Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Pete Rose
by Sean Lahman

Revision History:

December 16, 2002 - Added info on Rose's negotiations with Commissioner Selig
  August 24, 2002 - Added comments from Fay Vincent's new book
   April 10, 2002 - Comments on Bill James' references to this FAQ in his new book.
     July 1, 2001 - Clarified comments about Bill James's misinterpretation of betting slips
 October 26, 1999 - Updated with information on the All Century Team event and
                    corrected some minor errors.  
September 7, 1999 - Updated following tenth anniversary and made some spelling
                    and grammatical corrections.
  August 23, 1998 - Converted to HTML & corrected some spelling errors.
   April 28, 1998 - Added Posner quote to section 5. Added some text to 
                     Sections 14 and 18

   March 20, 1998 - First version posted

This is an attempt to get quick answers to some common questions, to reduce repetitive discussion from newcomers who often don't understand the issues, and to provide single, authoritative answers so that rec.sport.baseball doesn't get overwhelmed with several people making the same point, whether correct or incorrect.

Constructive comments, corrections, and suggested additions are welcome; please send them to me at sean@baseball1.com

You can get a current copy of this FAQ in the Usenet group rec.sport.baseball, or from:
http://www.baseball1.com/bb-data/rose/rose-faq.html


1) What was the case against Rose?

Baseball started an investigation in February 1989 into allegations that Rose had been betting on sports, including baseball. These allegations came from one of Rose's friends, Paul Janszen, and bookie Ron Peters. (Both had been convicted of felony drug charges.) Both offered documentary evidence of Rose's betting to support their claims. Former federal prosecutor John Dowd was hired to conduct an investigation. The testimony of Janszen and Peters was corroborated by Rose's phone records and bank records, which mirror the activity they described.

Dowd uncovered other evidence which indicated Rose had used other "runners" besides Janszen to place his bets. Dowd discovered evidence that Rose had placed bets with other bookies, including several with ties to organized crime. Dowd also discovered evidence of hundreds of mysterious financial transactions between Rose and these bookies.

Perhaps most damning was the testimony of Rose himself, given during two days of deposition in February 1989. He admitted gambling on college and pro basketball and NFL games, and described a system where he would have runners place the bets for him, to protect his privacy. He denied knowing many of the key figures, but was confronted by evidence that he had called them, left tickets for them, or written checks to them. When asked to explain the checks made out to cash or to fictitious payees that were cashed or deposited by bookies, he had a variety of explanations -- failed real estate deals, sponsorship of card shows -- none of which would plausibly have required such clandestine methods intended to circumvent banking rules.

In addition to the documented flow of money, Rose was confronted with evidence that he gave memorabilia or other valuable items to bookies. The bat he used to break Ty Cobb's record, one of his World Series ring, the Hickok Belt he won in 1975, and several of his sports cars. Rose also co-signed large bank loans and promissory notes for bookies.

An FBI expert on gambling studied the evidence and concluded that when viewed as a whole, the activity was typical of serious gambling behavior. It showed that was Rose was betting about $15,000 per day with bookies. When the losses got so high that a bookie would stop taking his bets, Rose simply took his business to another bookie.


2) So Rose acknowledged gambling?

Yes. He admitted to illegal betting on basketball and football games, as well as legal betting at horse tracks and dog tracks. At the time, deputy-commissioner Fay Vincent argued that this by itself was grounds for permanent banishment under Major league rules.


3) What about betting on baseball?

Rose adamantly denies this. But the pattern of gambling activity did not stop when the NBA season ended in June and suddenly restart with the NFL in September. It continued through the summer, when the only thing to bet on was baseball. Rose offered no explanation for this, except to suggest that the runners must have been placing additional bets for themselves.

The gambling records provided by Janszen, Peters, and others indicate Rose bet on baseball. His payments to bookies continued through the summer, indicating he was paying off losses on baseball bets.


