Dowd Report: All the Hit King's Men and the fall of Pete Rose

Posted at 10:54 AM, Jun 26, 2014
and last updated 2018-08-24 11:41:25-04

> The Dowd Report led to Pete Rose's ban from baseball on Aug. 24,1989. Watch the video above to view the events of the day Rose was banned. 

CINCINNATI – WLW talk-show host Bill Cunningham was like most Cincinnatians in the summer of 1989. He had followed reports that the baseball commissioner's office was investigating accusations that Pete Rose had bet on games -- even Reds games.

Cunningham said he knew Rose bet heavily on football and basketball because he had seen it himself.

"I had been to Pete's house during football season. He had three or four TV sets going and he had bets on three or four games. But I didn't believe he bet on baseball," Cunningham said in 2014.

John Dowd at Hamilton County Courthouse on June 23, 1989.

"I asked Pete if he bet on baseball and he said, 'Of course not.' He told Joe Nuxhall he didn't bet on baseball. He told Marty Brennaman he didn't bet on baseball."

Like Cunningham, many Rose supporters dismissed his main public accusers -  Ron Peters, Rose's self-confessed  bookmaker and a convicted drug dealer just sentenced to two years in prison, and Paul Janszen, who called many of Rose's bets to Peters and was serving time in a halfway house for selling steroids.

But Cunningham and the rest hadn't seen the Dowd Report yet.

RELATED: The entire Dowd Report is online

"Up to that point, most of us who knew Pete or were connected to Pete wanted to believe he didn't bet on baseball," Cunningham remembered.

"Then it all came apart."

Pete Rose speaks at Riverfront Stadium after the Dowd Report was released on June 26, 1989.

In January, baseball had hired a noted lawyer and former FBI investigator, John Dowd, to probe Rose's gambling.  Dowd's 285-page report, released in Cincinnati on Monday, June 26,  included:

> Testimony from nine Rose associates that Rose bet on baseball and the Reds;

➢ Some 2,500 pages of documents and exhibits including Peters' betting records from 1987,  three purported betting slips that Janszen said he stole from Rose's house (and handwriting analysis that baseball said proved that Rose had written them); checks Rose allegedly used to pay gambling debts, and telephone records that showed many short calls minutes apart between Rose and Janszen and Janszen and Peters. The report said that indicated gambling activity.

Cunningham said the stunning developments of eight days in late June here, culminating in the release of the Dowd Report, made him change his mind about Rose's innocence.

Ron Peters, self-confessed Pete Rose bookie, in 1989.

The baseball world focused on Cincinnati on Monday, June 19, when Rose's attorneys filed suit to stop a scheduled hearing with commissioner Bart Giamatti set for the following Monday. They also asked for a judge - not Giamatti - to hold his hearing and decide if he bet on baseball.

Rose's attorneys said the commissioner's office had asked Rose to step aside as Reds manager while the investigation continued, and there was speculation that Reds owner Marge Schott wanted to fire Rose and replace him with former Pirates and Braves manager Chuck Tanner.

Over the next few days, bookie Peters made more startling accusations in TV and newspaper interviews.

Peters called Rose "a sick gambler" and said Rose would bet up to $20,000 a day on baseball games between 1984 and 1987. Peters said Rose probably bet more than $1 million with him during that period, then told another interviewer that, no, it had to be more than that, claiming Rose bet $800,000 on baseball in just a few months of 1987.

A betting slip in Pete Rose's handwriting, according to the Dowd Report.

Baseball dropped its first big bombshell – and the national media swarmed into Cincinnati  – during two days of court hearings on Rose's suit on Thursday and Friday, June 22-23.

On the first day, Dowd and baseball lawyers claimed - for the first time publicly - that they had gathered "substantial and heavily corroborated evidence" that Rose had bet hundreds of thousands on baseball and the Reds.

The distinction was crucial. According to baseball's Rule 21, Rose would be automatically suspended for one year if he bet on baseball, but he would be banned for life if he bet on his own team – to win or to lose.

Cunningham, who sat in the first row of Judge Norbert Nadel's courtroom during  two days of hearings, said the drama and the media coverage was like "the O.J. trial, JonBenet Ramsey and Casey Anthony rolled into one.

"It was an absolute media circus," Cunningham said, with rows of TV cameras crowding the back of the room and reporters pushing and shoving to get reaction from Dowd in the hallway afterward.

Judge Norbert Nadel issues his ruling in the Pete Rose case on June 25, 1989.

"The whole country was watching. CNN went live. It wasn't just Cincinnati's hit king, it was America's hit king essentially on trial for breaking the oldest rule in baseball."

Some observers thought Rose might attend the hearing on Friday, but he went to Atlantic City to sign autographs at a card show, returning in time to manage the Reds against the Dodgers at Riverfront Stadium Friday night.

By the time Nadel set to make his ruling -  high noon on Sunday – CNN and ESPN cameras were rolling along with Cincinnati's three network stations.

