For more than a quarter century, Pete Rose issued denial after denial that he ever bet on Major League Baseball. Back in 1989 Rose received a lifetime ban from MLB after the Dowd Report found evidence that he did gamble while he managed the Cincinnati Reds. He accepted the ban and for the last 26 years either admitted some wrongdoing or refreshed his previous denials.
The MLB all-time hits record holder and former Reds superstar player technically first admitted he gambled at all on baseball back in 2004 in an interview with ABC’s Charles Gibson and in an autobiography released that year.
Rose went into further detail three years later during a radio interview with ESPN, stating he wagered on the Reds “every night” when he managed the squad, but not when he served as both player and manager. Essentially whittling down the potential time frame from 1987 to 1989.
Rose’s words and admissions of guilt always stopped before his time as one of MLB’s greatest players in history, a 23-year career that saw him collect a whopping 4,256 hits, a record that still stands and might continue on for generations. When he did admit to gambling, Rose said he never did so as a player.
Since Rose first confessed to gambling on baseball, he’s tried to earn reinstatement into the league, with the possibility of an induction in the Baseball Hall of Fame one of, if not the only, driving force. And with new league commissioner Rob Manfred in power and at least exploring the possibility, it seemed like Rose’s chances of reinstatement were gaining some sort of traction.
Yet that all changed Monday when ESPN’s Outside the Lines unearthed the biggest smoking gun in Rose’s checkered gambling past. The report showed and detailed a notebook of one of Rose’s former bookies, and served as the first hard evidence that he was gambling, even on the Reds, while he padded the all-time hits record in 1986.
Rose hasn’t issued a statement about the findings, but John Dowd, whose titular report started Rose on this long Dante-like journey more than 25 years ago told Outside the Lines: “This does it. This closes the door.”
That very well may be the case, especially with the trajectory of the controversy going from the seemingly incalculable times Rose denied ever gambling on the sport, to then saying it was only when he managed the Reds, to now no words at all.
Here are past comments Rose has made over the years about his gambling and reinstatement into baseball.
Rose pled his case for reinstatement during a radio interview with Pittsburgh’s 93.7 FM, and railed against the crimes he should’ve committed rather than betting on baseball.
“You have to understand, I don’t call these guys to do shows, they call me. And of course with all this steroid talk and the 12 guys being suspended and A-Rod appealing, they want my input because I’m suspended for life. Hey, everything is a different case. I made mistakes. I can’t whine about it. I’m the one that messed up and I’m paying the consequences. However, if I am given a second chance, I won’t need a third chance. And to be honest with you, I picked the wrong vice. I should have picked alcohol. I should have picked drugs or I should have picked up beating up my wife or girlfriend because if you do those three, you get a second chance. They haven’t given too many gamblers a second chances in the world of baseball.”
Rose also tried to parse the difference between his crimes and those committed by the 1919 Chicago White Sox, the team that famously threw the World Series.
“I understand what happened there. I understand the whole thing about guys throwing the World Series. I don’t like to be compared to Joe Jackson. because Joe Jackson, I think, took money to throw World Series games. Well, I know I bet on my own team to win. There’s pretty much a big difference there, but both of us were wrong.”
When he was promoting the autobiography, Rose insisted he always picked the Reds to win.
"I bet on my team every night. I didn't bet on my team four nights a week. I was wrong," Rose said. "I bet on my team to win every night because I love my team, I believe in my team. I did everything in my power every night to win that game."
In the interview with Gibson, Rose admits for the first time that he gambled on the sport.
“Yes I did, and that was my mistake not coming clean a lot earlier.”
Later he’d say: “I bet on baseball in 1987 and 1988."
When asked about betting on his own team Rose said: “Yes. I believed in my team, I knew my team, but it never altered the way I tried to run the game.”
And if he ever bet against the Reds: “Oh no. That would be the last thing I’d ever even consider. Cause I wanted to win every game."
Rose was permitted to participate in the ceremony that named the All-Century team, and in perhaps the most famous interview during his exile with then NBC reporter Jim Gray, he refused to admit or apologize for gambling.
“Not at all Jim. Not at all. I’m not going to admit to something that didn’t happen. I know you get tired of hearing me say that. I appreciate the ovation, I appreciate the fans voting me on that All-Century team. I’m just a small part of a big deal tonight.
Gray pressed, and Rose wouldn’t budge.
“I don’t know what evidence you’re talking about. Show it to me. Why do we want to believe everything [Dowd] says?”
Two years after the lifetime ban was issued, Rose spoke to TV journalist Jane Pauley and continued what became one out of a decades worth of denials. He was coming off a five-month prison sentence for income tax evasion.
“I think that’s why I get this crawl, when I hear that I did all this because of betting on baseball. It just really irks me that all the money, and all the time and all the effort and everything I’ve lost was to try and prove I didn’t bet on baseball. And finally I get an agreement says I didn’t and yet everybody still believes I did.”