4) Did Rose bet on Reds games?

The evidence of his baseball betting includes evidence that he bet on Reds games. The Dowd Report clearly states that there is no evidence that Rose ever bet on the Reds to lose. Additionally, it appears that Rose bet on the Reds every night that they played. During the time period that was documented, Dowd found only one occasion where the Reds played but Rose chose not to place a wager on the game.

In December 2002, Dowd told the New York Post that he had reliable evidence that Rose bet against his team but didn't include it in his 225-page report because of time constraints. He later backed off of those statements. "I was never able to tie it down," Dowd said. "It was unreliable, and that's why I didn't include it in the report. I probably shouldn't have said it. I was not trying to start something here."


5) Why is betting for your team such a bad thing?

In a 1989 article, Gerald Posner offered this explanation:

"The possibility exists that decisions won't be made in the team's best interests, but rather because of the money riding on the game. If a manager bets on a game, he may bring a player off injured reserves sooner than he should in order to win, or he may pitch a reliever without enough rest, not caring that he won't be able to pitch for several extra days. If a betting manager gets in large debt to bookies, he can clear his account by merely revealing inside information about the team. The opportunity for corruption is greatly increased. This is not to suggest that Rose compromised the Reds in any way. The chance that such impropriety could result is the reason for such a strict taboo on betting baseball."


6) Why is betting on baseball a bad thing? Guys who take drugs or beat their wives don't get such harsh punishment. Lots of them are in the Hall of Fame.

Gambling is the worst thing a ballplayer can do, because it undermines the integrity of the game. Since the goals of the gambler are different than the normal goals of a baseball team, fan's trust in the game is shaken.

The use of drugs or other offenses are sometimes punished by baseball. While these may be crimes against society, they are not necessarily crimes against baseball.

Consider a student who passes a final exam under the influence of illegal drugs. The professor might be inclined to call the police, but there's no reason why the student shouldn't get the grade he earned. Then consider another student who cheats on the same exam. No crime has been committed, but as a student that's the worst possible behavior, and deserves the harshest penalty.


7) Did Rose throw games?

There has been no evidence that Rose did anything to intentionally cause his team to lose a game.


8) What about the gambling slips?

Janszen supplied three slips of paper that he claimed came from Rose. Rose allegedly wrote down the games he had bet on, and would later use it to check the results. They describe betting activity on four different days that includes betting on baseball. An FBI-expert concluded that it contained his fingerprints, and another FBI expert concluded that it was in his hand-writing.


9) Why was there no hearing?

After Rose was given a copy of the Dowd report, Commissioner Giamatti set a hearing date for late May. Rose sought and received a temporary court order preventing the Reds or Major League Baseball from taking any action against him, while he pursued a permanent injunction preventing Giamatti from disciplining him. Giamatti had sent a letter to the judge sentencing Peters, praising him for being cooperative and truthful with the investigation of Rose. Rose's lawyers argued that Giamatti had pre-judged him, and should be disqualified from ruling on the matter.

After three months of legal battles, a federal court threw out Rose's suit. A settlement was announced a few days later.

A brief chronology of the proceedings during 1990:

  May 9: John Dowd presents his report to Giamatti
 May 11: Giamatti delivers report to Rose and schedules a
          hearing for June 26th
June 19: Rose sues to block the hearing Giamatti has scheduled 
June 25: State judge enjoins MLB from taking any action in the 
          Rose matter for 14 days
 July 3: MLB moves to transfer the lawsuit to federal court; parties
          agree that MLB will do nothing to Rose until at least three
          days after the ruling on where the case should be held.
July 31: Federal judge rules that the matter belongs in federal court;
          sets 8/14 as the date for a hearing on Rose's request for 
          preliminary injunction.
 Aug 17: Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirms ruling that the matter
          belongs in federal court
 Aug 18: Federal judge says he'll hold a hearing on 8/28
 Aug 23: Rose signs agreement
 Aug 24: Agreement announced

10) What did the agreement say?

