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Pete Rose Admits He Bet on Team's Games

The Nation

January 06, 2004|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

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.

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