Documents obtained by ESPN's Outside the Lines show Pete Rose gambled on games he played in during the 1986 season, running counter to what MLB's all-time hits king has maintained since his banishment from baseball.
OTL's William Weinbaum and T.J. Quinn uncovered gambling records tied to former Rose associate Michael Bertolini, which clearly show the Cincinnati Reds slugger bet on games he played in during at least the 1986 season. John Dowd, the former federal prosecutor who led MLB's initial investigation into Rose, read and confirmed the documents.
While it had long been suspected that Rose's gambling stretched into his playing days, it had never been confirmed. Bookie Ron Peters swore under oath that Rose gambled from 1984-1986, but the veracity of those claims has been called into question without written documentation to serve as proof. Rose has consistently denied any involvement in gambling while still a player, only admitting he gambled while serving as a manager.
Dowd's investigation led to Rose's lifetime banishment from baseball in 1989. Two years later, the Baseball Hall of Fame adopted a rule that barred players banned from the game from enshrinement—effectively doing so to keep Rose out.
Rose never officially admitted to the charges laid forth by Dowd until the release of his 2004 autobiography My Prison Without Bars. Even then, he drew a very careful line. He maintained innocence on the charges dating back to his playing days and said he only bet on, not against, the Reds.
"I bet on my team to win every night because I love my team, I believe in my team," Rose said in a 2007 ESPN Radio interview. "I did everything in my power every night to win that game."
Bertolini's notebook, which covers March through July 1986, does not find evidence Rose bet against the Reds, but the records do show 21 instances of Rose betting on Reds games.
This will undoubtedly damage Rose's reinstatement bid, which had been gaining steam since Rob Manfred took over for Bud Selig as MLB commissioner. Manfred seemed at least somewhat open to allowing him back in the sport, even commissioning an exhaustive investigation into past documents. Rose is expected to meet with Manfred this year about his reinstatement.
Citing that meeting, Rose declined to comment in a statement to Quinn:
Since we submitted the application earlier this year, we committed to MLB that we would not comment on specific matters relating to reinstatement. I need to maintain that. To be sure, I'm eager to sit down with Mr. Manfred to address my entire history—he good and the bad—and my long personal journey since baseball. That meeting likely will come sometime after the All-Star break. Therefore at this point it's not appropriate to comment on any specifics.
Rose, 74, played 24 MLB seasons with the Reds, Philadelphia Phillies and Montreal Expos. He has the most hits and games played in MLB history, among numerous other records. If Manfred takes this report as yet another sign Rose has been less than truthful about his gambling past, all of those accomplishments will likely come without enshrinement on the game's biggest stage.
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