Tuesday, August 24, 2010

August 24, 1989: Fallen star

CINCINNATI - The investigation was shocking, the revelations jaw-dropping. One of the greatest players of the 70s, one of the greatest of all time, was facing the most serious charges a Major Leaguer could face. Pete Rose had been accused of betting on baseball.

In his first meeting with new commissioner Bart Giamatti, Rose denied the allegations that he bet on baseball. However, Giamatti hired lawyer John M. Dowd to independently investigate the charges. Dowd's investigations unveiled bets Rose made on baseball, including on the Reds team he managed, in 1985-87. Throughout 1987, Dowd claimed that Rose had bet a minimum of $10,000 a day on baseball. Though the report stated plainly that Rose did not bet against the Reds, the findings were still damning.

Rose denied the charges vehematley, refusing to meet Giamatti about them. He filed a lawsuit against the commissioner claiming bias. Then Giamatti moved the trial to federal court, and the two sides sat down for an agreement.

It was the agreement that shocked baseball. On August 24, 1989, Rose agreed to permanent ineligibility from baseball, admitting that there was a "factual reason" for the ban without going as far as admitting that he bet on the game. In return, Giamatti agreed to make no formal finding in regards to the gambling accusations. Also, Rose was allowed to apply for reinstatement once annually.

The effects were immediate and were wide-ranging. In the short-term, Rose was not allowed any association with Major League Baseball, whether as a manager or a behind-the-scenes worker. Long-term, it has meant that baseball's all-time hits leader is ineligible for the Hall of Fame and cannot have his number retired by Cincinnati. Rose has applied for reinstatement four times since his banishment but has been denied.

The investigation and banishment of Rose had its effects on Giamatti, as well. A life-long smoker, Giamatti died of a heart attack nine days after handing down Rose's punishment, a death likely hastened by the stress of the Rose ordeal.

In the years following his banishment, Rose continually denied ever betting on baseball. In recent years, though, he has changed his stance, finally admitting in 2004 that he had bet on baseball and on Reds games. Rose also claimed that he bet on the Reds to win every single night, a point viewed as important, as many detractors claimed that Rose might have managed differently in games he bet on his team to win than in games in which he didn't. Dowd later refuted Rose's claims, saying Rose wouldn't bet on the Reds when certain pitchers were pitching and even suggesting that he might have bet against the Reds for some games.

Despite Rose's admission and subsequent apology, it still remains highly unlikely that he'll ever be reinstated or inducted into the Hall of Fame, something that would have seemed impossible to somebody watching him play in his glory days.

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