Rose: I bet on baseball
Hall of Fame hopeful confesses in new autobiography
NEW YORK (SI.com) -- In his new book, written with Rick Hill, My Prison Without Bars, Pete Rose admits for the first time publicly that he placed bets with bookies on Cincinnati Reds games as often as five times a week while managing the team in 1987. An exclusive excerpt of the autobiography will be published in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated, available on newsstands beginning Wednesday or online now to SI subscribers.
In the book, Rose claims that he previously made the same admission to commissioner Bud Selig 14 months ago.
"Mr. Selig looked at me and said, 'I want to know one thing. Did you bet on baseball?'" Rose writes. "I looked him in the eye. 'Sir, my daddy taught me two things in life -- how to play baseball and how to take responsibility for my actions. I learned the first one pretty well. The other, I've had some trouble with. Yes, sir, I did bet on baseball.'"
"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."
Rose writes that he regrets denying that he bet on baseball and says, "I wish I could take it all back."
"For the last 14 years I've consistently heard the statement: 'If Pete Rose came clean, all would be forgiven.' Well, I've done what you've asked. The rest is up to the commissioner and the big umpire in the sky."
Rose agreed to a lifetime ban in August 1989 and applied for reinstatement in 1997, but Selig hasn't ruled on the request.
Asked on Friday by SI about Rose's status, Selig said, "There's been no change. We don't know a thing about [what's in] the book."
SI senior writer Tom Verducci, who wrote the introduction to the excerpt in this week's issue, says the likely reason Rose is coming forward now is that he realizes his Hall of Fame clock is ticking. Rose's last chance to appear on the writers' ballot for the Hall will be December 2005. After that, his only chance of getting in would be via the Veterans Committee -- and then only if the ban is lifted by the commissioner.
"Many Veterans Committee members have spoken publicly or privately against letting Rose in," says Verducci. "Some have even threatened to boycott the Hall of Fame ceremonies if he is elected. So his best chances of getting into the Hall are during the next two years."
Rose wrote that after he broke Ty Cobb's career hits record in 1985, and then dealt with retirement as a player the following year, his betting became more of a problem. He details losing several hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"I didn't realize it at the time, but I was pushing toward disaster," he wrote. "A part of me was still looking for ways to recapture the high I got from winning batting titles and World Series. If I couldn't get the high from playing baseball, then I needed a substitute to keep from feeling depressed. I was driven, in gambling as well as in baseball. Enough was never enough. I had huge appetites, and I was always hungry. It wasn't that I was bored with the challenges of managing the Reds -- I just didn't want the challenges to end."
Rose says he believes he should be reinstated because he understands now that he made a mistake.
"If I had been an alcoholic or a drug addict, baseball would have suspended me for six weeks and paid for my rehabilitation," he writers. "The distinction between drugs, booze and gambling told me that baseball was interested in punishment, not treatment.
"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. I just kept telling myself that permanently is a long goddam time. Right or wrong, the punishment didn't fit the crime -- so I denied the crime."
But Rose maintains that his crime never included betting against the Reds.
"There is no temptation on the planet Earth that could ever get me to fix a game. None. End of story," he writes. "As out of control as I got with my gambling, I never bet against my own team -- ever. The idea never entered my mind."
Read the full excerpt of Rose's book in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated, available on newsstands beginning Wednesday or online to SI subscribers now.