SI Vault
Jill Lieber
September 04, 1989
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September 04, 1989


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Pete Rose never grasped what was happening, not even when his baseball career finally crashed down upon him last week under the gathering weight of his gambling and lies and unsavory associations. Rose seemed to think that as baseball's alltime hit leader, he could not be toppled.

Rose didn't understand the gravity of his offenses. He couldn't see that he had jeopardized the integrity of the game by hanging around with known gamblers and drug dealers. His cocksure denials that he had wagered on his sport were scant defense against the 225-page report prepared by baseball's special counsel John Dowd. That report named nine people who implicated Rose in baseball betting.

The apparent end of Rose's baseball career came suddenly. At a press conference in New York City last Thursday morning, commissioner Bart Giamatti announced that under a settlement signed by Rose at four o'clock the previous afternoon, he was banning Rose for life and that the Cincinnati Reds manager was dropping his lawsuit against baseball. Giamatti said that Rose had "engaged in a variety of acts which have stained the game, and he must now live with the consequences of those acts."

It was a sad moment for the sport, yet also one of relief. For six months baseball had investigated Rose and fought in both Ohio and federal courts to bring him to a hearing.

In the settlement Rose recognized the "sole and exclusive jurisdiction" of the commissioner to handle disciplinary matters and agreed not to legally challenge baseball in the future on any aspect of his case. To the surprise of many, the agreement stated that Rose could apply for reinstatement in one year. In fact, this was not a special privilege. According to Major League Rule 15(c), anyone placed on the ineligible list can apply for reinstatement.

Giamatti took pains to point out that Rose had not been guaranteed reinstatement at any point in the future. When asked what Rose would have to do to prove himself worthy of reinstatement, Giamatti said he expected Rose to "show a redirected, reconfigured or rehabilitated life."

On Aug. 22, the 48-year-old Rose watched his wife, Carol, give birth to a girl. Cara Chea, the couple's second child. The next day, Rose was in the office of his longtime friend and attorney, Reuven Katz, to sign the settlement that would end his 27-year big league career. Rose's lawyers had met with baseball officials as far back as April to try to settle the case, but the two sides had disagreed on such basic matters as the offenses to which Rose would admit and the severity of the punishment he would receive. Baseball refused to be a party to any agreement in which Rose denied that he had bet on major league games. Rose's lawyers wouldn't accept any settlement in which their client admitted betting on baseball. After meeting in New York City in July, the two sides, deadlocked, broke off talks.

By mid-August, Rose and his family were wearing down from the strain of not only the baseball case but also the investigation of Rose by a Cincinnati grand jury for possible tax evasion. And Rose's legal bills were mounting.

On Aug. 18, Katz called deputy baseball commissioner Fay Vincent and expressed a renewed interest in settling. The two sides traded phone calls for several days, and as a final gesture of good faith, Giamatti called Katz to assure him that he would consider with an open mind any reinstatement application from Rose. Moments later Rose signed.

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