Pete Rose Is Banned from Baseball for Betting on Games Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

After a Major League Baseball investigation into star player Pete Rose’s gambling habits, Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti banned Rose from baseball for life. Rose was accused of, and later admitted to, betting on baseball.

Summary of Event

On August 24, 1989, Major League Baseball (MLB) commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti announced Pete Rose’s lifetime suspension from baseball. Rose, the subject of a six-month investigation led by Washington, D.C., attorney John M. Dowd, had been accused of gambling on baseball games, including those played by the Cincinnati Reds, for whom Rose served as a player-manager. Rose was not banned from the sport under the rule prohibiting gambling, which carries an automatic lifetime suspension. Instead, he was declared ineligible under a rule that governs other forms of misconduct. That rule carried a penalty decided at the commissioner’s discretion, and Giamatti determined that a lifetime ban was appropriate. [kw]Rose Is Banned from Baseball for Betting on Games, Pete (Aug. 24, 1989) [kw]Baseball for Betting on Games, Pete Rose Is Banned from (Aug. 24, 1989) Baseball;and gambling[gambling] Rose, Pete Giamatti, A. Bartlett Vincent, Fay Baseball;and gambling[gambling] Rose, Pete Giamatti, A. Bartlett Vincent, Fay [g]United States;Aug. 24, 1989: Pete Rose Is Banned from Baseball for Betting on Games[02420] [c]Corruption;Aug. 24, 1989: Pete Rose Is Banned from Baseball for Betting on Games[02420] [c]Gambling;Aug. 24, 1989: Pete Rose Is Banned from Baseball for Betting on Games[02420] [c]Law and the courts;Aug. 24, 1989: Pete Rose Is Banned from Baseball for Betting on Games[02420] [c]Sports;Aug. 24, 1989: Pete Rose Is Banned from Baseball for Betting on Games[02420] Dowd, John M. Janszen, Paul

Pete Rose is escorted outside federal court in Cincinnati, Ohio, in July, 1990, after he was sentenced to prison for tax evasion.

(AP/Wide World Photos)

Rose was one of baseball’s biggest stars over the course of his twenty-four-year playing career. From 1963 to 1986, his awards included National League (NL) Rookie of the Year and NL Most Valuable Player, and he was a seventeen-time All Star. As a member of the Cincinnati Reds’ teams commonly known as the Big Red Machine, and later as a player with the Philadelphia Phillies, Rose was known for his hard playing and competitive drive. Although he rarely hit for power, Rose consistently hit for a high average, winning three NL batting titles. He finished his career with 4,256 hits, a major league record. For the last two years of his playing career, Rose returned to the Reds as a player-manager. He continued to manage the club for three seasons after his retirement as a player in 1986.

Throughout much of his career, Rose was an avid gambler as well. Betting on Horse racing horse races, football, basketball, and other sports, he had begun to gamble uncontrollably by 1985. Through his gambling, he became involved with bookies and others engaged in criminal activities. In 1988, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began a probe into the activities of cocaine dealers based out of a Gold’s Gym in Cincinnati. Paul Janszen, one of the owners of the gym, had been a long-time friend of Rose and often placed bets for him at the horse track and with bookies. When the FBI interrogated Janszen, he offered extensive information about Rose’s gambling. The FBI, investigating drug cases, showed little interest in pursuing Rose on gambling charges, and Janszen offered to sell his story to Sports Illustrated (magazine) Sports Illustrated. Although the magazine refused the offer, rumors began to circulate about Rose’s problem with gambling.

Near the end of his term as MLB commissioner, Peter Ueberroth, Peter Ueberroth had heard about Janszen’s testimony and informed Giamatti. Ueberroth and Giamatti took the allegations against Rose very seriously. Major League Baseball had long considered gambling on the sport to be the most egregious offense a player or manager could commit. In 1919, members of the Chicago White Black Sox scandal Chicago White Sox Sox were paid by gamblers to throw the World Series in favor of the underdog Cincinnati Reds. When the plot was discovered the next year, major league owners, seeking to clean up the game, selected a federal judge, Landis, Kenesaw Mountain Kenesaw Mountain Landis, to become the first commissioner of MLB. Landis permanently banned all eight members of the Black Sox, as they came to be known, from baseball.

Since the time of the Black Sox scandal, MLB has had zero tolerance for gambling on baseball, and any player or manager who bets on the sport could receive a permanent expulsion. MLB’s fear of gambling-related corruption runs so deep that even retired star players such as Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were suspended for serving as greeters in casinos (Mantle and Mays later had their bans overturned). With such a history of opposition to gambling, MLB could not let the accusations against Rose go without inquiry.

