I flew into Milwaukee on Nov. 25, 2002. I was met by baseball's security and local police, who escorted me from the plane and onto the tarmac, where I was taken by limo to a downtown Milwaukee hotel. Baseball had brought me in under a cloud of secrecy. But I'll be damned if after 13 years, I was going to sit in my room and order room service just to avoid publicity. I met with my former Phillies teammate Mike Schmidt and ate breakfast in a restaurant, which aroused suspicions with the local townfolk. Like I said, I'm not a nervous person, but I was a bit anxious. Mike and I talked about our 1980 World Series in Philadelphia and got caught up on the good old days.
Later that day Mike, baseball president and chief operating officer Bob DuPuy, my agent Warren Greene and I entered commissioner Bud Selig's office. Right away, Mr. Selig surprised me with his knowledge and love for the game. He talked about Cap Anson, Stan Musial and how much he loved going to the ballpark as a kid.
Finally, Mr. Selig changed gears and talked about how things might transpire. He spoke very eloquently about the fact that we all build our lives on the choices that we make. And that we all have to live with the consequences of those choices—good or bad. "None of us make all the right choices," he said. "But we all have to own up to them." Then Mr. Selig asked everyone to leave the room except me.
Mr. Selig looked at me and said, "I want to know one thing. Did you bet on baseball?" 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." Mr. Selig nodded, understanding how difficult it was for me to speak those words. Then he took a deep breath. "How often?" he asked. "Four or five times a week," I replied. "But I never bet against my own team, and I never made any bets from the clubhouse."
Then Mr. Selig took a moment to gather his thoughts. "Why?" he asked. I wanted to be as honest as possible, so I gave it to him straight. "I didn't think I'd get caught," I said. "I was always the type of gambler who believed in his team. I just thought that I would win every game that I managed. I was looking for an edge, some added excitement."
Mr. Selig seemed satisfied with my answers. Then he recalled his conversations with his close friend Bart Giamatti during the investigation of 1989. He said that Bart was very troubled over the entire ordeal. "You could bring any other player in this office and tell me that he bet on baseball games, and I would have understood," said Bart. "But not Pete Rose! Pete is synonymous with the game of baseball. How could he possibly commit such an act? Doesn't Pete understand that he's Pete Rose?" I didn't realize it at the time, but the answer to Mr. Giamatti's question was a big reason why I needed to write this book. I was aware of my records and my place in baseball history. But I was never aware of boundaries or able to control that part of my life. And admitting that I was out of control has been next to impossible for me. I was aware of my privileges, but not my responsibilities.
At that point I expressed my regrets to Mr. Selig. But I couldn't change the past. "What's done is done," I said. "I paid an enormous price for my mistakes. They caused a great deal of misery in my life." Bud looked at me and said, "I appreciate you coming forward to tell the truth." I nodded, and we shook hands. "I appreciate you taking the time to hear me out and to consider my reinstatement," I replied.
Mr. Selig likes to keep everyone in the loop. He wanted to consult with the baseball owners and members of the Hall of Fame before moving forward. He also wanted to speak with Bart Giamatri's family, to get their opinion on my reinstatement. I understood completely, but after the meeting I had every reason to believe that I would be reinstated to baseball within a reasonable period of time. Mr. Selig said that it would take a "nuclear bomb" to make him change his mind. Afterward, we joined the others for lunch. During that time we sat around a big conference table, joking and talking baseball. It was one of the best days of my life.
I know what you're thinking: If we let you back into baseball, Pete, what's to stop you from gambling again? Listen: There hasn't been a day in my life when I didn't regret making those bets. I wish I could take it all back. But I can't. What's done is done.
I'm sure that I'm supposed to act all sorry or sad or guilty now that I've accepted that I've done something wrong. But you see, I'm just not built that way. Sure, there's probably some real emotion buried somewhere deep inside. And maybe I'd be a better person if I let that side of my personality come out. But it just doesn't surface too often. So let's leave it like this: I'm sorry it happened, and I'm sorry for all the people, fans and family that it hurt. Let's move on.