Rose agreed to be placed on the list of people who were "permanently ineligible". Like others on the list, he would be allowed to apply for re-instatement after one year. Major League Baseball agreed that there would be no ruling as to whether or not Rose bet on baseball.

The agreement also said that Rose acknowledged that Giamatti had treated him fairly, that Giamatti had a factual basis for imposing the penalty, and that Rose could not challenge the agreement in court or otherwise. The exact wording of the two pertinent clauses are:

"Peter Edward Rose is hereby declared permanently ineligible in accordance with Major League Rule 21 and placed on the Ineligible List."

"Rose will conclude these proceedings before the commissioner without a hearing and the commissioner will not make any formal findings or determinations on any matter including without limitation the allegation that Peter Edward Rose bet on any major league baseball games.... Nothing in this agreement shall be deemed either an admission or denial by Peter Edward Rose of the allegation that he bet on any major league baseball game"


11) Doesn't it seem contradictory to impose the maximum penalty without a formal finding as to what happened?

Not necessarily. The central issue of the case remained unresolved. However, baseball felt that there were grounds for a permanent suspension based on the other misconduct.


12) Did Giamatti break the agreement?

At the press conference announcing the agreement, the Commissioner was asked if he believed that Rose bet on baseball. Giamatti said that in the absence of a hearing, and therefore in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, he had to conclude that Rose did bet on baseball.

Giamatti was unable to clarify or expand on his comments, because he died of a heart attack eight days later, without making any additional public comments.

Some people believe that Giamatti was just expressing his personal opinion. Many believe that he should not have expressed any opinion, since the agreement stated that there would be no ruling. A few people believe that Giamatti's statement should invalidate the agreement.

In his 2002 book, Fay Vincent said that it had been made clear to Rose and his advisers that Giamatti would make this response if asked whether he thought Rose bet on baseball.  Vincent says that Rose's profession of shock at the statement was a calculated plan to elicit public support from the outset.


13) Was there a secret deal that Rose would be reinstated after one year?

Rose denies it, and so does Fay Vincent, who was deputy-commissioner at the time. Giamatti denied it at the press conference announcing the agreement.


14) What has Pete Rose said?

At the press conference announcing the agreement, Rose did not say much, other than to continue to assert that he did not bet on baseball. He would not answer a question about why he would accept the permanent suspension if he had not bet on baseball. His lawyer chimed in to say that Rose could apply for readmission after one year and would do so. He added that what Rose _had_ admitted to would probably warrant a one year suspension anyway.

Rose was silent through most of 1989, saying that the time would come for him to tell his side of the story. He published a book in 1990 ("Pete Rose: My Story" with Roger Kahn) that was rambling, disjointed, and didn't address any of the substantive issues raised by the Dowd report. His basic defense has been to admit that he was a "horsesh*t picker of friends" and that they (primarily Janszen) were placing the baseball bets for themselves. Rose alleges that Janszen and Peters concocted their story as part of a plot to extort money from Rose.

Rose explained that he accepted the agreement because he knew he was entitled to some punishment, and that continuing to fight in court might taken longer than a year. Under the agreement, he could apply for reinstatement in exactly one year.

Rose has frequently said that he doesn't feel he was treated fairly by Giamatti or Dowd, but vowed that he would eventually be vindicated. He has continued to deny that he ever bet on baseball games. In a live interview before Game 2 of the 1999 World Series, Rose repeated his denials.

Rose did not apply for reinstatement until the fall of 1997, nearly eight years after he was first eligible to do so. Commissioner Bud Selig said that the application would be considered at an appropriate time. While no formal hearing has taken place, Selig has said publicly that he has seen nothing to convince him to overturn the original agreement.

