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'I embarrassed myself'

Rose states his case, explains timing of book release

Posted: Friday January 9, 2004 12:04AM; Updated: Friday January 9, 2004 2:08AM
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Walter Iooss Jr.
The Pete Rose Saga
• Layden: Keep Rose away from teams
• Verducci: Q&A with Pete Rose
• CNNMoney: Rose loses market value
• Verducci: Rose rolls dice with public
• Deford: Pete represents the extremes
• Excerpt: "I bet on baseball"
• Verducci: Hall clock is ticking
• Head2Head: Should he be reinstated?
• SI Photo Gallery: Charlie Hustle
• SI Covers: Rose through the years
• Archive: '75 Sportsman | Career stats
Rose admits to lying in autobiography
SI Exclusive
More from My Prison Without Bars
Flashback: The case against Rose
Flashback: Pete's grim vigil

NEW YORK -- Pete Rose sat down with Sports Illustrated senior writer Tom Verducci on Thursday afternoon in New York to discuss his book, Pete Rose, My Prison Without Bars, and his bid to be reinstated to baseball. Here are highlights of that interview, in which Rose's business advisor, Warren Greene, also attended. It is edited for length and clarity. Rose, the prototypical leadoff hitter, began the interview himself by asking if he came across as remorseful enough in his book.

Rose: I thought I was remorseful when I had to be in the book, enough in the book, when I talked about the gambling. As a matter of fact, I talked about it in three or four different chapters. I was leery that if I started begging that people would see that, too. It was a rough situation to find that happy medium. If I'm talking on TV, you can look at the expressions, you can hear the tone of voice, you can look in his eyes ... all of the above.

SI: The book's publication was moved up from March to January. Why?

Rose: Actually, because [co-author] Rick Hill and I were so far ahead of schedule, we actually tried for Dec. 16, and we couldn't get it in stores for the 16th, and they came up with a happy medium and it was Jan. 8. And we had no way of knowing ... because of the leak that's why you were on TV [Monday], because of that leak in Philadelphia. I wasn't in charge of that.

SI: You know, though, that even if this came out Wednesday [as scheduled], they still would have had the Hall of Fame press conferences that day with Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor. So it still would have been generating news on the same day when the Hall of Fame was still in play.

Rose: But I guess the honest answer is I'm not in charge of when the book comes out. I had no idea that the Hall of Fame things were coming out that day. I really didn't. I had no idea. I thought our coming out with the book was 50 hours after that announcement. Wasn't it?

SI: The Primetime interview, yes. They announced the Hall of Fame results Tuesday at 2 o'clock. SI comes out Wednesday morning, so ...

Rose: [The SI excerpts] that's just a teaser. That hurt me. That hurt me. That set me back, only because so many people made their evaluations and their quotes based on those seven pages you ran. Joe Morgan did. I know Joe hadn't read the book yet ... so how can you make an evaluation before you read the material. Is that a sound statement? I'm not criticizing Sports Illustrated. I'm happy to be on the cover.

SI: SI's not big enough to have the whole book in there. You know that.

Rose: I know that. My point is all the criticism I've received the last two days [is based on excerpts]. I'm more interested in what's going to be said [Friday] and Saturday ... Then the book will have been out and people will have had the chance to read it. ABC's interview will be have been on. People can see that. Then make an evaluation.

SI: So your message to the fans especially is, don't be so quick to make up your mind here. Get the book, see the interview ...

Rose: I'm not going to tell the fans what to do. I don't know if it's really the fans. I'm talking about the stomping they've been doing on me the last couple of days.

start quote I'm not bad for the game. I'm good for the game, to be honest with you. Because I care about the game, I sold the game. I understand the most important thing about the game --- the fans. I always cared about the fans ... end quote
-- Pete Rose

SI: That catch you off guard?

Rose: Yeah, because the last thing in the world I ever thought about was getting in the way of Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor ... because I'm not in charge of when the book comes out. I wish I had that power.

SI: But in general, did the criticism surprise you?

