On a wall of Buzzie Bavasi's La Jolla home hangs a photograph of Pete Rose in action. It apparently is all Bavasi needs to remind him of Rose's zest for the game and his unyielding, hard-nosed style of play.
Monday afternoon, after the latest details of Rose's alleged baseball gambling activities were made public when an Ohio court released baseball investigator John Dowd's 225-page report to Commissioner Bart Giamatti, Bavasi said he looked long and hard at the photo. Bavasi, former general manager of the Dodgers, Angels and a past president of the San Diego Padres, wondered about Rose. "I look at that picture and it seems that there wasn't anyone who was better for the game than Pete," Bavasi said. "He was a great player, but his character is tarnished now. So if, if , he bet on the (Cincinnati) Reds, he has to get the book thrown at him. He just has to. I'm a purist when it comes to that."
But a few miles south, in San Diego, Steve Garvey, former Dodger and Padre, urged leniency for his former adversary. Garvey said that if the accusations are true, the Reds' manager should not be banned for life from the sport, as baseball rules dictate. He said a suspension and counseling would be more appropriate.
"I'm more of a compassionist," Garvey said. "I would think in terms of a (milder) decree if I'm the commissioner. I haven't read the report, and I don't know if (Rose) bet on baseball. But the bottom line is that (gambling) is an illness and a sickness and should be treated as such."
Bavasi and Garvey seemingly represent the two factions among those in baseball as to how Giamatti should proceed--if a Cincinnati court decides he will make the decisions. The 225-page report made public Monday details Rose's alleged wagering on baseball games, including those of the Reds, from 1985 through 1987.
Bavasi, now retired, said the integrity of baseball is at issue and that harsh penalties, such as a lifetime ban, are needed to ensure that the game remains above reproach.
"They just can't allow anything like that, and it shouldn't matter that he never bet on his team to lose," Bavasi said.
"I'll give you an example. Let's say he has $50,000 riding on the Reds and he is friends with the manager of the other team. He might say to that guy, 'Listen, you're 14 games out of first (place) with two weeks to play. I'll split it and give you $25,000 if you just make a wrong decision in the game.'
"Now, as far as I know, Pete never did that. But the public doesn't know that. That's what they might be thinking. It plants that doubt. It puts suspicion in the public's mind, and baseball can't have that. They'll think that about Pete the rest of his (managerial) career." Bavasi said that Rose, if found guilty of having gambled on baseball, should not get a light sentence because he did so knowingly and apparently was well aware of the rules forbidding it.
"I've known Pete for a good number of years, so I'm not surprised that he gambled," Bavasi said. "But I am surprised he (gambled on) baseball, if what they say is true. Pete knows the rules of the game better than anyone I've ever known, other than Gene Mauch. He knows you can't gamble on baseball. He knows Leo (Durocher) and he knows that Leo was suspended for merely associating with those guys (gamblers). Pete knows the penalties.
"I just don't understand why he'd do it. I'm sure over the last 10 years, he has earned maybe $15 million. What does he need another million for? Is $16 million that much better than $15 million? Maybe he does have a (gambling addiction). But if he was my son, I'd take him over my knee and spank him. Here's a guy who had everything and he's blown it."
Garvey, who played against Rose during the glory years of the Dodger-Red rivalry, said he does not condone either spanking or a lifetime suspension.
"Pete, off the field, has been a friend of mine," Garvey said. "And I know Pete has gambled. Just from what I've read and heard--I don't know for sure--he has a problem. With everything that has happened, people really should talk about and deal with his illness.
"Everybody is so judgmental. People are taking sides. Some want him barred from earth. I think we should have compassion. You (should) weigh Pete's past as a player and all his contributions to baseball. I know he's bet and gambled for a long time, so it seems he has a certain vulnerability to that.
"They should help Pete get treatment for his problem, if it is shown he has a problem. I'm still waiting for everything to come out before I make a final judgment. But there should be some compassion for this man's life."