Former Cincinnati Red and admitted gambling aficionado Pete Rose turns up regularly on television these days. His years of clubbing baseballs over, Rose spends most of his time pounding something else: the noggin of Washington lawyer John Dowd.

Dowd, you might recall, authored the 1989 report that led to Rose's banishment from the game of baseball, after an investigation concluded that Rose had gambled on Reds games when he managed the team. These days Rose is picking up his public relations campaign to get reinstated to baseball, hoping to land a high-paying job as a big-league manager and a spot in the Hall of Fame.

The Dowd report, however, stands in the way, which is why Rose keeps appearing on shows such as "Rivera Live" to pummel Dowd.

"He wasn't fair. He wasn't fair," Rose muttered to Geraldo on Nov. 30, before launching into a by-now-familiar attack.

A partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld, Dowd is accustomed to serving as Rose's favorite slow pitch. "It's the same old story he's been saying for 10 years now," Dowd said last week, sounding a bit saddened by the entire business.

Dowd, who conducted his investigation at the behest of then-baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti, said that briefly in 1989 it seemed as though Rose would avoid a lifetime ban. Rose could have admitted gambling on baseball -- something he denies to this day -- and spent some time "reconfiguring" his life, then rejoined the game at some later date. There was even a suggestion that Dowd and Rose would get to meet face to face and discuss the matter privately.

The meeting never happened. "I would have been thrilled if it did," Dowd said. "I have no desire to injure Pete. This is a real tragedy."

Virginia Is for Mega-Firms

O'Melveny and Myers, an L.A.-based mega-firm with a growing D.C. office, is the latest to march into Northern Virginia's legal territory. The office will start with three partners -- Jeff Kilduff, David Pommerening and Al Wurglitz -- and four associates, but there is room in the 12,000-square-foot office for about 25 lawyers, suggesting that O'Melveny is planning a major expansion. Litigation as well as securities and antitrust work will be the firm's core practice areas there.

The move comes as O'Melveny has been bulking up its Washington outpost, having doubled its cadre of lawyers to 100 in the past two years. The firm has also reeled in some very large fish, including former acting solicitor general Walter Dellinger and, more recently, Ron Klain, the former chief of staff for Vice President Gore.

Like the handful of firms that are already stationed in NoVa, O'Melveny is merely following the high-tech money. But its arrival -- as well as that of New York-based Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom -- suggests that the fighting for legal dollars from tech companies is about to change from a gang fight among teenagers into a full-blown war, with firms that can pack heavy artillery and flotillas of legal talent.

The tech-focused firms that moved to NoVa first -- such as Palo Alto's Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati -- are nimble and super-connected to the venture capitalists that all tech start-ups need. But what happens when these infant companies grow into Nasdaq superstars? They suddenly need a firm with links to the varsity league of investment bankers, and maybe a few lawyers in other countries. Put simply, many of these start-ups could outgrow their firms.

"This signals that there is major money moving into the region," said one legal consultant. "Firms like Wilson Sonsini just don't have relationships with investment bankers, they're not structured for the Big Deal. They can't even spell `international.'"

Kilduff, who will serve as managing partner in O'Melveny's NoVa office, acknowledges that the firm is trailing some of the first movers into the region, but he likes its chances nonetheless. Already on the firm's lengthy list of clients: computer makers International Business Machines Corp. and Apple Computer Inc., as well as Sony Corp. and chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

"I think we bring the first national brand marquee name and we'll be able to find the clients that need us," he said. "We're uniquely positioned to take a company from the infant phase to maturity."

Fudge Factoring

Last week, Exxon Mobil announced that it would cut another 14,000 jobs, not the 9,000 officials originally estimated before the $81 billion merger was approved by antitrust enforcers. According to company Chairman Lee Raymond, the former rivals have developed a far better understanding of each other since they were allowed to marry several weeks ago, and the initial layoff projections were sort of back-of-an-envelope guesses that have since been refined.

Maybe so. And maybe the company was merely living up to its tradition of "underpromising and overdelivering," as one analyst put it. It's also true that there are tight limits on the amount of information that companies can share before they merge.

But that might not be the whole story. State attorneys general fret about large-scale layoffs -- hey, they're elected by the public, after all -- and they might have raised a bigger stink about the merger if they knew it would lead to nearly twice the number of pink slips than originally forecast. (About 6,000 of the job cuts are expected to come through attrition.) Antitrust attorneys say it often makes tactical sense to low-ball the job-loss figures to placate state AGs, who have the legal standing to challenge deals. Once a deal is done, you can update these numbers, and by then the feds are on board, making a state lawsuit a lonelier proposition.

Exxon Mobil spokesman Dave Dickson said Friday that the company would not discuss its negotiations with any antitrust enforcers. "The only thing I can say is that when the merger was first announced a year ago, this was the best estimate we could make at that point," he said.

Several lawyers said Exxon Mobil merely played by the somewhat conflicting rules of the antitrust game. On the one hand, companies need to convince federal agencies that there are compelling economic reasons to approve mergers, which often means proving that efficiencies -- such as leaner payrolls -- will lead to lower prices. At the same time, there are state AGs to mollify. They focus on prices too, but also fret that downsizing will generate anger among newly unemployed voters. Balancing these somewhat contradictory demands -- well, that's why the good ones get the big bucks.

"There are conflicting interests," said one local lawyer with pending business before the Federal Trade Commission. "Smart companies don't specify in documents where they're cutting or how much they will cut."

Nice Try

So you were a little late mailing in your D.C. Bar dues but you've got a pretty good excuse and don't think you should have to fork over the $30 late fee.

Ha ha ha.

Forget it, pal. Sticking to its newfound no-mercy rule, the bar has rejected a handful of pleas for a late-fee waiver from members. Even medical excuses aren't cutting it anymore. Robert I. Brickman, for instance, explained that last January he was stricken with acute back problems courtesy of a herniated disc, which caused many months of inactivity and recuperation. His request was ever so politely rejected. "We empathize with Mr. Brickman's health problems and hardship but the District of Columbia Bar does not have a Bylaw provision for the waiver of dues or late charges due to hardship."

Tough crowd, this bar.

Richard Drezen contributed to this report. Blab to Hearsay at