Rose admits on ABC he bet on Reds, then lied about it

But former star complains baseball didn't feel his pain



January 09, 2004|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

Pete Rose insisted for 14 years that he never bet on baseball while he was manager of the Cincinnati Reds. Now, he wants everyone to believe that he would never do it again.

Rose, who was banned from baseball for gambling in 1989, admitted during a television interview aired last night on ABC's Primetime Thursday that he bet on the Reds when he managed the team in 1987 and '88, but that revelation already had been telegraphed and exploited throughout the week to create maximum hype for both the interview and his just-released autobiography.

The only reason to watch was to see him look into the eye of the camera and explain why baseball fans should forgive him and commissioner Bud Selig should allow him back into the game.

"I think people believe that I'm sincere in knowing what I did," Rose told ABC interviewer Charles Gibson. "If the commissioner ever was to give me a second chance, I could never let him down. I owe baseball, and the only way I can make my peace with baseball is by turning this negative into a positive."

No surprises. The real theater was in the theater itself, and Rose delivered a semi-convincing performance consistent with a long career of lies, half-truths and poor judgment. He told Gibson that he bet on the Reds and lied about it, but he couldn't just take responsibility for his actions and leave it at that. The whole sordid mess apparently could have been avoided if Major League Baseball had been able to feel his pain.

"I couldn't get a response from baseball for 12 years," he said. "It was like I died and they knew I didn't, and they wouldn't let me come back. They just left me to rot."

The Primetime Thursday segment included archive videotapes showing Rose claim over and over that he never bet on the Reds. It also included interviews with former commissioner Fay Vincent and former teammate Mike Schmidt, offering differing opinions about the sincerity of Rose's contrition.

Rose has been widely criticized for the timing and the circumstances surrounding his decision to make a public confession after all these years of denials, but in an Associated Press interview released last night, he bristled at any question of his motives.

"Now you're coming clean, and it's not good enough. It's not right," Rose said. "How can I win if people aren't going to be fair with me?"

Perhaps it would be easier to swallow if every admission didn't come with an equal or greater amount of rationalization.

In his autobiography, My Prison Without Bars, written with the help of author Rick Hill, he recounts the months leading up to the lifetime ban levied by then-commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti, but casts himself as the victim of a biased investigation and a media witchhunt.

If readers were expecting a true mea culpa, they got something slightly different. It was more of a "Why mea culpa."

Rose charges that Giamatti and lawyer John Dowd prejudged his case, even as he admits to lying to them. Throughout the chapters that chronicle his fall into compulsive gambling and his 1990 imprisonment for tax evasion, he walks a thin line between contrition and self-justification.

"Obviously, I didn't expect Mr. Giamatti to be lenient with my gambling," Rose recalls, "but I was hoping he would be fair."

If Rose intended for his admission to allay Selig's reluctance to welcome him back into the game, his treatment of Giamatti in the book might have the opposite effect. The late commissioner died of a heart attack just nine days after implementing Rose's lifetime ban, a tragedy that some feel has made it more difficult for Selig to consider overturning the decision.

"Howard Cosell and others in the media accused me of `killing' the commissioner," Rose wrote. "I appreciate hype as much as the next guy. But Mr. Giamatti smoked three packs of cigarettes per day and was 50 pounds overweight. I had nothing to do with the health problems that caused his untimely death ...

"With all due respect, six-month ordeal was far more stressful on me and my family than it was on Mr. Giamatti."

But in the Associated Press interview that was released last night, Rose praised Giamatti and speculated that things might have transpired differently if he was still alive.

He also answered new criticism that he did not show enough remorse in his autobiography.

"I thought I was remorseful when I needed to be remorseful in there," he said.

"And I must tell you that it's hard to be remorseful on paper. You know, talking to you or talking into a camera, it's a lot easier to be remorseful because you can look at me and hear my tone and things like that. And I felt the load was taken off my shoulders 14 months ago when I was able to tell Bud Selig the same thing that's in the book.

"To be honest with you, when I left Bud's office that day, I had a real good feeling. I thought I was going to be reinstated before the book came out."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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