The large binders are labeled Pete Rose, Volumes I and II. The Dowd Report is frayed, but intact. Together they contain hundreds of thousands of words about one of baseball’s truly special players. But, the words describe betting slips and denials, not the feats on the baseball field that made Pete Rose an icon in sports.
I took a few moments to look through those binders Monday. The stories, articles, and fan surveys did not evoke the good memories. They did not remind me of the Pete Rose who played baseball with joy, grit, and the kind of full-out effort we wish every player would exhibit. Instead, those research binders were a reminder that the way we conduct ourselves provides a window to our character. And, that failing to own up to our mistakes in life, can have a lasting effect.
Monday’s report, by ESPN’s Outside The Lines investigators, re-opened old wounds, providing further evidence that Pete Rose has yet to come clean about his gambling on baseball.
The Tell-All Book That Wasn’t
In his 2003 book titled My Prison Without Bars, Pete Rose admitted for the first time publicly, that he had bet on baseball as a manager in the late 1980’s. The admission ended more than 14-years of denials during which he accused Major League Baseball of conducting a witch-hunt, and referred to baseball official Rich Levine, Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent, and investigator John Dowd, as The Three Stooges.
However, as I said at the time as an ESPN Radio host, it was clear that Pete Rose had not been honest and truthful in the book, when it came to his betting on baseball.
Pete has a remarkable memory. He can recount countless at-bats and game situations from his more than two decades playing Major League Baseball. Yet, when it came to remembering when he first placed a bet on baseball, Pete’s memory failed him. He wrote in the book that he couldn’t remember when he first starting betting on baseball, only that it was in the late 1980’s, when he was Manager of the Cincinnati Reds.
The Dowd Report had found evidence that Rose placed bets on baseball, including on his own team, in the 1985 and 1986 seasons. As I suggested at the time, Pete likely was vague about the timeline for starting to gamble on baseball because if he admitted to betting on baseball as a player-manager, rather than as a manager only, it might be more difficult to win election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Rose has continued to deny that he ever bet on baseball as an active player. And now, ESPN reports it has uncovered written evidence that he did.
This Didn’t Have to Happen
For those, like me, who grew-up pretending to be Pete Rose while playing baseball in the back yard, the damage Pete did to his legacy was sad to watch. Since I believed the findings of the Dowd Report to be credible, and did not believe Pete’s claims of innocence over the years, I was labeled an “anti-Rose guy”. Whenever Pete Rose appeared on ESPN Radio, guess who had the on-air job of challenging his denials? I tried to be as respectful as possible. It was distasteful and became tiresome over the years. However, it was necessary. Pete’s accusations directed toward Major League Baseball, and efforts to cast himself as a victim, couldn’t be left unchallenged.
And through all those years, the one thought that ran through my mind was how this was all so avoidable.
It’s the Cover-Up
When first confronted with the evidence, had Pete Rose apologized to Major League Baseball and accepted responsibility for his actions, he would have served a suspension and then been reinstated. He would have been eligible to return to baseball and would have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
There is no question about it. All he had to do was tell the truth. That’s all.
Instead, the same arrogance, pride, and ego that helped Pete Rose become one of the best players in baseball history, led him to lie about his actions and then dig in his heels for years, proclaiming his innocence, while knowing he was guilty.
Sadly, we keep seeing examples of the wrong way to handle mistakes. Someone does something wrong, but instead of owning up to it, they make it worse by denying it.
For Pete Rose, dishonesty is a self-inflicted injury that will not heal.
Photo Credit: Peter Bond via Flickr
Founder & Executive Director
Chuck Wilson is an award-winning host, interviewer, and commentator. He was an original host on ESPN Radio and was with the network for close to 17-years. In 2007, Wilson was named one of the 100 Most Influential Sports Educators in America by the Institute for International Sport. He is the founder of Even Field.