On the surface Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose seemed his usual unflappable self. He looked out at the horde of reporters and the TV crews that descended last week on Plant City (Fla.) Stadium, the Reds' spring-training park, and joked that the supercharged, World Series-type atmosphere they had created would be a good experience for his team. "All you media people stick around," he said. But on a down note, Rose confided to reporters, "I feel like a piece of fresh meat."
And with good reason: Even as Rose worked to prepare his team for its April 3 opener in Cincinnati against the Los Angeles Dodgers, his personal and business affairs were under scrutiny by the media, federal authorities and baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth, who on March 20 announced that his office was conducting a "full inquiry into serious allegations" about Rose. As SI went to press on Monday evening, Ueberroth, who is to be succeeded by National League president Bart Giamatti this Saturday, had yet to complete his investigation.
Ueberroth's dramatic announcement seeded the media clouds, and the downpour that followed drenched Rose—and baseball—in a torrent of stories about Rose's associations with convicted felons, his alleged huge betting losses and his handling of his lucrative memorabilia sales and autograph signings. The New York Daily News reported that Ueberroth had publicly disclosed his investigation "only after being made aware of an upcoming Sports Illustrated story," and, indeed. SI subsequently reported in its March 27 issue that Ueberroth had received information that Rose may have bet on baseball games, behavior that, if substantiated, could result in Rose's suspension from the game and could jeopardize his election to the Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible in 1992.
The information came from Alan Statman, a lawyer for Ron Peters, a Franklin, Ohio, restaurateur whom Statman described as Rose's "principal bookmaker." Statman approached SI in hopes of selling Peters's story—the magazine declined the offer—and said he had told baseball investigators that he and Peters could supply information that Rose had bet on baseball. SI also reported that it had discussed purchasing a story about Rose with Paul Janszen, a bodybuilder friend of Rose's now serving a six-month sentence in a Cincinnati halfway house for evading taxes on income derived from the sale of steroids. Although SI didn't buy Janszen's story, a fellow weightlifter told the magazine that he had overheard Janszen using a phone at Gold's Gym in the Cincinnati suburb of Forest Park to place baseball bets, he understood, in Rose's behalf.
Rose used to work out at Gold's and even promoted the gym. He met Janszen there, but he denies ever having bet on baseball. Rose has acknowledged that he's an avid bettor at the racetrack, where gambling is legal, but he insists he has never placed illicit bets with bookies on any sport. He also denies suggestions that he may have evaded income taxes and suffered large gambling losses. But even as Rose proclaimed his innocence, the rains continued to fall:
•SI has received further information about hand signals allegedly exchanged between Rose and Janszen during Reds games at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. Earlier SI quoted a source with knowledge of Janszen's dealings with federal investigators as saying that while in the dugout. Rose had exchanged signals somehow related to baseball betting with Janszen, who was in the stands. Two other sources close to the investigation said last week that the signals between Janszen and Rose didn't involve placing new wagers on games but related to updates on the scores of games in progress at a time early in the 1987 season when the stadium scoreboard was not working. Rose denied exchanging signals and said, "You can check—the scoreboard has never not worked." However, Jon Braude, the Reds' director of information, said that for 18 games in '87, from April 17 through May 28, Riverfront's main scoreboard, which displays scores of out-of-town games, was out of order; Braude said that two auxiliary scoreboards provided scores intermittently.
•In an interview with SI. a former employee at Gold's linked Janszen and Peters. The employee said that Tommy Gioiosa, another bodybuilder pal of Rose's, who once managed Gold's, and Janszen, who met Rose through Gioiosa in 1986, both placed bets on Rose's behalf The two men, the source said, "did their betting through Ron Peters. And they did call Rose, and they did get bets from him. I know that. They would say. "Pete, what do you want to bet?' " The source said he didn't know whether such bets were on baseball, although he said. "There was a lot of betting on baseball" in the gym.
SI had reported that a weightlifter at Gold's said that he had heard Janszen using a phone at the gym to place baseball bets the source understood had come from Rose, and that Michael Fry, a former co-owner of Gold's now serving an eight-year prison sentence for cocaine trafficking and tax evasion, said he had heard Gioiosa place bets to bookies on college and pro football and college and pro basketball games. Fry said he understood those bets to be for Rose.
Gioiosa, who describes himself as a professional gambler, answered "no comment" last week when asked by the Boston Globe if he placed bets with bookmakers for Rose. But Gioiosa did tell the paper he often made bets for Rose at racetracks and that there were days when Rose bet as much as $10,000 on the horses.
•A source with access to Gold's telephone records told SI that during the first 11 months of 1986, 104 calls were made from the gym's office phone to Jonathan's, the restaurant in Franklin that is owned by Peters. Three calls were placed to Jonathan's from Gold's office phone in 1987.