Pete Rose has publicly admitted for the first time he bet on baseball games in which he managed, according to book excerpts released Monday, reversing himself after more than a decade of denying he gambled on his sport.
By confessing that he committed perhaps the game’s ultimate sin, the baseball legend seeks an end to his exile from the sport, including renewed consideration for enshrinement in its Hall of Fame.
“It’s time to clean the slate,” Rose told ABC News in an interview to promote the book. “It’s time to take responsibility, and I’m 14 years late.”
In 1989, after a lengthy investigation, Rose accepted a lifetime ban from the sport for violating its prohibition on betting. In a delicately worded agreement in which Rose neither admitted nor denied the wagering allegations, he acknowledged that then-Major League Baseball Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti “has a factual basis to impose the penalty.”
The lifetime ban rendered Rose, the game’s all-time hit leader and one of its most popular players, ineligible for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Rose applied for reinstatement in 1997, a prerequisite to Hall of Fame consideration, and met with Commissioner Bud Selig 14 months ago.
“Yes, sir, I did bet on baseball,” Rose told Selig, according to book excerpts provided to Sports Illustrated.
In the book, “My Prison Without Bars,” Rose wrote that he regretted his years of denials. “I wish I could take it all back.... For the last 14 years, I’ve consistently heard the statement, ‘If Pete Rose came clean, all would be forgiven.’ Well, I’ve done what you’ve asked. The rest is up to the commissioner and the big umpire in the sky.”
Selig declined to comment Monday, and the application for reinstatement remains pending. A high-ranking baseball official said that no decision was imminent but that Rose likely would be reinstated at some point, perhaps with conditions attached. Selig was troubled, the official indicated, when Rose was spotted in Nevada casinos soon after his confession to the commissioner.
Under major league rule 21(d), players, officials and club employees face a one-year suspension for betting on games involving other teams. Those placing wagers on games in which “the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.”
John Dowd, the lawyer who led baseball’s investigation, concluded that Rose wagered on major league games from 1985 to 1987, while Rose managed the Cincinnati Reds. Dowd detailed 412 baseball bets over a three-month period in 1987, including 52 on the Reds to win.
In Dowd’s investigation, Rose “denied under oath ever betting on major league baseball.”
In his meeting with Selig, Rose acknowledged he bet on baseball “four or five times a week” while managing the Reds.
“Why?” Selig asked.
“I didn’t think I’d get caught,” Rose replied.
Fay Vincent, who succeeded Giamatti as commissioner, hailed Dowd for a report that proved accurate amid years of criticism from Rose and his supporters.
“It’s total vindication, and it’s been 14 years in coming,” Vincent said Monday. “He took a lot of abuse, and not just from Rose. He’s taken a lot of shots, but the work he did was terrific.”
Dowd was said to be traveling Monday and could not be reached for comment.
Rose denied that he used his insider’s knowledge of injuries and statistics in placing his wagers. He also denied using strategic maneuvers that would favor the Reds in games on which he had bet -- for instance, using a star player at less than full strength rather than resting him that day and using a less talented backup.
“I never allowed my wagers to influence my baseball decisions,” Rose wrote. “So, in my mind, I wasn’t corrupt.”
Rose insisted he never bet against the Reds.
“There is no temptation on this Earth that could ever get me to fix a game. None. End of story,” he wrote. “As out of control as I got with my gambling, I never bet against my own team.”
The prohibition against gambling is perhaps baseball’s most sacred rule, with the aim of assuring the integrity of competition.
One of the sport’s most accomplished players, Shoeless Joe Jackson, remains ineligible for the Hall of Fame decades after his death because of his association with the so-called Black Sox scandal, in which he and several Chicago White Sox teammates were indicted for accepting money from gamblers in exchange for playing poorly in the 1919 World Series and ultimately losing to the underdog Reds.
Jackson, whose .356 career batting average is the third-highest in the sport’s history, was cleared by a grand jury but nonetheless banned from baseball forever.
Vincent said he opposed the reinstatement of Rose -- “It’s not in baseball’s interest,” he said -- and noted major league officials could be forced to revisit the cases of Jackson and others.
“How can you pardon Pete Rose and not pardon anyone else?” Vincent said.
Former Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda, a member of the Hall of Fame, said Rose’s confession does not erase his sin and should not guarantee him enshrinement.
“He was suspended because he bet on his own team,” Lasorda said. “Now, because he’s admitting it, does that give him a pass into it?”
If Rose is not selected to the Hall of Fame by January 2006, within 20 years following his retirement, he would be ineligible for the annual voting among baseball writers. Instead, he would be eligible only for second-chance balloting by the Veterans’ Committee, composed primarily of players previously elected to the Hall.
Selig allowed exceptions on two recent occasions, permitting Rose to be honored as a member of the “All-Century” team at the 1999 World Series and during a promotion of baseball’s most memorable moments at the 2002 World Series. Rose was cheered wildly on both occasions.
“I think the powers that be in baseball understand that, hey, maybe the fans like this guy,” Rose told ABC, “maybe the fans want us to give him a second chance.”
If granted, reinstatement could take several forms, including one in which Rose would remain forbidden from working in baseball but could regain eligibility for the Hall of Fame. In an ABC/ESPN poll released Monday but conducted last month, 62% of fans said Rose should stand for election to the Hall if he admitted gambling on baseball.
In the book, to be published Thursday, Rose explained that he lied for so long because he believed gambling did not merit what he called the “death penalty” within his profession.
“If I had been an alcoholic or a drug addict, baseball would have suspended me for six weeks and paid for my rehabilitation.... I should have had the opportunity to get help, but baseball had no fancy rehab for gamblers like they do for drug addicts,” he wrote.
In his ABC interview, scheduled to air Thursday and taped as part of a promotional campaign for his book, Rose said, “The farthest thing from my mind right now is making a bet on anything.”
On Dec. 26, however, he said he made wagers at Santa Anita Race Track, where a horse he co-owned won the ninth race.
“There are 35,000 people here today,” Rose told Times columnist T.J. Simers, “and I don’t think I’m the only one making bets today.”
Times staff writers Ross Newhan, David Wharton and Ben Bolch and Associated Press contributed to this report.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
Pete Rose’s comments on betting allegations
“Despite what the commissioner said today, I didn’t bet on baseball.”
-- Aug. 24, 1989, at a news conference after baseball Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti answered “yes” when asked if Rose had bet on baseball.
“During the baseball season, I had the excitement of being in the game, so I didn’t need to gamble on baseball I swear I didn’t bet on baseball. I didn’t need or want any bigger kick than being in the game I love.”
-- Nov. 8, 1989, on “Donahue.”
“Yes, sir, I did bet on baseball I didn’t think I’d get caught. “
-- November 2002, in a meeting with baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, as described by Rose in the new book “My Prison Without Bars.”
Sources: Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, Sports Illustrated.
Los Angeles Times