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

If baseball fans were expecting a true mea culpa when Pete Rose admitted to betting on his team in the ABC Primetime Thursday interview last night that coincided with the release of his new book, they got something slightly different.

It was more like a "Why mea culpa."

Rose did, indeed, admit that he bet on the Cincinnati Reds when he was managing the team in 1987 and "88, but that revelation already had been telegraphed and exploited throughout the week to create maxi mum hype for both the interview and the autobiography.

The real theater was in the theater itself, and Rose delivered a performance consistent with a long career of lies, half- truths and poor judgment. He told ABC interviewer Charles 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.

Rose has been widely criticized for the timing and the cir cumstances surrounding his decision to come clean after 14 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.

"So how can I win? How can I win if people aren't going to be fair with me?'

Perhaps it would be easier to swallow if every admission did not 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.

Rose charges that Giamatti and lawyer John Dowd pre judged 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 soften the heart of current commissioner Bud Selig, 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, the 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 personally thought I was going to be reinstated before the book came out."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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