Although Giamatti was not yet the commissioner, Ueberroth, Peter Ueberroth, as a lame duck, turned the Rose matter over to him. In office for only six months, Giamatti devoted his entire time as commissioner to investigating Rose’s gambling. Following a private meeting with Rose and his attorneys, a meeting in which Rose proclaimed his innocence, Giamatti opened an investigation into allegations against the player. The commissioner appointed Dowd to head the investigation as special counsel to the commissioner. During the inquiry, Dowd interviewed Janszen and others through whom Rose had placed bets. Janszen, in particular, provided damaging testimony and damning evidence: Rose’s betting slips from April, 1987, which listed bets on baseball games. A handwriting analyst confirmed that Rose had written the slips. At the end of the investigation, in August, 1989, Dowd reported that the evidence indicated that Rose had bet on baseball, including the Reds, from 1985 to 1987.

Giamatti, however, created difficulties for himself during the investigation. In June, 1989, after Giamatti revealed in an April letter that he had begun to think that Rose was guilty, Rose and his lawyers filed suit against the commissioner. Rose decried Giamatti as prejudiced against him and stated that the Dowd investigation was unfairly damaging his reputation. Rose asked that Giamatti be replaced by an unbiased party and requested that the Cincinnati Reds be forbidden from taking action against him for any information revealed in the investigation. For two months, the case bounced between state and federal courts, and no action had been taken when the investigation ended in August.

With his credibility tainted, Giamatti had Fay Vincent, deputy MLB commissioner, handle much of the negotiation between the MLB and Rose. On August 23 the two parties decided that Rose would accept a ban from baseball but would not admit to any wrongdoing, nor would he deny wrongdoing. It was understood that after one year, Rose could apply for reinstatement. The following morning, Giamatti revealed the findings of the Dowd Report and announced that Rose would be placed on baseball’s ineligible list. Under the ban, Rose could not play or manage in the major or minor leagues and could not attend any official MLB function.

Impact

In September, 1989, Vincent became the new commissioner of baseball following Giamatti’s death, leaving Rose to doubt that his appeal would be approved. Animosity separated him from Vincent because the two were in conflict during settlement negotiations before Rose’s ban was official. However, another serious legal issue stood in the way: In 1990, an Internal Revenue Internal Revenue Service;and Pete Rose[Rose] Service investigation led to Rose’s conviction for Tax evasion;Pete Rose[Rose] tax evasion, and he was sentenced to a brief prison term and a period of community service. Although Rose could have applied for reinstatement after one year on the ineligible list, he waited until 1997 to do so, after Vincent’s term ended and upon Bud Selig’s becoming the new MLB commissioner.

For more than a decade after being banned, Rose maintained his innocence. In 2002, however, Rose admitted to Selig in a private meeting that he had bet on baseball during the 1980’s. Two years later, Rose confessed publicly in his autobiography, My Prison Without Bars (2004). Although Rose hoped to be reinstated by baseball after his confession, MLB did not act on his application. Selig stated that Rose did little to indicate that he has changed since Giamatti banned him.

Unlike the 1919 Black Sox scandal, Rose’s banishment from baseball had little effect on the game of baseball itself. However, Rose became a lightning rod among baseball fans. In 1991, the board of the National Baseball Hall of Fame adopted a rule stating that any person on MLB’s permanent ineligibility list could not be considered for election into the Hall of Fame. Despite having career statistics that warrant his induction, Rose remains ineligible. Like the case of Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was banned from baseball for his suspected role in fixing the 1919 World Series, Rose’s banishment and his ineligibility for the Hall of Fame are topics of extensive debate among baseball fans and professionals. Baseball;and gambling[gambling] Rose, Pete Giamatti, A. Bartlett Vincent, Fay

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Jordan, David. Pete Rose: A Biography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2004. An updated biography of Rose, especially useful for its coverage of Rose’s life after his suspension.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Reston, James, Jr. Collision at Home Plate: The Lives of Pete Rose and Bart Giamatti. New York: Edward Burlingame Books, 1991. Dual biography of Rose and Giamatti, focusing on Rose’s gambling, Giamatti’s time as MLB commissioner, and how the two figures clashed.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Rose, Pete, with Rick Hill. My Prison Without Bars. Emmaus, Pa.: Rodale Press, 2004. Autobiography in which Rose finally admits to having bet on baseball. Discusses his family life, early days in baseball, and why he gambled on the game.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Rose, Pete, with Roger Kahn. Pete Rose: My Story. New York: Macmillan, 1989. An early Rose autobiography, perhaps the best of his memoirs, published the year Rose was banned, which offers a defense against allegations of betting on baseball.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Sokolove, Michael Y. Hustle: The Myth, Life, and Lies of Pete Rose. New ed. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005. Critical biography of Rose, first published in 1990 and updated here, detailing his gambling problems. Attempts to answer the question, who is Rose—the All-American overachiever or a symbol of corruption?
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Vincent, Fay. The Last Commissioner: A Baseball Valentine. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002. Autobiography by Vincent, the commissioner of MLB and Rose’s postprofessional nemesis.

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