Although the rules prohibit him from participating in official events, Rose was honored on the field before Game 2 of the 1999 World Series for his selection as a member of the All Century Team. he was also honored on the field during the 2002 World Series, in a ceremony celebrating baseball's greatest moments.  Many critics slammed the hypocrisy of allowing Rose to return for a major sponsor (Master Card sponsored the Greatest Moments campaign) after having denied the request of the Cincinnati Reds to let him participate in closing ceremonies for Riverfront Stadium just a month earlier.

In early December of 2002, Rose acknowledged that he had met with Commissioner Selig and his representatives in Milwaukee to discuss his application for reinstatement.  After days of intense media speculation, Rose released a statement through his agent Warren Greene which said:

"I greatly appreciate the tremendous fan support and interest in my quest for reinstatement back into major league baseball. I carry with each of you the passion to enter a new phase of this long drama. 

"Since I submitted my application for reinstatement back in 1997, I have looked forward to the opportunity to once again become a part of this great game. I can say today that we have been provided the forum to discuss all of the issues with major league baseball. Please respect this delicate process and permit those of us intimate with the details to continue our efforts."

 


15) Why is Rose ineligible for induction into the baseball Hall of Fame?

In 1990, the Hall of Fame added a clause to its eligibility rules stating that players who were on Baseball's ineligible list could not be considered as candidates. Critics argued that this action was taken to specifically keep Rose out of the Hall of Fame. Supporters argue that this was just a clarification, formally acknowledging what had been an unwritten rule since the Hall of Fame's inception.


16) Do Rose's stats warrant his election to the Hall of Fame?

Most people think so, while there is some dispute as to how great he was. The majority view seems to be that he was a great player, but that he doesn't belong among the upper echelon of hitters such as Ted Williams, Ty Cobb, and Willie Mays. At one end of the spectrum are a small group of fans who argue that he is the greatest hitter in baseball history. At the other end is a smaller group who believes that he was overrated and that his records are due more to longevity than skill.


17) What about complaints that Pete Rose hung on too long in pursuit of the hit record?

By the early eighties, Rose's play had dropped below the levels that would normally be required for a first baseman to stay in the starting lineup. He was awful in his last year with the Phillies (1983), and continued with the Expos in 1984 primarily to pursue his 4000th hit.

While most other teams wouldn't have considered him productive enough to be in the lineup, Rose returned to Cincinnati as a player-manager, where he could (and did) write his own name in the lineup. Even after he broke Cobb's record, he played another year before being forced to retire.

Most people acknowledge that Rose put himself in the Reds lineup at the expense of other more qualified players. For example, it seemed to make sense to play Nick Esasky at first base, and give the leftfield job to Eric Davis or Kal Daniels. With Rose at first, Esasky was stuck in leftfield and Davis and Daniels probably were kept in the minors too long.

Many would argue that this selfish behavior hurt the team, and that the Reds might have finished better than second had he allowed younger players to get the playing time he was giving himself. Others argue that Reds fans wanted Rose in the lineup, and that the interest in his pursuit of the record justified his playing ahead of better players.


18) What about what Bill James wrote about the case? He said that the betting slips couldn't be authentic, and that the case was based on rumor, hearsay, and gossip.

In his 1990 book, James assailed the Dowd report. One point of contention was that one of the gambling slips showed three baseball games that did not take place on the same day. James mistakenly assumed that these were all baseball games. A check of the NBA schedules shows that some of the games (like "Philly at Atl.") were pro basketball games. In summary, all of the baseball and basketball games listed on the three betting slips (covering five separate days) were played as described. James acknowledges that he only read the summary report and never looked at any of the eight volumes of evidence.

In his 2002 book, "The New Bill James Historical Abstract," James made reference to this FAQ and re-stated his view of the alleged "betting slips" (see page 791 of the hard cover edition). The author of this FAQ had some email exchanges with James and his research assistant while they were preparing the book, and it was pointed out again that the slips contained a mix of baseball and basketball games.  James ignores that fact, and continues to assert that "Philadelphia did not play at Atlanta on April 8th." The Phillies and Braves did not play on that date, but the 76ers and Hawks sure did.

