SAN DIEGO — Anyone who objects to Pete Rose's lifetime suspension from baseball perhaps should read the words of Denny McLain.
McLain has had plenty of trouble of his own, plunging from a 31-victory season for the Detroit Tigers in 1968 to a 29-month term in prison from 1985 to 1988. But he has rehabilitated himself--he now has a nightly radio talk show in Detroit--and spoke freely and knowingly of the Rose case before the Equitable Old-Timers game Saturday night at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
Said McLain: "If you don't believe the report on which the commissioner (A. Bartlett Giamatti) based his decision, you have to be deaf, dumb and dead. It runs 2,000 pages, and I read it all. It took me two days."
McLain says that it "all happened"--Rose's gambling on baseball in general and on his team, the Cincinnati Reds, in particular.
Asked why he had gone to such lengths as to read a 2,000-page document, McLain explained that he wanted to be prepared for appearances by Rose's two principal accusers, Paul Janszen and Ron Peters, on his radio program.
"I thought I could blow them away on the show," McLain said. "But once I read the report, I knew they had the goods on Rose. There was no way I could have any further doubt.
"Janszen was wired with the FBI for the IRS, and that's how the IRS got a lot of the information that they say is going to lead to an indictment (of Rose) next week."
Asked if Rose could challenge any evidence in the report, McLain said, "Not a chance. Everything he says can be refuted. Checks, bank wires, telephone tolls from his home--they're all there.
"There's nothing worse than Pete saying, 'No, I made that call from San Francisco,' and being told, 'Sorry, Pete, the Reds were home that day.'
"The report showed as many as 30 to 40 calls in one night to 900 numbers that give scores of all the games. The list of phone bills is the first place they go."
McLain said the report left no doubt that Rose had bet regularly on his own team, an offense that made his ban for life automatic.
"I believe the biggest question is this: Rose established a pattern of betting five or six Reds games in a row, then would place no bets on a certain night. What does that suggest?
"He would bet $10,000, $12,000, $15,000 a night, then all of a sudden, no bets. Only Pete can answer that."
Asked if he had concluded from the report that Rose had a serious problem, McLain said, "I can't say that, but when a guy plays (bets) 15 games a night, he's not playing to win, it's a high.
"Peters told me that on a given Saturday during the football or basketball season, Rose would say to him, 'Give me all the home teams in the country.' That's not gambling. It's suicide.
"He isn't only a gambler. He's a horrible gambler. I asked Janszen how much he lost, and Janszen said over a million dollars in cash. You're talking serious dough."
McLain speculated on the reason that Giamatti didn't force Rose to admit his guilt before handing down his decision:
"If Rose went in on the IRS matter and lied after admitting to the commissioner that he was guilty, the judge could nail him on a perjury charge. If he doesn't say anything, people can say and write anything they want about him, but they can't call him a liar."
Inevitably, the question about Rose's qualifications for the Baseball Hall of Fame came up.
"He's certainly eligible on the basis of what he did on the baseball field," McLain said. "However, judging from talking to sportswriters on my show, a lot of them who vote have serious reservations at this point?
"If you compromise the game, what can you do in the future to make it up? That's what the writers are probably thinking.
"Pete knew what he was doing. He wasn't kidnapped and told to gamble."
In spite of everything, McLain disagrees with those who say Rose's actions have stained baseball.
"This doesn't stain the sport; it stains Pete Rose," McLain said. "I haven't heard of any Pete Rose prayers in any ballpark yet."
Although he is several pounds over his playing weight, McLain made a good showing in game, in which his American League all-stars lost to the National Leaguers, 6-3. He pitched a scoreless first inning and later hit a solid single.
Lou Brock, the only Hall of Famer to play--although Lou Boudreau served as a manager and Luke Appling and Ralph Kiner as coaches--was the hitting star with a home run, a single and four runs batted in. His homer was a three-run shot off Dennis Leonard.
Others with two hits each were Tommy Davis, Dick Dietz and Felix Millan of the National League and Mickey Stanley of the American.
Davis, a two-time batting champion with the Dodgers, lives in Alta Loma and is preparing to open an indoor-batting-cage business in Chino.