The Pete Rose Betting Scandal

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On August 24th 1989, Pete Rose, a prolific professional baseball player was banned for life for gambling on baseball games while he was a player and manager for the Cincinnati Reds. This was after an in-house Major League Baseball investigation led by Commissioner Bart Giamatti.

This was a sad ending for Rose as he was regarded as one of the greatest and most celebrated players in the history of baseball. He admitted to the accusation of betting when he was managing the Reds but vehemently denied betting when he was playing for the Reds.

MLB rules explicitly forbid any player, umpire league official or employee of a baseball team from betting in any baseball game they are connected to. The scandal was one of the baseball’s greatest controversies. C’mon Pete – it’s fun to gamble but why bet on the league you are in? Why not a different sport or league or play slots games instead? So many other options and a legacy was ruined.

The investigation and judgement

It was a well-known fact in baseball world that Pete Rose was an avid gambler as he was often seen in race tracks. Initially, he used to bet on horse races and football. However in 1989, allegations emerged that he was gambling on baseball and betting on his own team. MLB commissioner Bart Giamatti commenced an inquiry brought in John Dowd, a lawyer from Washington to head the investigation. Dowd resiliently composed and compiled many hours of testimonies and evidence that showed Roses gambling history. He interrogated many associates of Rose who included bookies and bet runners.

He completed the investigation and handed over a report to Giamatti in May 1989. It included 225 pages and seven volumes of exhibits comprising bank and phone records, depositions, betting records and interview transcripts with Rose and others. A forensic document examiner had determined that Rose’s handwriting was on betting slips. His fingerprints were also found on the slips. In his report, Dowd indicated that Rose was betting on five to ten games daily in basketball, hockey and baseball. His bet per game was about $2,000.

Due to this expensive addiction, Rose was often indebted to bookies. The comprehensive report further indicated that Rose at one point lost $67,000 in one month and owed a bookie $200,000. Rose denied most of the charges against him but voluntarily agreed to a permanent place on baseball’s ineligible list effectively ending his baseball career. On the day before the judgement, Rose had signed a document to the effect that he would neither confess nor deny the gambling allegations, that he would receive a lifetime ban from the game, but would be eligible to apply for reinstatement.

Rose did not apply for reinstatement until 1992 even though the rules allowed application for reinstatement after a year. Critics have argued that Rose did not fight the charges with enough effort and that he had skeletons in his closet as he remained silent and readily accepted his banishment from the sport. Rose applied for reinstatement again in 1998 but then Commissioner Bud Selig did not evaluate it.

However, Selig indicated that he was reviewing Rose’s application in 2003 but did not take any action afterwards. Another application was made in 2015 to Commissioner Rob Manfred who turned it down since Rose was still betting on baseball and other sports albeit legally and therefore he would still be at risk of breaching MLB gambling regulations. The ban meant that he could not appear on any MLB function and cannot partake in any festivities involving the Cincinnati Reds. He is also ineligible for admittance to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rose subsequently enrolled for therapy to treat his Gambling addiction.

In his 2004 autobiography, “My Prison without Bars” Rose revealed that he had bet on baseball every night when he was the Reds manager. He added that he always placed the odds on a win to the Reds. In addition, an investigation by ESPN in 2015 determined that Rose made bets when he was a player. ESPN uncovered copies of detailed and handwritten logs from a former bookie. The documents had been seized in an unrelated mail fraud case. The investigators traced postal agents who took part in the raid and requested them to review the documents. They authenticated them and confirmed that they were copies of the documents they seized. Despite Roses blatant violation of MLB rules and regulations, many fans believe that he should be reinstated and inducted into the Hall of Fame.