Despite Pete Rose’s protests that he never bet on baseball as a player, ESPN’s Outside the Lines acquired copies of documents suggesting that Rose did just that between March and July 1986, his last season on the field.
In 2004, Rose finally admitted after 15 years of denials to placing wagers on baseball as a manager. He still denied ever betting on baseball as a player.
The damning documents, which have lain dormant for 26 years in the National Archives New York office under court-ordered seal, contain pages copied from a notebook belonging to Rose’s friend Michael Bertolini, who allegedly placed bets for Rose. The notebook was taken in a raid on Bertolini’s home by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in October 1989 based on a mail fraud investigation, barely two months after Rose was banned from baseball. Former supervisor Craig Barney and former inspector Mary Flynn of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, who participated in the raid, confirmed the documents’ authenticity to Outside the Lines. In 1989, Rose denied ever placing bets with Bertolini.
Although John Dowd, who ran MLB’s investigation of Rose, had obtained sworn testimony from bookie Ron Peters that Rose had gambled on the Cincinnati Reds between 1984-86, he had no documents to substantiate the claim. Dowd and his team even had a recorded phone conversation between Bertolini and Paul Janszen, another associate of Rose’s, that indicated that Rose had asked Bertolini to place bets for him. But the documents proving Rose had placed bets as a player were simply unavailable.
When Outside the Lines spoke to Dowd, he commented, “We didn’t have the records of Michael Bertolini; he refused to give them to us. So we never had Bertolini’s betting records. “ When he was shown the documents retrieved from the archives, he added, “I recognize Bertolini’s handwriting from other documents. It fits with the timeline that we had that he was betting. This is the final piece of the puzzle. This it, this does it; this closes the door.”
Rose’s attorney Raymond Genco issued a statement on behalf of his client: “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 [MLB commissioner Rob] Manfred to address my entire history — the 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.”
The documents provide ample evidence of Rose’s betting in 1986 while he was a player-manager. The report alleges that Rose bet on at least one MLB team on 30 different days, wagered on but not against the Reds, he lost more than $25,000 in a single week, placed his heaviest single-bet action, $5,500, on the Boston Celtics.
MLB Rule 21 states, “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.”
Rose asked new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred for reinstatement in March. In April, Rose doubled down on his assertion that he never bet on baseball while he was a player, telling Michael Kay’s ESPN New York 98.7 FM radio show, “Never bet as a player: That’s a fact.” Dowd responded on Outside the Lines, “He bet when he was a player-manager in ’85-’86 and the proof is from Ron Peters in the report and there is more evidence from others and from gambling records. It’s all right there that he bet as a player-manager. That’s the way Pete is. He knows the truth and he lied about it in his book.”