Rose: Hey, I wrote the book so the fans could hear in my words what I did and what I didn't do. They can hear me say I'm sorry, I'm looking for a second chance, and if I embarrassed you I apologize. I embarrassed myself. I've had to live with this the last 14 years. Actually, the confession came 14 months ago. That was a big load off my shoulders. Now today's activity is just taking a load off my shoulders with the fans. Because obviously the fans weren't in the meeting with Mr. Selig.

SI: Bud Selig and Bob DuPuy, they knew about this book for, what, six, eight months?

Rose: Pretty long. Sure. To be perfectly honest with you, when we left that meeting, we had really good vibrations. We still do. And then that levy, that tax thing, came down, which kind of set us back, which I understand, because Bud can't take a chance of being embarrassed or [having] his legacy tainted in any way.

Greene: The book was never the intent for the public admission. You have to understand that in 2002 in November, after Pete met one on one with Bud, if Bud Selig would have said, "Okay, Pete, stay here, I'm going to bring the media in here. I want you to tell the world," he does it right there.

SI: So why didn't he?

Rose: He wasn't ready. I was ready ... I think when he took the meeting he knew what I was going to tell him.

Greene: When that meeting broke and we all sat in the conference room, we discussed the future. Obviously, the future discussed was the potential possible reinstatement of Pete, what needed to be done, what didn't need to be done, how it was going to be handled, and at that time we were letting baseball, Mr. Dupuy and Mr. Selig, and let them coordinate how this was going to be a public forum.

Rose: And he had to make a determination whether my slate was clean. I can only hope the commissioner's office has followed me around the last 14 months, because I look at that as a probation period.

SI: Why didn't you tell people what you told Bud?

Rose: I didn't think it was my right. [Cupping hands together] Look, that's Bud Selig's hands. My future's in there. My livelihood's in there. Like I said, if that tax lien didn't come down, heavens knows what might have happened, because we were on a pretty good pace right there. But Bud probably looked at Bob and said, Is this guy clean? Does this guy owe anybody money. We can't do this to this guy and something comes out of the closest.

SI: You wrote that you left thinking reinstatement was possible in a reasonable amount of time. Fourteen months. Is that what you had in mind as reasonable?

Rose: No, no, I thought I'd be reinstated long before the book came out. Matter of fact, I'll tell you right now that we even sped the book up thinking I was going to get reinstated right after the World Series ... Then all of a sudden what came down the pike? Something happened with [George] Steinbrenner, he's doing depositions with Steinbrenner and then the steroid thing comes out ... See, I'm always on the back burner. Other things are more important to baseball than me. Any time a controversial thing comes up I go on the back burner, and it doesn't take 14 months to surpass.

SI: Pete, do you want to manage again?

Rose: Sure. I think that's the best way I can repay baseball for everything it's done for me. It's the best thing I can do for an organization. I bring my attitude to an organization. There's no chance of anything happening again that happened in the '80s. You've got to remember all this [stuff] when down 15 years ago. This is 1987, 1988. This is a long time ago. I haven't made a baseball bet since 1988 and I have no desire to. I'm sure a lot of people are against it and I understand it. I don't agree with it, but I understand it. You just have to try to convince people that you're sorry, you're humiliated, you're embarrassed and just try to grind it out to try to get people back on your side. I'm not bad for the game. I'm good for the game, to be honest with you. Because I care about the game, I sold the game. I understand the most important thing about the game --- the fans. I always cared about the fans ...

SI: Pete, 15 years away, what do you miss the most about baseball?

Rose: The competition. Fifteen years, but I haven't been away. I watch three games a day. I've got every cable thing in baseball there is. I can tell you every baseball player in the world. My name's kind of synonymous with baseball. I don't know if they want it to be, but that's just the way it is. I've got more hits than anybody who ever played the game. And nobody's going to break that in my lifetime. Somebody probably will. That's what record are made for. But I think I'm more synonymous with baseball, I think, not because of the records I have, but because of the way I played the game. The way I didn't cheat the people. I cared about the people. That's why I'm loved so much in Cincinnati. Most guys who went through what I went through would have crashed and burned. I crashed, but I didn't burn. And it's because of the fans' like for me. I'm able to survive with corporate appearances and memorabilia shows and things like that.