Nadel dropped his own bombshell – he ruled that Giamatti had prejudged Rose and granted a temporary restraining order that halted the commissioner's hearing and prevented baseball from disciplining or firing Rose until the next hearing, scheduled for July 6.

Media crowds into Judge Norbert Nadel's courtroom for Pete Rose hearing in 1989.

When they heard the ruling on their transistor radios, Reds fans waiting to get into Riverfront Stadium for Sunday's game broke into cheers.

It was only the second time a court had challenged the baseball commissioner's almost autocratic rule over the game – and Nadel got roasted for it by baseball and the media.

"I got criticized by every editorial board, every sports columnist and every talk-show host in the country," Nadel told WCPO in 2014. "George Will wrote a column. Howard Cosell and Jerry Springer criticized me.

"That's when I knew I made the right decision."

Nadel had held the Dowd Report in abeyance, saying it would be prejudicial to release it while he considered Rose's suit.

Under orders from the Ohio Supreme Court, Nadel released it the next day.

That set off another media frenzy when reporters from around the country lined up at the courthouse at 5 p.m. to pay $50 for a copy. The charge was for printing costs.  

The report was so big it took media outlets several days to digest it and report the contents in detail.

Rose, who had been denying he knew Peters and claiming he hadn't bet on baseball since he was first called to the commissioner's office in February,  dismissed the report in toto.

"There's 225 pages and there's two paragraphs positive about me," Rose said after the report was released. "It's such a biased report it's unbelievable."

Rose said Janszen and Peters were trying to smear him.

"I'm guilty of one thing in this mess, and that's I was a (bad) selector of friends," Rose said.

In Rose's 358-page deposition to Dowd over a two-day period, he admitted making bets in football and basketball between 1984 and 1988 with a former friend and housemate, Tommy Gioiosa, but Rose said he never bet on baseball and didn't know who Gioiosa placed the bets with.

"Nobody bets major league baseball for me," Rose said.

Without calling Rose a liar, Dowd's report said Rose's testimony was contradicted 24 times by nine witnesses and documents gathered in the investigation.

Rose dismissed telephone records showing calls to Janszen and Peters from his home, car, hotel and Riverfront Stadium.

"I did not make those calls," he told Dowd.

Rose's attorneys accused Janszen of creating fake betting slips, claiming Janszen copied Rose's handwriting style from memorabilia and other samples he would have had access to as Rose's friend. 

They said checks made out to Janszen and other Rose associates were personal loans or payments that had nothing to do with gambling.

Peters, who owned Jonathan's Café in Franklin, Ohio,  said Rose never bet on the Reds to lose and Dowd said he had never found evidence that Rose did anything to throw a game.

Peters said that Rose:

> Regularly bet $2,000 on Reds games;

> Started betting baseball in 1984 because he had been a big loser betting football and basketball;

> Called Peters himself to place bets a half dozen times. Peters said he taped one of those conversations, but Peters couldn't produce the tape.

> Sometimes used Gioiosa, and Janszen's girlfriend, Danita Marcum, to call in bets to Peters.

Janszen told Dowd that Rose:

> Also bet with bookies in New York and Florida between 1985 and 1987;

> Once owed a NY bookie $400,000 in gambling debts;

> Refused to pay some gambling debts and frequently borrowed money to pay others.

The FBI taped a call between Janszen and Mike Bertolini, a friend of Rose in New York, in which Bertolini said he had paid down the huge debt to between $200,000 and $250,000.

Janszen, who had run of the Reds clubhouse along with other Rose friends, said he sometimes used the manager's office phone to call Rose's bets to Peters.

Rose's attorneys charged that Peters made his accusations against Rose in a deal with baseball and the feds to get a lighter sentence.

Rose said a bitter Janszen was trying to blackmail him after Rose ended their relationship because Janszen was involved in drugs.

"He (Janszen) said he was going to tell the commissioner I was going to bet on baseball. He was going to kill my wife. He was going to cripple my kids," Rose told Dowd.

Rose said he never paid the blackmail.

Sources told the Cincinnati Post that baseball started investigating Rose after being approached by Janszen.

Included in the report is a letter Janszen sent to Rose's attorney, Reuven Katz, in January threatening to reveal Rose's gambling activities unless Rose paid him $40,000. Janszen said Rose owed him from a loan he hadn't repaid.

Another Rose attorney, Robert Pitcairn, responded to Janszen's attorney, Merlyn Shiverdecker, by saying, "Pete will not pay any money to Paul to avoid negative publicity. I hope this is not what Paul has in mind."

Janszen  also made disturbing allegations in his deposition that Rose had talked of :

> Throwing games "if he had enough money riding on it;"

> Getting involved in a cocaine trafficking operation run by two other Rose associates, Donald Stenger and Michael Fry, to pay off mounting gambling debts. Stenger and Fry eventually went to prison on 10- and eight-year sentences, respectively, on drug trafficking charges.

