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Rose's attorneys have said that Peters, Janszen and the other Rose accusers are lying. Rose's side has been trying to discredit Janszen, who was released from a federal halfway house in Cincinnati on June 16 after having served four months for income tax evasion. Rose's legal team cites at least four grounds in attacking Janszen: that he is a felon, that he allegedly tried to blackmail Rose over what Janszen claims was a $40,000 debt owed to him by Rose, that he has sold his account of his involvement with Rose to Penthouse magazine for publication later this year and that Janszen failed one of the three polygraph tests he took for baseball investigators.
But Janszen's credibility was enhanced by an assertion in the Dowd report concerning what Janszen has identified as three betting sheets of Rose's. The report said that a handwriting analysis had confirmed that the sheets were in Rose's handwriting. And The New York Times quoted an unnamed federal law enforcement official as saying that the three sheets—all currently in the possession of the FBI—bear Rose's fingerprints. Rose says the sheets are forgeries. In their lawsuit, Rose's lawyers referred to them as "three pieces of paper Janszen allegedly stole from Pete Rose's home."
On the same day that Janszen was released from the halfway house, Peters was sentenced to two years on his drug-trafficking and tax charges; he will begin serving his sentence at a federal prison camp on July 17. In depicting Peters as a liar, Rose's side has seized on the fact that Peters is a felon and has charged that he provided information damaging to Rose to baseball and to federal authorities in hopes of getting a lighter prison sentence. Rose's attorneys also point to testimony from Peters that Rose once owed him, and failed to pay, a large gambling debt. They questioned how, in light of this allegation, baseball could deny that Peters had an ax to grind. But Peters says that, in his mind, that debt was eventually settled. And, in citing the alleged debt as part of their client's defense, Rose's attorneys seem to almost acknowledge that Rose had such a debt. Peters appears to have far more reason to be unhappy with Janszen—who set him up for the cocaine sale that resulted in his drug conviction—than with Rose.
In the end, Rose's defenders may have difficulty contending with the sheer wealth of detail that Peters, like Janszen, has provided about Rose's alleged baseball betting. According to the transcripts of his questioning by baseball investigators, Peters said that he handled baseball wagers of $2,000 to $5,000 a game for Rose during a three-year span covering what he called the "Gio era" (1984-86) and the "Janszen era" ('87). He estimated in an interview with baseball investigators that Rose bet around $1 million with him, but he later told SI that that was a "very conservative" figure. "It was a lot more, I'm sure," he said. Alluding to betting slips that he turned over to baseball and that cover what he said were some of Rose's wagers from '87, he said, "Alan [Statman, one of Peters's lawyers] added the money up for those slips and it came to over $800,000. That was just a half season."
Both the report and Peters portray Rose's involvement with betting as obsessive, almost desperate. Peters says that on one occasion Rose called him to place baseball bets just minutes before a Reds home game. After hanging up, Peters says he turned on the game on TV and saw Rose at Riverfront Stadium. "I remember that distinctly because he called...and made a bet," Peters says. "He also bet on the Reds that day, and five minutes later I go look at the TV and there he is in the dugout." Peters concluded that Rose had placed the bets from inside the stadium.
Another time, says Peters, Rose paid him a visit. Rose arrived with Gioiosa and another friend, Michael Fry, for lunch at Jonathan's, a restaurant in Franklin owned by Peters at the time. Peters says that the visit wasn't entirely social: Rose had more than $30,000 coming in winnings on football and basketball wagers with Peters, and he had driven his Porsche from Cincinnati to Franklin to collect. During lunch, says Peters, he paid up.
Peters and Rose share some similarities. Both like action, both exude confidence and both have a roguish charm and a flamboyance that belie their relatively humble southern Ohio roots. Yet Peters never imagined he would one day be in a position possibly to topple one of baseball's greatest stars. While growing up in Franklin, Peters focused his energies on golf—while also displaying a flair for gambling. In elementary school, he says, he would win his classmates' lunch money pitching quarters. As captain of the Franklin High golf team he coaxed opponents and teammates into $1 to $3 Nassau wagers and cashed in on most of those, too. After high school Peters became an assistant golf pro at Beckett Ridge Country Club in West Chester and expanded into larger golf bets. Between those wagers and some nighttime poker games, he made good money.
Two Beckett Ridge members that Peters befriended in the late 1970s were Jay Basil and Jim Eveslage, both of whom, according to Peters, helped steer him toward his eventual involvement with Rose. Basil was a dentist who made book on the side. In the early '80s he took Peters on as his bookmaking assistant for $300 a week. Within six months Peters was an equal partner in the business, and about a year after that he bought Basil out. "What had happened was, Ronnie had taken over and I was just a name," says Basil, who says he is no longer involved in illegal gambling.
As luck would have it, Eveslage worked out regularly at Gold's Gym in suburban Cincinnati. A former bodybuilder at Gold's describes the scene there as "a three-ring circus." One group particularly stood out—the bodybuilder friends of the gym's most famous habitu�, Rose. They drove expensive sports cars and wore thick gold chains and diamond Rolex watches.
At the core of this group were the gym's co-owners, Fry and Donald Stenger, and Rose's buddy Gioiosa. According to a source who worked out at the gym, Gioiosa, who once had lived with Rose as a sort of unadopted second son, was known to do things like show up at Gold's in Rambo attire carrying a rifle. Two former Gold's lifters recall seeing Gioiosa in the parking lot at Gold's throwing around, as if it were a football, a thick wad of $100 bills held together with elastic bands. Gioiosa's greatest contribution to Gold's was introducing Rose to the gym. Rose began working out there, and eventually ads appeared billing the establishment as PETE ROSE'S GOLD'S GYM.