James also overstates the importance of the testimony of Peters and Janszen, claiming that there is no case without them. This is simply not true. While their testimony is significant, it is not the only evidence that Rose bet on baseball. And their testimony does not exist in a vacuum, it is corroborated and supported by a wealth of other evidence.

Furthermore, James suggests that Peters and Janszen had a grudge against Rose, and were hoping to reduce their own prison sentences. That's true, but by testifying against Rose, both Janszen and Peters admitted to additional illegal activity that they had not yet been charged with, opening themselves to additional legal consequences. Furthermore, since Peters and Janszen corroborated each other's testimony, they would have had to have been cooperating in their conspiracy if they were both lying. Clearly, that is an unlikely scenario, given the adversarial relationship between Janszen and Peters. Janszen was an FBI-informant who participated in a sting against Peters that sent him to federal prison.

Also, if we're going to question the credibility of Peters and Janszen because they were charged with (and eventually convicted of) felonies, then shouldn't we hold Rose to the same standard? Rose himself went to prison for failing to report large amounts of income, and admitted to engaging in a lot of other illegal activity.

James may be right when he argues that Baseball could not have proven this case in a criminal court. However, that is a standard that Baseball was not obligated to meet. A federal court specifically ruled that the commissioner had the sole authority to rule on the case. As with any internal hearing, the rules of evidence and the principles of due process would not necessarily apply. In his 1998 book, "Legal Bases: Baseball and the Law", prominent law professor Roger Abrams concludes that Baseball met the standard of proof and treated Rose fairly.


19) Where can I find out more details about the case?

James Reston wrote a book called "Collision at Home Plate", chronicling the lives of Rose and Giamatti as they came together. The book offers a good inside view of the investigation. The book's illustrations include a picture of one of the alleged betting slips.

Mike Sokolove, a former Cincinnati sports reporter, wrote a book called "Hustle: The Myth, Life and Lies of Pete Rose". It is a critical examination of Rose, and goes well beyond the Dowd report in investigating Rose's alleged links with drug-dealers, organized crime figures, and various other lowlifes.

Roger Abrams, Dean of Rutgers Law School, examines the legal issues of the case in a chapter of his book "Legal Bases: Baseball and the Law."

Fay Vincent, who was deputy Commissioner during the Rose investigation and was directly involved in the case writes about his experiences in the 2002 book "The Last Commissioner: A Baseball Valentine."

The Dowd Report itself has not been published, but was released to the media during the Rose v Giamatti court battle. Many larger libraries have copies of the report, although the seven volume appendix with transcripts and evidence is more difficult to find. John Dowd gave permission for the report to be published at the Baseball Archive website in 1999. It is available at (http://baseball1.com/bb-data/rose/dowd).  In 2000, Dowd published a PDF version of the report, along with the seven volumes of exhibits at dowdreport.com

Some of the pertinent evidence is viewable online at the Baseball Archive website:
http://www.baseball1.com/bb-data/rose/


Credits:

Thanks to David Grabiner, Doug Pappas, David Marasco, Mike McCullough, James Weisberg and David Nieporent for comments on the original draft or substantial contributions. Thanks to Jesse Thorn, Gene Carney, Rob Neyer, Bob Sutton, Jon Sutton, Taylor Hale, Vern Morrison and others whose comments have helped improve subsequent versions of this document. Thanks to John Dowd and Reuven Katz for responding to my inquiries about the case.

Copyright and disclaimers:

This document is Copyright 1999, Sean Lahman. The document may be copied and distributed freely in unmodified form, provided that this notice remains intact. It may not be sold or included in a collection which is sold without the permission of the author.

The opinions in this document are those of the author, not necessarily those of Pete Rose or Major League Baseball. Legal opinions included here should not be considered legal advice.