Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Pete Rose interview

Rose can't recall whether he bet as a player

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Enquirer reporter John Erardi was in New York on Jan. 8 to meet with Pete Rose and talk one-on-one about Rose's new book "My Prison Without Bars" and his admission that he bet on baseball.

Here are portions of that interview:

Q. Are you surprised to hear that in an online poll in Cincinnati, that of the more than 4,700 people who responded, 70 percent said they wouldn't want you to manage the Reds?

A. Yes, that surprises me. ... But I also know I've hurt a lot of people. There's a backlash against me, and I understand that. ... If it turns out that I never manage the Reds again, that's the way it is. I can't change that...But if people would read the book, they will understand me, they will understand that I'm human, and they will understand that I'm looking for a second chance. Most people believe that everybody deserves a second chance.

Q. More people in Cincinnati than I thought were holding on to the hope that you hadn't bet on baseball. In their heads, maybe they knew you had, but in their hearts they wanted to believe that you hadn't. They didn't want you to let down their belief in you, because of the way you played the game. When word came down that you had confessed - when they heard the words - it knocked the wind out of them. It was like you kicked them in the stomach.

A. I can understand their disappointment. I really do. The best way to put it is that those people are going to realize -- with time -- that I'm human, that I can make a mistake like everybody else.

Q. The book has brought forth some of your accusers again. Your former friend, Tommy Gioiosa says you were using a corked bat when you were chasing Ty Cobb's hit record in 1985. He also said that 1985 is the year you financed a cocaine deal. He said he picked up $50,000 cash at your house, drove to Florida, and that seven days later he brought you $100,000 in a Gold Gym's bag. Everybody held you up on pedestal in '85 when you on the verge of breaking Cobb's all-time hit record. These sorts of accusations tarnish that pursuit, don't they?

A. You know what I would tell you to do? Go up to (memorabilila seller) Steve Wolter (in Montgomery) and get that 4,192 bat and take it to an examiner and see if there's any cork in it. I guarantee you there won't be. ... If somebody has a corked bat that has my name on it, bring it on down.

Q. What about the cocaine allegation, which has been published in magazine stories done with Gioiosa's cooperation?

A. I'm not here to rehash that, but I'll tell you this: In 1989, every agency in this country investigated me. And I (did prison time) for under-paying my taxes by 41/2 percent. DEA, FBI, IRS, everybody investigated me. They don't let allegations like that slip through the cracks.

Q. The man who investigated you for Baseball - John Dowd - said in his report and on the witness stand in Cincinnati that you were betting on the Reds to win in 1985, when you were chasing Cobb, and in 1986, your last year as a player. Dowd's report closely details the bets after that, when you were a manager only, in '87 and '88. Were you betting on the Reds to win when you were still playing in '85 and '86?

A. I don't remember. I'm not trying to dodge the question - I'm not going to do that. But I don't remember the first time I bet on baseball. I don't remember the first time I bet on baseball. I don't remember the first time. I don't know if it was '86, or '66. Well, I know it wasn't '66. I don't think it was '86. I'd say it was '87, '88.

Q. You have said you weren't thinking of the consequences. So, the thought never occurred to you: "If I get caught doing this, I'm screwed."

A. No, I didn't even think of that. That's how na‘ve and stupid I was. But maybe this will help: Maybe this negative that I did, maybe this can become a positive. Maybe, if there's a young player thinking about gambling, he'll see that I got more than a slap on the wrist. I've been suspended 14 years.

Q. You'd be willing to talk to players about that issue?

A. Hell, yeah.

Q. It's been written that the commissioner is leaning toward a two-year probation for you. That would take the vote out of the hands of the Baseball Writers Association of America and put it in the hands of the veterans' committee -the living Hall of Famers.

A. Don't get all caught up with what you hear from those "anonymous" people in the commissioner's office. We keep reading about them, too, and we don't know who in the heck they are. Maybe I'm wrong, but I kind of look at the last 14 months (since he confessed privately to Selig) as a probationary period. Like I told somebody earlier, I hope the commissioner's office was following me around the last 14 months. I wish they were. ... I have nothing to worry about.

Q. When was the last time you made a bet?

A. An illegal bet?

Q. Legal or illegal.

A. You mean going to the (horse) races?

Q. Well, I know you've been going to the races and betting, so OK, yes, "illegal" bets.

A. In '88, probably football, because that followed baseball. In spring training of '89, I was summoned to the commissioner's office. ... Are you aware that only one time in my life I've been to a casino that I wasn't being paid? And that was about four months when I went to see James Toney. He's a friend of mine. He was fighting Evander Holyfield. ... Every other casino I've been to - Biloxi, Atlantic City, Foxwoods, Tunica - we always get a check. Who pays the best for corporate appearances today? Casinos. And yet, every time I do an appearance, somebody thinks I'm there for the wrong reason. I have never had, and never will have, a credit line at any casino . Ever. I'm not a casino gambler. And yet everybody thinks I'm this big casino gambler. I like (horse) racing. That's all I like.

Q. But do you understand the perception problem that people have with you being in a casino?

A. Yes, if you believe what you read, absolutely. But what you read isn't always the truth.

Q. Do you think you have a gambling problem?

A. Now?

Q. Yes.

A. No. I think I had a gambling problem back in '88. It got out of control. I can keep a lid on it. I don't go to the races every day. I don't nearly go every day.

Q. How about the other sports? People can bet now on games offshore legally, baseball, football, basketball ...

A. No, that's not me. Not me. I just watch the sport now, and hopefully there's somebody on the team that I know that I'll root for. If it's Green Bay, I like Farve. I got friends on all the teams.

Q. If Selig said he was going to reinstate you for the purpose of being elected to the Hall of Fame, but not to manage, how would you feel about that?

A. I'd be very disappointed, but I'd have to live up to what he said. He's the boss. But I'm not so sure - and maybe I'm wrong and maybe I shouldn't say this - but I'm not so sure that's the American way.

Q. Because he'd be depriving you of a livelihood?

A. Not because of that, but because I'm a baseball person. I could help Bud Selig make baseball a better game.

Q. Does it have to be as a manager?

A. No, not at all.

Q. Can it be as something else?

A. Sure. But it's tough to put handcuffs on somebody. If you can't work in baseball, there's not much sense in getting reinstated is there?

Q. Not if that's what you want to do.

A. I understand how important the Hall of Fame is. Every player wants to go to the Hall of Fame. Those two guys - Eckersley and Molitor - will be partying all week.

Q. Why did you tell Bud Selig in your private meeting with him back in November of 2002 that you "never made a bet from the clubhouse?" Phone calls from the Reds clubhouse were the basis of Dowd's investigation. It's how he connected the dots to show you were betting on baseball games, on Reds games.

A. What I said was, "I have never called a bookmaker from the clubhouse." And I have never - regardless of what you read - talked to (former bookmaker) Ron Peters on the (clubhouse) phone.

Q. But it could have been intermediary guys making those calls, those bets, from the clubhouse on your behalf?

A. No, no. All the phone records from the clubhouse ... (are) most of the time, seeing if people want tickets for games.

Q. Was anybody else betting on baseball games while you were betting on them?

A. On the team?

Q. Yes, on the Reds or on other teams?

A. No, no. Just like no one knows I was, I don't know of anybody else who was.

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