Pete Rose has more hits than any other player in Major League Baseball history, and while he’s one of the best batters to ever step foot on a baseball field, he’s also one of the sport’s most controversial and polarizing figures due to his admitted betting on games late in his career as a manager.
Placed permanently on baseball’s ineligible list on August 24, 1989, Rose has long maintained that he never bet on games in which he played, only those in which he coached.
But a notebook obtained this week by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” (OTL) indicates otherwise, showing Rose bet extensively while playing for the Cincinnati Reds in 1986 when he served as a player-manager.
Not So Rosy Picture
Pete Rose’s statistics are incredible. Over his 24-year career he had 4,256 hits in 3,562 games, batted .303, and was a 17-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion, but he still isn’t in the Hall of Fame due to his illegal betting.
Over the years, Rose, his legal team, and fans alike have advocated for his reinstitution, but former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig continually denied the request, as has Rob Manfred, baseball’s current chief boss.
The latest from OTL will likely setback his image rehabilitation, if not permanently.
“This does it. This closes the door,” said John Dowd, the federal prosecutor who led MLB’s investigation in the late 80s.
The notebook in question belonged to Michael Bertolini, a longtime Rose associate who took bets from the baseball great. The book is actually under a court-ordered seal and stored in the National Archives’ New York office, but copies of its content were obtained by OTL.
“To be sure, I’m eager to sit down with Manfred to address my entire history, the good and the bad, and my long personal journey since baseball,” Rose said through his attorney. “That meeting likely will come sometime after the All-Star break. Therefore at this point, it’s not appropriate to comment on any specifics.”
Tale of Two Evils
Baseball has been on damage control for many years now, with a host of issues negatively affecting the game’s image, reputation, and overall health. Of course, no matter has been more problematic than steroids.
From Jose Canseco and Barry Bonds, to Mark McGwire and Manny Ramirez, the game was overrun with steroid abuse in the mid to late 90s, and many suspect doping is prevalent to this day.
But while steroid abuse in America’s pastime devastated the game’s faithful, the punishment has largely been minor compared to Rose’s lifetime ban.
Alex Rodriguez, baseball’s most known figure, was suspended 162 games after admitting to using steroids from 2001 to 2003, but continues to play today.
McGwire still works in baseball as a hitting coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the 2011 National League MVP Ryan Braun, who was later found to be using testosterone enhancements, also continues to play in 2015.
Why Rose’s gambling on the game has been penalized so much harder than those who have cheated it seems somewhat illogical.
The notebook shows no evidence that Rose ever bet against his team, which could prove that his gambling on baseball had no direct affect on the outcome of games.
But regardless, the Pete Rose witch hunt has new fuel for the fire.