> Threatening to hurt Peters' young son over a gambling debt.

Baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti speaks about the Rose case.

Katz rejected those allegations and said he did not understand why Dowd attached them to the report.

"There's absolutely nothing to those (allegations)," Katz said. "I don't think Dowd thought much of them either because he didn't use them in his report. Why he attached them to the report, I don't know."

The report said Rose bet with two other bookies besides Peters – Steve Chevashore of Tampa, Fla., and someone nicknamed "Val" of Staten Island, N.Y.

Peters said he started taking bets from Rose after Gioiosa approached a bookie at Gold's Gym in Forest Park, where Gioiosa, Janszen and Rose worked out, and asked the bookie if he knew someone who could take Rose's bets.

That bookie referred Gioiosa to Peters, Peters said.

Peters said Gioiosa called in Rose's bets for two years until Rose found out Gioiosa was stiffing him and keeping some of his money.

Peters said he stopped taking bets from Rose after the  1986 baseball season because Rose owed him $34,000. He said he agreed to take Rose's bets again in 1987 after Janszen showed him a copy of a check written to Gioiosa that Gioiosa was supposed to use to pay Peters.

Rose was successful betting on baseball, Peters said. He liked to bet on the Yankees and White Sox to win.

The report said Rose would call major league managers – including former Reds skipper Sparky Anderson – and ask about their pitchers and injuries. There was no indication that other managers suspected what Rose was up to.

On the legal front, Cunningham the attorney said Rose's attorneys couldn't put a dent in the Dowd Report. 

"John Dowd was a master. John Dowd investigated the Mafia. I read the Dowd Report three times. It read like a prosecutor's brief," Cunningham said. 

"I kept waiting for Katz and Stachler to say, 'That fact's wrong. That fact's wrong.' But it was all right.

"Everybody in Cincinnati wanted evidence that Rose didn't bet on baseball, but there wasn't any. They (Rose's lawyers) kept talking about process – whether the case belonged in state court or federal court - and not substance."

Rose's attorneys were desperate to keep him in the Reds' manager's job, so they tried their best to win in the court of public opinion. Rose's lawyers attacked the credibility of Peters and Janszen and maintained, like Nadel did, that Giamatti had prejudged  Rose by writing a letter to a federal judge in support of sentencing consideration for Peters.

The latter might have been Dowd's and Giamatti's only mistake in the Rose affair.

Two days before Rose was scheduled to give his deposition, Dowd wrote a letter to U.S. District Chief Judge Carl Rubin, who was about to sentence Peters, and had Giamatti sign it.

The letter said, in part, "I am satisfied Mr. Peters has been candid, forthright and trustful with my special counsel."

Nadel cited the letter as playing "a big part" in his decision and even held it up for cameras when he announced the TRO.

"Giamatti, under baseball's Contract with the Commissioner, was the judge in the case," Nadel said. "The judge shouldn't be writing letters when he's going to be meeting with Pete Rose."

He said his decision was about "fairness, impartiality and equity," not about whether Rose had bet on baseball and not about playing to local voters, as some columnists suggested.

Cunningham, for one, agreed.

"The judge (Nadel) got it right," he said. "The prosecutor should not be the judge. The judge got it right."

Later, Dowd said he wished he had signed the letter. Giamatti denied any bias but regretted that he had signed it.

As for Peters' sentence, his attorney, Alan Statman, noted that Rubin recused himself after getting the letter and said Peters didn't get any better deal than "any man on the street would get."

"Under sentencing guidelines, you get a certain point reduction for your cooperation and the quality of your cooperation. He (Peters) got what he was entitled to," Statman said.

Nadel became a bit of a celebrity, for better or worse, after being criticized as a "homer" judge – even in the Queen City -- for granting Rose's request for a TRO.

Before he retired as a judge  in 2015, Nadel kept a gallery of framed photos from 40 years on the bench on his office  – including photos of him in Sports Illustrated and USA Today. He said he got letters from far and wide – split about evenly pro and con.

Nadel said he was amused that a letter addressed only to "Pete Rose Judge, Cincinnati, Ohio," was delivered to his courtroom.

His name became familiar nationwide.

"My nephew was in summer school in California," he said. "When the teacher called the roll and he answered, the teacher said, 'Are you related to that judge in Cincinnati?' "

Today, Judge Norbert Nadel displays memorabilia from the Rose case among memories of 32 years on the bench.

When baseball succeeded in moving Rose's suit from Nadel's court to federal court in Columbus before Nadel's scheduled July 6 hearing, it took away whatever home-court advantage Rose might have had.

Rose continued to defy Giamatti by refusing to attend a hearing.

He continued to look straight into every eye and camera and insist he didn't bet on baseball.

Rose's attorneys twice made legal bids to move his case back to Cincinnati. When those failed, by mid-August, they threw in the towel.

The Dowd Report marked the beginning of the end.