Documents show Rose bet baseball as player
All of Pete Rose’s impressive entries in baseball’s record books — the National League hits mark he set as a Phillie, the major-league standard that came during his second stint with the Reds — may ultimately mean nothing now that the contents of another record book have been made public.
ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” reported Monday that a ledger confiscated in 1989 during the raid on a Rose associate’s Ohio home confirmed that baseball’s all-time hits leader had done what he had long denied — bet on Cincinnati Reds games while he was still playing for them.
The network reviewed Michael Bertolini’s notebook, a document that baseball investigators had fought unsuccessfully to obtain and which a court order had kept locked away. The documents showed Rose wagers — up to $5,500 — on various sporting events, including Reds games.
According to ESPN, the bets Bertolini recorded were being channeled through New York mobsters. In 1989, baseball’s Dowd Report, which led to the player’s banishment from the game that year, stated that Rose then owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to gamblers.
“Bertolini nails down the connection to organized crime on Long Island and New York,” said John Dowd, who headed baseball’s investigation into Rose. “And that is a very powerful problem. … The implications for baseball are terrible. (The mob) had a mortgage on Pete while he was a player and manager.”
Rose, 74, has denied betting on games in which he played ever since news of his gambling troubles broke in 1989. In 2004, after long denying that, too, he admitted making wagers on Reds games he had managed.
But as recently as April, on a New York radio show, Rose insisted he had not bet on games as a player.
“Never bet as a player,” he told host Michael Kay. “That’s a fact.”
The timing of these revelations could be devastating to whatever hopes Rose might have had about getting the ban lifted or becoming eligible for baseball’s Hall of Fame.
In March, Rose, whose 23-year playing career included five seasons in Philadelphia, applied to baseball’s new commissioner, Rob Manfred, for reinstatement.
Major League Baseball has not commented on the ESPN report.
The incriminating pages came from a notebook seized at Bertolini’s home during a U.S. Postal Inspection Service raid in October 1989, nearly two months after Rose was declared permanently ineligible. Their authenticity, the network said, was verified by two people who took part in the raid. That action was part of a mail fraud investigation and unrelated to gambling.
The notebook, despite Dowd’s efforts to obtain it, had remained under court-ordered seal. Several years ago it was transferred to the New York office of the National Archives, which had denied requests to review it from several news organizations, including ESPN. The network’s report did not make clear how it got access to the document.
In a statement released by his lawyer, Rose indicated that the reinstatement application included an agreement that he would not comment on any related specifics.
“I’m eager to sit down with Manfred to address my entire history — the good and the bad — and my long personal journey since baseball. That meeting likely will come sometime after the all-star break. Therefore at this point, it’s not appropriate to comment,” the statement said.
Rose, who became the game’s all-time hits king in 1985, played 72 games for a Reds team he also managed in the year in question, 1986. The bets noted by Bertolini included many from early in that season, while he was still an active player. He continued as Reds manager though 1989, when news of his gambling habits rocked baseball.
“This does it,” Dowd, who reviewed the notebook, said of the ESPN revelation. “This closes the door.”
Dowd’s investigators were told that Rose had bet on the Reds from 1984 through 1986. But they never found any documentary verification.
“We knew that (Bertolini) recorded the bets, and that he bet himself, but we never had his records. We tried to get them. He refused to give them to us,” Dowd said.
According to ESPN, the ledger showed that Rose bet on baseball on at least 30 days from March through July 1986. The entries contained no evidence that Rose bet against his team, but they did make clear that he bet on Reds games, including games in which he played.
On one March day, the report noted, Rose lost $25,500 betting on college and professional basketball.