Author Kahn Won't Close Book on Rose

Times Staff Writer

Last spring, author Roger Kahn was wrapping up a book on Pete Rose.

Or, he thought he was. One morning in the study of his home in Croton-On-Hudson, N.Y., he spotted a provocative item in the New York Times.

"A little item caught my eye, in one of the sports columns," he said. "It was a mum's-the-word-type item, hinting that the (baseball) commissioner's office was looking into alleged Rose gambling activities.

"I was on my way to spring training at the time, and I asked Pete about it when I got to Florida. He sort of confirmed it then, by asking me if I knew that Sports Illustrated was sending people around to different teams, asking ex-Reds players about his gambling activities."

That's roughly when Kahn came to realize that his book, which he had been working on with Rose since 1986, was a hotter property than he realized.

"At that point, I more or less thought the end of the book would be the changing of the guard of Pete's baseball life, where he becomes a manager and his son, Pete, Jr., begins his playing life with the Baltimore Orioles' organization.

"But early in the spring, I could see that would not be the case."

Kahn once covered the Dodgers for the New York Herald Tribune and is the author of eight books, including "The Boys of Summer."

Events of recent months, Kahn said, have taken their toll on Rose, who on Aug. 23 was banned from baseball for life by Commissioner Bart Giamatti.

"I've seen Pete regularly over the past few months and I've seen stress take its toll on this man," Kahn said.

"His sense of humor remains, but it's forced now. Pete doesn't look good. He's pale . . . his color isn't what it was. You look closely at the man and you know he's someone under a lot of stress."

Kahn said Rose told him his problems have been caused by friends, not gambling.

"He feels he does not have a gambling problem," Kahn said. "In fact, he told me one day: "If it's one thing I've been . . . about, it's picking friends."

Kahn said Rose has given him no indication that he plans to pursue a baseball career in Japan.

"From what he's said to me, I'd say he fully believes he'll be back in major league baseball next season," he said.

Kahn said he first met with Rose to discuss the book in New York in 1986.

"Pete's marketing people contacted me, asking if I'd be interested in doing a book on Pete's life," he said.

"I said I'd want to meet him and get to know him before I decided," he said.

"So we set up a date in New York. Pete told me: 'You know, I've never really read a lot of books. I've read two, and one of those was 'The Official Pete Rose Scrapbook.'

"I told Pete I'd be interested in a book with him only if it would be a real book. I mean, I didn't want to do a "Pete Rose's Favorite Baseball Stories," type thing. Or a John Madden book. I told him I thought he'd had an extraordinary life and I wanted to write about his life.

"Then Pete said: 'What about my divorce? Do I have to do a blow by blow?'

"I said no. Then he told me 'I will never be a (Jim) Bouton,' and I said I had no problem with that, either.

"Then he said that doing a book with me would be like painting a picture with Andy Warhol. He'd posed for a Warhol silk screen. That touched me, when he said that."

Rose's life is deceptively complicated, Kahn said.

"Pete's not the kind of guy who introspectively reviews his life," he said. "He's not a well-read man, but he has considerable intelligence."

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