- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2004

Banished baseball legend Pete Rose yesterday ended more than 14 years of strident denials and admitted to betting on baseball while he was manager of the Cincinnati Reds in the late 1980s.

Confirming an exhaustive investigation Major League Baseball used to impose a lifetime ban on Rose, the game’s all-time leader in hits said he bet on baseball four or five times a week during 1987 and 1988. Gambling on baseball by those working in the sport is considered by MLB to be baseball’s greatest sin.

“It’s time to clean the slate, it’s time to take responsibility. I’m 14 years late,” Rose says in an interview with ABC News that will air Thursday evening. The interview is one of many planned in conjunction with the release of Rose’s second autobiography, “My Prison Without Bars.” The book, with a massive initial press run of 500,000 copies, also is released Thursday.

“I just never had the opportunity to tell anybody that was going to help me,” Rose continues. “I couldn’t get a response from baseball for 12 years. It’s like I died, and they knew I died and they didn’t want to bring me back. They were just going to let me rot.”

Rose’s admission represents a bombshell in what has remained one of baseball’s biggest stories and most heated debates since his 1989 banishment from the game. But the key questions still outstanding are whether Rose is now truly contrite for his actions and fully rehabilitated from his gambling addiction. None of the initial excerpts of his book and ABC interview released yesterday contained any extensive apologies, and instead focused on his gambling activities and desire to get back into baseball.

The only portion in the book released thus far resembling an apology includes the passage: “I’m sure that I’m supposed to act all sorry or sad or guilty now that I’ve accepted that I’ve done something wrong. But you see, I’m just not built that way.”

“I don’t see any real contrition here. He’s still trying to blame everyone else for what’s happened,” former MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent said yesterday. “This whole thing is absolutely pathetic. Pete Rose has always been about money, and he has made a very shrewd calculation here that saying what he’s saying now can be very lucrative to him through this book.

“The whole thing just makes me ill. You take him off the ineligible list, and you have no justification for that list left,” Vincent said.

Either way, the move is clearly designed to advance Rose’s long-running, full-throttle effort to gain entry into baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Rose currently is barred from appearing on the ballot due to his banishment, but has a standing application for reinstatement filed at MLB offices. None of baseball’s other permanently banished figures, including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, ever have been reinstated.

MLB executives yesterday did not have any substantive comment on Rose. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig told the Associated Press, “we haven’t seen the book. Until we read the book, there’s nothing to comment on.”

But Selig and others have their own critics to answer now, as they have sat on this news for 14 months. Rose made this same admission on his gambling to Selig during a November 2002 meeting in Milwaukee. In more than a dozen substantive media interviews and public appearances since then, Selig repeatedly has been asked about Rose, and each time said there was nothing new to report.

Even with the admission of gambling, Rose appears not to believe he tarnished the game, and insisted he never bet on the Reds to lose.

“During the times I gambled as a manager, I never took an unfair advantage,” Rose wrote. “I never bet more or less based on injuries or inside information. I never allowed my wagers to influence my baseball decisions. So in my mind, I wasn’t corrupt.”

To the end, Rose, still wildly popular among many baseball fans, says in his book he wished he were treated like a substance abuser. His gambling quickly became an addiction and led to his losing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“If I had been an alcoholic or drug addict, baseball would have suspended me for six weeks and paid for my rehabilitation,” Rose said.

Rose has two years of eligibility left to be voted into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Following that, Rose could be voted in by the Hall’s Veterans Committee, should he be reinstated by Selig. But that panel, made up of living Hall of Famers and writers and broadcasters formally honored by the Hall, is believed to have much more scorn for Rose.

“I’ve consistently heard the statement: ‘If Pete Rose came clean, all would be forgiven.’ Well, I’ve done what you asked,” Rose said. “The rest is up to the commissioner and the big umpire in the sky.”

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