asleep.
Morgan reacted with considerable aplomb. Instead of hanging up, he proceeded to "interview" the Ram coach. The exchange went something like this:
: What about Haden getting intercepted four times last night, coach?