YALE UNIVERSITY, NEW HAVEN CT – When Pete Rose decided to buck convention back in 1989, he did so with a level of arrogance and a sense of invincibility and entitlement typically seen only in Canadian teenagers. Today I’m doing a little bucking myself and NOT whining about the Mets inability to afford a LOOGY – or even the willingness to hock one.
Rose was steadfast in his resolve and certain that he was some combination of the “Teflon Don” and Elliot Ness. Rose wouldn’t admit he had committed the “cardinal sin” of betting on Baseball. Repeatedly he was offered “leniency” by MLB if he would ‘fess up, and seek real treatment for his gambling addiction.
But new revelations have emerged about these offers of leniency that make his arrogance still more odd. So when he decided to tell then Commissioner Bart Giamatti and his henchman lead investigator John Dowd to pound sand, he signed his own death warrant.
Rose spent 5 months in prison. He didn’t serve time for betting on baseball. He went to jail for tax evasion. He failed to pay taxes on unreported income from his gambling and from his notorious card signing shows which netted him hundreds of thousands of cash money annually. Rose gambled on baseball and Giamatti and later, Fay Vincent had Rose dead to rights. They had mountains of evidence that documented his gambling-not just on baseball games, but on Cincinnati Reds baseball games. As the Reds’ Manager Rose had direct and profound ability to impact the events and outcome of games.
Much of the support Rose has received over the past quarter century was centered on the belief that Rose only bet on the Reds “to win.” He would never have done something so sinister and so contradictory to the best interests of the Game as to bet “against” his own team? Why not? In the midst of a life long gambling addiction with millions in losses, pressure and threats from gangsters, Rose had the presence of mind; a moral line in the sand that he would not cross? C’mon.
Supporters of the Hit King swore that Giamatti had a personal vendetta against Rose. That’s nonsense. Giamatti’s “crusade” against Rose was so powerful that much of the last year of Giamatti’s life was spent working tirelessly with two very different groups – to help Rose! Giamatti and his investigators knew that Rose would first have to answer to the IRS, who unsurprisingly wanted their taxes from all of the extra “income” Pete had generated and about which they previously knew squat. The Commissioner worked out an arrangement that upon Rose’s confession, apology and commitment to gambling Rehab, the Feds were willing to forgo pressing charges against Charlie Hustle.
The Government was not-by a long shot, the only organization with great interest in settling matters with Rose. He was also “into” loan sharks and bookies for several million dollars. Here too Giamatti had preemptively stepped in and “negotiated” with the organized crime folks. His debts would be paid, the threat of violence averted, and in return Rose would enter treatment for his addiction.
Rose thumbed his nose at all of these scenarios. He would not confess. He would not apologize. He would not seek treatment for his significant problem. An “insider” like a player or manager betting on baseball is the single most egregious act one can perpetrate on America’s Pastime. Deterrence demands a lifetime ban. Not 26 years.
Come back here tomorrow for the angry confessions of a guy who’s never cheated on anything, the Curmudgeon of the Concourse – Angry Ward.