Pete Rose admits placing bets on baseball games as manager

Effect on reinstatement from ban remains unclear

January 06, 2004|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

Major league great Pete Rose finally has admitted that he bet on baseball games while he was the manager of the Cincinnati Reds in the 1980s, but it is unclear whether his long-awaited act of public contrition will persuade baseball commissioner Bud Selig to lift the lifetime ban imposed on the sport's all-time hits leader in 1989.

Rose revealed in a television interview that will air this week what he has steadfastly denied for the past 14 years. He told ABC Primetime interviewer Charles Gibson that he gambled on baseball, but insisted he never bet against his team and never let a wager affect an on-field decision.

The timing of his public admission is no accident. Rose's interview on ABC will air Thursday, coinciding with the release of his autobiography, My Prison Without Bars, in which he details the gambling activities that prompted then-commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti to ban him from baseball.

ABC's Good Morning America aired a portion of the interview yesterday, and the network released a partial transcript. Excerpts from the book also will be published in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated.

In the book and the interview, Rose said he admitted during a meeting with Selig in 2002 that he bet on baseball games "four or five times a week," but never against the Reds and never from the Reds clubhouse.

"I was wrong," Rose told Gibson. "I [was] just stupid, the worst thing I did in my life.

"It's time to clean the slate. It's time to take responsibility. I'm 14 years late."

Rose agreed to the lifetime ban after Major League Baseball commissioned lawyer John Dowd to investigate allegations from several bookmakers that Rose bet frequently on baseball. Dowd's report concluded that Rose placed hundreds of bets on baseball and 52 on the Reds to win from 1985 to 1987, but Rose struck a deal to accept the ban with the stipulation that he would not have to admit to anything and later could apply for reinstatement.

He formally submitted that application in 1997, but only recently has there been any indication Selig might seriously entertain the notion of reinstating him. Rose is not eligible to work in organized baseball or be considered for induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame as long as the ban remains in place.

Selig has said little on the subject, but it has long been assumed that he would require Rose to make a public admission of guilt before any further progress could be made toward reinstatement.

`Big umpire in the sky'

"I've consistently heard the statement: `If Pete Rose came clean, all would be forgiven,'" Rose wrote in the book. "Well, I've done what you've asked. The rest is up to the commissioner and the big umpire in the sky."

He said in the book that he denied the charges because he felt the admission would be used against him rather than be treated as a cry for the help he needed to overcome a gambling addiction. Baseball has long had programs in place to help employees who suffer from alcoholism and drug addiction, but gambling has been viewed as the sport's mortal sin since Chicago White Sox players allegedly conspired to fix the 1919 World Series.

"I should have had the opportunity to get help, but baseball had no fancy rehab for gamblers like they do for drug addicts," Rose wrote. "If I had admitted my guilt, it would have been the same as putting my head on the chopping block - lifetime ban. Death penalty. I spent my entire life on the baseball fields of America, and I was not going to give up my profession without first seeing some hard evidence ... right or wrong, the punishment didn't fit the crime, so I denied the crime."

Now, he must wait to see whether Selig and baseball ownership view his admission as a sincere effort to clean up his act or a cynical attempt to exploit the scandal and sell books.

In that context, writing My Prison Without Bars could be his biggest gamble.

Rose said he never really thought about the consequences when he placed bets with bookmaker Ronald Peters, one of the most damaging witnesses in the Dowd investigation.

"I don't think you really bet the sport knowing the penalties," Rose said. "I mean, I can't remember the first time I made a baseball bet, but I don't think when I made that bet that I said, `Now, what's going to happen to me if I get caught?' I don't think I ever considered that."

No comment from Selig

Selig has been reluctant to consider reinstatement, some say out of respect for Giamatti, who died of a heart attack soon after announcing the lifetime ban. The commissioner declined to comment when contacted by the Associated Press.

"We haven't seen the book," Selig said. "Until we read the book, there's nothing to comment on."

Rose recounts his 2002 conversation with Selig in the book.

"Yes, sir, I did bet on baseball," Rose told Selig.

"How often?" Selig asked.

"Four or five times a week," Rose replied. "But I never bet against my own team, and I never made any bets from the clubhouse."

"Why?" Selig asked.

"I didn't think I'd get caught."

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