CINCINNATI - Alan Statman, the attorney for Pete Rose's bookie 25 years ago, says he has never met the Hit King – not even in Las Vegas, where Statman travels once a year with his buddies and Rose sits and autographs memorabilia for hours on end.
"Pete's not going to greet me with open arms," Statman said last week. "I'd rather walk right past him and not let him know I'm the guy who kept him out of the Hall of Fame."
Jill Lieber Steeg, the former Sports Illustrated reporter who wrote the cover story 25 years ago Thursday that tied Rose to gambling on baseball and broke the Rose investigation wide open, said she had never met Rose until she went to spring training that year to interview him.
"He was one of the most interesting interviews I ever had. Pete was Pete. He didn't have a filter. He used a lot of profanity. He called me 'honey' and he was dismissive," Lieber Steeg said.
"I didn't have any sentimentality or empathy toward Pete Rose. It's not like I was doing research on someone I idolized."
Lieber Steeg had a partner in the SI investigation, Martin Dardis. If you don't know him, think Watergate and the movie, "All the President's Men."
Dardis' investigative skills connected the Watergate burglars to President Nixon’s Committee to Reelect the President. He was the character in the movie played by Ned Beatty, who handed over Kenneth Dahlberg's check to Carl Bernstein, played by Dustin Hoffman.
"Marty's experience as an investigator was invaluable in the Rose story, " Lieber Steeg said.
It's easy to compare Watergate and the Rose betting scandal that got him banned from baseball – and the Hall of Fame – in 1989.
Both began with a crime and a cast of buffoons, proceeded with a mountain of lies and a coverup or two or three, and brought a national figure down in flames.
Twenty-five years later, Lieber Steeg and Statman – two key figures in the Rose investigation - say they believe baseball would have given Rose a minor penalty, like a suspension, if Rose had just would have owned up to his gambling and not gone into denial.
In fact, Lieber Steeg said she thinks baseball was trying to "shove it (the Rose scandal) under a rug until they heard Sports Illustrated was investigating."
"Baseball wasn't going to do anything," Lieber Steeg said. "Peter Ueberroth (the commissioner) was going out of office. The commissioner before (Bowie Kuhn) had been made aware of Rose's gambling, and they chose not to do anything.
"Ueberroth knew of the Pick-Six. They should have had the info to go forward. I'm not sure they ever devoted anybody to researching it until SI did. If you look at the Dowd Report, they traced where we went."
"I still think baseball would have been much easier on Pete Rose if he had dealt the Ueberroth in the first 30 days," Statman said. "But he was too arrogant and caught up in himself to make an admission. On Ueberroth's watch, Pete would have had a softer landing.
"Pete denied it, but the preponderance of evidence contradicted him. He made bad choices and he hung out with bad people."
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