The new commissioner of baseball, Rob Manfred, let the world know he was open to hearing from Pete Rose about reinstatement to the game Rose has been banned from since 1989 for gambling, and so Rose, according to reports, has formally applied for parole, so to speak.
“What I intend to do is be in communication with his representatives, and we’ll talk about how we’ll handle it from a process perspective,” Manfred told reporters last week. “I want to make sure I understand all the details in the Dowd Report and commissioner Bart Giamatti’s decision. I want to hear what Pete has to say, and I’ll make a decision.”
What Rose will have to say is whatever serves the interests of Pete Rose. The odds are long that it will be true and sincere.
But Manfred said he will hear the case, and, like a parole hearing, the detective whose investigation led to the Rose ban — an agreement Rose signed — is ready and willing to testify about whether or not the all-time leader in hits should be welcomed back into the game.
And, just like back in 1989, when John Dowd questioned Rose, who repeatedly lied about his outrageous betting habits while managing the Cincinnati Reds and his connections to organized crime, Rose won’t like what Dowd — the author of the historic report that drove Rose from the game — has to say.
“I don’t see any basis for Pete to be reinstated,” Dowd, the heavy-hitting lawyer based in the District, told The Washington Times. “Pete has not redeemed himself and been a credit to the game. I don’t know if anything has changed. Pete brings no credit or credibility to the game. He has done nothing to reconfigure his life, which is what Bart encouraged him to do.”
Dowd said he has no problem with Manfred hearing Rose’s case again. “It’s the fair thing to do,” he said. “It is perfectly appropriate. If I were commissioner, I would read what he has to say and listen to what he has to say, but I would probably have a lot of questions.
“Review my report and the context of it all over the last 25 years,” Dowd said. “It’s been a drama over that time, including 16 years of denial. I would evaluate all that. But I would also have some very tough questions for Pete. If I were commissioner, I would honor what Bart had to say and be very careful about overturning Bart’s decision unless there was some really compelling evidence.”
There doesn’t appear to be any — except time.
The only argument to reinstate Rose made by his supporters is that it’s been long enough, but the cardinal rule that Rose broke — not just broke, but obliterated — was gambling on baseball while he was still in the game as manager of the Cincinnati Reds (though Dowd believe he bet as a player as well).
That states the following:
“Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.”
Did you read the last two words? “Permanently ineligible.”
Like Dowd said, there should be some “really compelling evidence” to overturn the decision by Giamatti, so let’s review Rose’s road to redemption.
For 15 years, Rose denied all the findings of the Dowd report, loudly and vehemently. Then, when it appeared that commissioner Bud Selig reportedly was ready to reconsider Rose’s case, it was torpedoed by the release of Rose’s book in 2004, where he admitted betting on baseball. His confession was made for profit, with no remorse about the denials and attacks he made on Giamatti, who died eight days after banishing Rose, then-deputy commissioner Fay Vincent and Dowd.
“For years he called those of us who did the work corrupt, that we made up evidence,” Dowd said. “He defamed Fay, he defamed Bart, he defamed me. That’s what organized criminals do. It’s all rather unsavory and something baseball should not be associated with.”
Since he admitted betting, Rose has continued to earn a living with paid appearances and casino autograph signings. The long list of talks he has given to groups, young and old, warning them about the dangers of gambling and how it can destroy your life? He better hope he’s been keeping that list secret to present as evidence at his reinstatement — any sign of remorse and redemption.
“If Pete had gone on the road to every major-league city and talked to kids about the destructive nature of gambling and his experience with it, which has not been good, that is a contribution to the game,” Dowd said. “He’s done nothing to contribute to the game or to be a credit to the game since he was declared permanently ineligible.”
Except time has passed — that’s it.
“About Pete’s so-called apologies and admissions … he says he didn’t bet as a player,” Dowd said. “He did bet as a player, and we proved that he bet as a player. This is what happens when you deal with the criminal element. He is a convicted felon. All he does is hang out at casinos and show up at the Hall of Fame every year to embarrass them.
“He thinks, well, 25 years, whatever,” Dowd said. “It’s what you’ve done and what you should have done over 25 years. It’s not a popularity contest. It’s about the game and the integrity of the game.”
To campaign for Rose’s reinstatement is to operate in the bliss of ignorance. The more you know about what he did, the more foolish you look to take up his cause.
The Dowd report details a long list of crimes against the game — Rose betting sometimes 10 games a day, upwards of thousands of dollars, with bookies and drug dealers, some with mob ties, and owing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yet, he remains an American folk hero of sorts.
The driving force behind the populist support for Rose is his absence from the Hall of Fame — the notion that the player who had more hits, 4,256 over 23 seasons as a player, 19 with the Reds — than anyone who ever played the game isn’t enshrined in Cooperstown. He was kept off the baseball writers’ ballot for the 15 years he was eligible because of his banishment, and now, if reinstated, would face a vote by the Expansion Era Committee — which includes current Hall of Famers.
A number of Hall of Famers I’ve spoken to over the years have not been sympathetic to Rose’s case. Dowd found strong opposition.
“I represented Ted Williams,” Dowd said. “He had been the victim of a big swindle and got to hang out with him and Bob Feller, the senior members of the Hall of Fame then. They took a vote in the Hall of Fame and it was unanimous that if Pete was voted in, none of them would show up.”
Dowd, though, is ready to show up for the parole hearing for Pete Rose.
“I would be delighted to help them,” he said.
• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com.