SI: So financially you're doing OK?

Rose: Yeah, I'm doing fine.

SI: I know you said you did not bet against the Reds. But do you also understand the danger of a manager betting on his team to win, even if you never, ever, ever bet on your team to lose?

start quote I screwed up. I screwed up a good thing. And the good thing was me and baseball. end quote
-- Pete Rose

Rose: Yes, I understand how wrong the situation was. I do. I really do. I've had enough time to think this out and analyze it from every angle and I screwed up. I screwed up. I screwed up a good thing. And the good thing was me and baseball. And that situation today is so far from anything I think about, ever getting back to that situation. There's no way. First of all, there's no way I could let down Bud Selig. I understand the limb he went out on to even meet with me. The criticism he might take from [former commissioner Bart] Giamatti's wife. You understand what I'm saying? I'm a pretty decent guy. I'm not going to do anything to take away from his legacy or embarrass him in any way. So he has to be fully confident of that before he even considers reinstating me.

SI: Are you betting legally these days?

Rose: Let me tell you what I do today. Occasionally, I will go to the races, because I own a couple of race horses. Other than that, no sports ... I have never had a credit line at a casino and never will.

SI: Looking back, can you say did or do have a gambling problem?

Rose: Looking back, you know, I guess it's safe to say that if you're on top of the world and you're making a million bucks managing a baseball team and you're in your hometown right where you want to be and -- Bam! -- all of a sudden you lose everything, you have to take two steps back and put your hands up and say, Wait a minute why is this happening? And when you analyze why did that happen, you have to say, at that period of time, I let it get out of control. Now last year, five years ago, today, tomorrow, it's not out of control. It's not even happening. I don't know how to analyze an addict. But then you hear people say, Once you're an addict you never get rid of it. I don't know how true that is. I really don't.

SI: So you quit on your own, cold turkey, like a smoker would quit smoking?

Rose: The investigation stopped me. I mean, when I went to spring training in 1989 I was summoned to New York. Do you think I'm going to make a bet after I've been summoned to New York and being followed by 50,000 cameramen the whole summer of 1989. That'll do it.

SI: Do you remember you're first baseball bet?

Rose: Un-uh. Un-uh. Nope. I'm sorry, I don't.

SI: Because you wrote about starting in 1987 with a void after you were done playing, and how betting on other sports naturally transitioned into baseball, but you also wrote about betting on the 1986 baseball playoffs. Is that where it began or prior to that?

Rose: It might have been [the 1986 playoffs]. I really don't know. I'm not trying to avoid the question. It's just like a guy said, I find that hard to believe because you know everything that happened in your career. I said, listen, I couldn't tell you who I got my second hit off of, or 3,001st. I can tell you who I got my first home run off of, but not my second. I wish I could look into a crystal ball and know when I first bet. That would be very interesting to me.

SI: Because you know, Fay Vincent and John Dowd think you bet on baseball while you were playing.

Rose: Well, during the investigation, I didn't read that from Dowd's report. I heard a lot of things this week I didn't hear 13, 14 years ago. I never denied calling [former Rose associate Paul] Janszen from the clubhouse. Because I used to call Janszen on a daily basis to find out if he was coming to the game and if he needed tickets. Believe me when I tell you, and I'm really not here to discuss this or that and this or that, there is no phone calls from my office to any bookmaker. I have never in my life talked to Ron Peters on the phone.

SI: But did you call Janszen to have Janszen run the bets for you?

Rose: I made my bets before I got to the ballpark.

SI: If you could look fans in the eye, not just your supporters, what would you tell them?

Rose: Thanks for your support. I'd just like to take this time to apologize from the bottom of my heart if I embarrassed you and disappointed you and please see fit to try to give me a second chance to earn your respect once again.

SI: And you can promise them you won't let them down?

Rose: No. One letdown in a lifetime is enough.

Sports Illustrated senior writer Tom Verducci covers baseball for the magazine and is a regular contributor to SI.com.