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Year in Review: 1997

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Re-rank the list of top sports stories of 1997

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Tiger Woods takes
golf world by storm

Pedro Martinez signs
record deal with Sox

Latrell Sprewell
assaults coach, gets ax

Rick Pitino becomes
Celtics coach, president

Bill Parcells quits after Patriots' banner year

Martina Hingis
rules women's tennis

Florida Marlins win World Series

Women's pro hoop
meets with success

A Patriots surprise:
Super Bowl XXXI berth

Wil Cordero charged
with assaulting wife


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Check out the top news stories of 1997

Cordero pleads guilty to assault

Gets suspended sentence, must take state course for convicted batterers

Wilfredo Cordero, the former Red Sox outfielder, pleaded guilty yesterday to assaulting his wife during a domestic dispute at their Cambridge apartment in June, but will serve no time in jail.

Cordero was given a suspended sentence of 90 days in the Middlesex House of Correction. In addition, he will have to complete a 40-week course that is given by the state to convicted batterers.

A day before he was set to go on trial, Cordero appeared before Cambridge District Judge Roanne Sragow late in the afternoon and pleaded guilty to four charges, including a felony -- assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

Cordero was arrested in the pre-dawn hours of June 11. He was taken out of the lineup by the Red Sox for 19 games immediately after the assault and was then released by the team at the end of the season, making him a free agent.

By pleading guilty to the felony charge, Cordero faces a suspension from Major League Baseball. One baseball official, who asked not to be identified, said Cordero could be suspended for "weeks if not months."

Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Anne Edwards, who prosecuted the case, said she was pleased by yesterday's developments.

"This case in the end serves to send a message to him [Cordero], it serves to protect his wife, and it serves to send a message to potential batterers: With or without a victim willing to testify, we will take these cases to their natural conclusion," said Edwards.

Cordero's appearance in court was his fifth since he was arrested for the assault on Ana Echevarria Cordero. In late August, when he declined to agree to a similar plea, his lawyers said he did not want a felony conviction as it might reduce his bargaining power as a ballplayer.

In court yesterday, his lawyer, Mary K. Ames, asked Sragow to file the felony charge without a finding of guilty, if Cordero pleaded guilty to the misdemeanors. Sragow rejected the request. After a brief consultation, Cordero agreed to plead guilty to the felony and three misdemeanors -- assault and battery, threats, and violating a restraining order. He faced a prison term of as many as eight years.

A court official said last night that Cordero would be able to attend another state's counseling program should he move to join another team.

John M. Galvin, Cordero's co-counsel, said last night that the ballplayer had decided to plead guilty "so he could get on with the rest of his life."

Cordero and his wife felt they needed to resolve the case "to get on with their healing," Galvin said. The Corderos will leave Boston to return to his hometown of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, in the next day or two, Galvin said.

Although he must still await a league decision on any suspension, Cordero will be able to negotiate with teams from a clearer position with the criminal case behind him, Galvin said. He noted that Sragow had stated in court yesterday that Cordero should not be harmed in his negotiating future contracts with other teams.

A baseball official said last night that he did not know when the league might rule on a possible suspension for Cordero, but he doubted that teams would want to negotiate with the player until the matter is resolved. Cordero, 26, commanded a $3.5 million salary from the Red Sox last season.

The agreement between the league and the players' association allows the league to suspend players for felony convictions, but the association can appeal the suspension.

Cordero had no comment when reached at his Cambridge apartment last night. "I'm sorry, but I cannot talk right now," he said.

Red Sox spokesman Kevin Shea said the team had no comment.

Although she signed a restraining order against him hours after the assault, Ana Cordero soon said she had forgiven her husband and wanted the charges against him dropped so he could continue his career and their relationship could heal.

Middlesex District Attorney Thomas F. Reilly refused to go along with the request, citing the state's high incidence of domestic abuse.


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