Pete Rose just turned 80 years old on Wednesday, and he’s reconciled to his lot. Suspended from Major League Baseball since 1989 for betting on baseball games while managing the Cincinnati Reds, Rose doesn’t believe he’s ever getting back in. At his age, time isn’t on his side.
In an exclusive interview with Sportico on Thursday he said he’s not losing any sleep about being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, either. Because of his ineligible status, he’s never been on the ballot and doesn’t think he’ll be put on it anytime soon.
“Let me start with this: I really have no place in the game,” said Rose, MLB’s all-time leader with 4,256 hits. “I’ve been suspended for 31 years, and needless to say, I don’t get along with baseball. And I don’t need to get along with baseball. I’ll live with that because I’m the one who screwed up.”
As far as his eligibility for the Hall of Fame, Rose noted: “I’ve given up on that, and I’m not a give-up type person. I’m not going to go to bed at night and dreaming about going into the Hall of Fame. I’m going to go to bed at night, hoping I get up tomorrow. [But] I would be the happiest guy in the world if I ever had that honor bestowed on me.”
Thusly liberated, Rose continues to throw all caution to the wind, signing on this week as a spokesperson and consultant for UpickTrade.com, a sports betting service based in Guadalajara, Mexico. In his new partnership he’ll be making picks each day on MLB games trying to draw in subscribers.
The site’s home page quotes Rose as saying, “There’s nobody alive on earth that knows more about baseball than I do.”
That raises the obvious question, and Rose responded that he no longer bets on baseball. But one can take that with a grain of salt. He denied betting on baseball in 1989 when, after a nearly season-long investigation, then-commissioner Bart Giamatti banned him from the game under Rule 21:
“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 no duty to perform, shall be declared ineligible for one year.”
Giamatti determined Rose did bet on baseball. And years later, Rose admitted as much, reiterating on Thursday that he indeed “bet on every game for the Reds to win because I needed the extra incentive, the extra kick. I wasn’t betting on my team to get wealthy. Does that make any sense?”
In fact, Rose said he’s lost money in aggregate over the years betting on sports, baseball in particular.
“I don’t know if there’s any experts as far as gambling on sports,” he said. “I don’t know many guys who gamble on sports that win, maybe you do. I had a lot of winning days, but sports are tough to bet on.”
Rose, though, said his fatal mistake was not being honest with Giamatti, when the commissioner had incontrovertible evidence that Rose bet on baseball.
“I had the advice of my attorneys: ‘Don’t admit anything. Don’t admit anything,’” he said. “If you’re paying attorneys, you do what they tell you to do. And I was wrong. I should have gone in to Bart and talked to him one-on-one. He was a fair guy, an intelligent guy, and he knew I loved the game.”
Instead, Rose signed an agreement stating he hadn’t bet on baseball, and as the rule allowed for his situation, to be reevaluated in a year from the date of its enforcement on Aug. 24, 1989.
At a press conference that day in New York, Giamatti instead said without the benefit of a hearing that, “Yes, I have concluded that [Rose] bet on baseball.”
Rose still says he was stunned.
“I should have ripped up the agreement right then and there,” he said.
Giamatti then died of a heart attack a mere six days later, placing Rose in a limbo from which he hasn’t emerged.
Rose said at the time he never expected to be banned from baseball for life, although members of the infamous Eight Men Out Chicago White Sox team, suspended after taking money to throw the 1919 World Series, were neither reinstated nor considered for the Hall of Fame.
“If Bart doesn’t die I really believe he gives me a chance after a year,” Rose said. “What I did was nothing like the Black Sox scandal. Joe Jackson hit .375 in that the series, but he took money to throw the games. I never bet against my team. Never. Anybody who knows me knows I’d never do that.”
It took another three commissioners and 26 years before Rose met with Rob Manfred in 2015 to plead his case for reinstatement. When Rose admitted at the session he continued to legally bet on baseball, Manfred denied the petition, saying that alone made him “an unacceptable risk” to be allowed back in the game.
As far as his eligibility for the Hall of Fame was concerned, Manfred explicitly stated that his decision should have no impact on that, and any debate “is one that should take place in a different forum.”
The Hall passed a rule in 1991, “just for me,” Rose said, barring players on MLB’s ineligible list from the election to the Hall. The Hall continues to maintain that position.
And that’s where it all currently stands, relegating Rose to rare prearranged appearances at MLB events, card shows and now his sports betting gig, coming even as baseball and other pro sports are becoming more cozy signing deals with casinos and betting companies to carve out a share of revenue from fans who wager.
“That’s fine,” Rose said. “Because baseball, like other sports, has realized that gambling is going to make them a lot of money.”
Though that might not all seem fair, he knows Rule 21 still applies.
“You’re right about that,” Rose said. “I don’t know if anybody bets on the games. I see players in Vegas betting all the time. I don’t know if they’re betting on baseball games. I don’t know what they do. Wouldn’t it be farfetched that in baseball since 1869, I’m the only one to bet on it? Isn’t that a little naïve to say that?”
But he’s been the only one in a century caught doing it.
Rose still lives in Las Vegas and has his baseball pension, although his income has been reduced because the shop where he once signed autographs five days a week in the MGM Grand Las Vegas has been closed since COVID-19 hit in March 2020.
Like many former players from his era, he’s not happy with the current state of play on the field.
“I’m still a baseball fan, in general,” Rose said. “I don’t like the way the game is played today. There’s too many home runs. Now the latest thing is they said they took the juice out of the balls. That’s BS. How does a little outfielder hit the ball 485 feet if the ball’s not juiced? But that’s what baseball wants to do. They’ve come to the conclusion the way they want to sell the game is based on analytics and home runs.”
After 27 years in the Majors, 24 as a player and three more as a full-time manager, Rose continues to view this all from the outside. It’s his penance, he knows.
“It’s all my fault,” he concluded. “I have no one to blame but myself.”