One of the biggest events in Cincinnati sports history from 30 years ago didn’t happen on a field or a court or in a draft room.
It happened at a dramatic morning news conference in New York, where Commissioner Bart Giamatti announced he was banning Pete Rose from the game for betting on the Reds, followed by a somber news gathering at Riverfront Stadium, where a teary-eyed but defiant Rose continued to lie and deny he bet on baseball.
WATCH highlights from both news conferences and reaction from Sparky Anderson, Marty Brennaman and others in the video above, compiled from news reports on Aug. 24, 1989 by WCPO’s Brian Niesz.
“As you can imagine, this is a very sad day," said Rose, pausing to clear the lump in his throat. "You know, I've been in baseball for three decades and to think I'm going to be out of baseball for a very short time ... hurts.
But in his cocky style, baseball’s hit king collected himself and seemed to dismiss the depth of the trouble he was in.
The Reds' erstwhile manager scoffed at a reporter who asked if he would seek professional help for his gambling problem (“I don’t think I have a gambling problem at all, so consequently I won’t seek help of any kind.”), challenged a question about his chances of getting in the Hall of Fame (“I did my part to get in the Hall of Fame. It’s up to you people who are doing the voting. I got all the hits, scored all the runs, won all the games.”), and appeared to think this would only be a minor, temporary setback (“I’ve never looked forward to a birthday like I’m looking forward to my new daughter’s birthday because two days after that is when I can apply for reinstatement.”).
Rose was sure he could beat the rap, as sure as he was of going 4-for-4 against a rookie pitcher. Or getting the best of Bud Harrelson in a fight or umpire Dave Pallone in a shoving match.
“Do you really think you’re going to be reinstated, Sir?” someone asked.
“Absolutely,” Rose answered.
“Without a doubt?”
“Without a doubt.”
But Rose hadn’t figured on Giamatti’s zeal to enforce baseball’s sacrosanct rule against betting on your own team and his determination to protect the game from another gambling scandal like the 1919 Black Sox.
Giamatti and Rose had signed a carefully-drafted agreement that didn’t include a formal finding that Rose bet on the Reds. The agreement said Rose was being banned under Rule 21, which governs misconduct.
But when asked at his news conference, Giamatti said the Dowd Report, a voluminous record of baseball’s investigation into Rose’s betting, convinced him that Rose was guilty.
"I am confronted by the factual record of Mr. Dowd, and on the basis of that, yes, I have concluded that he bet on baseball," the commissioner said adamantly.
A few minutes later, Rose only offered another empty denial.
“Regardless of what the Commissioner said today, I did not bet on baseball. I did not bet on the Reds,” Rose said.
Many Reds fans were shocked to watch their Big Red Machine and hometown hero stripped of his glory. So were Rose’s friends and confidants.
”When I go to the ballpark tomorrow night, he’s not going to be there,” said Marty Brennaman. “That’s very, very difficult for me to accept.”
“I know him so well that I think now that this next couple months it’s going to set in and I think it’s going to be awfully hard for him,” said Sparky Anderson.
If Rose really expected to be reinstated after one year (baseball rules allowed him to apply after 12 months), he clearly didn't listen to everything Giamatti said in New York that morning.
At the very least, Rose was going to have to admit betting on baseball and the Reds. But Giamatti set the bar much higher in words that haunt Rose and his supporters to this day.
“It is up to Mr. Rose, it seems to me, to reconfigure his life,” Giamatti said.
It got worse for Rose when Giamatti died of a heart attack eight days later and was succeeded by his deputy commissioner and friend, Fay Vincent.
Giamatti had privately complained that Rose put him through a “private agony” that summer by refusing to attend a hearing with Giamatti and going to court to challenge the commissioner’s authority to discipline him.
Once in charge, Vincent avenged his friend’s death by convincing the Hall of Fame directors to ban anyone on baseball’s permanently ineligible list from appearing on the Hall of Fame ballot. The 1991 addition to the election rules, formally known as Rule 3(E), is more commonly known as the “Pete Rose Rule.”
Over the next three decades, Rose’s failure to reconfigure his life, as Giamatti directed, doomed him to be an outcast forever.
For starters, Rose continued to deny betting on baseball for another 15 years, until he finally owned up to it in his 2004 book, “My Prison Without Bars.”
To make matters worse, Rose continued to bet – albeit legally – on baseball and other sports. Rose even moved to Las Vegas and set up his autograph table in casinos and hotels on the strip.
Vincent’s successor, Bud Selig, also a friend of Giamatti, refused to rule on Rose before he retired in January 2015, passing the decision to the next commissioner, Rob Manfred.
Manfred said he studied Rose’s case for months and gave Rose a face-to-face hearing in September, 2015. But three months later, Manfred rejected Rose’s formal application for reinstatement.
In his published decision, Manfred said Rose failed to meet the minimum requirement – namely, “a reconfigured life” as Giamatti directed. To him, Manfred said, that meant "taking full responsibility" for Rose’s "wrongful conduct," rejecting betting and all of its associations and “seriously” seeking treatment for medical conditions Rose claimed had contributed to his gambling.
Manfred also said Rose lied to him during their meeting when Rose said he only bet on baseball in 1987 and that he bet on every Reds game. Manfred said those points were contradicted by the Dowd Report and betting notebooks unsealed in 2015 in a federal case involving a Rose bet runner, Michael Bertollini.
To this day, Rose has not been reinstated and has never appeared on a Hall of Fame ballot.
Aside from declaring that he couldn’t trust Rose to work in baseball again, Manfred did Rose a favor by saying he wouldn’t object if the Hall of Fame put Rose up for vote.
A year later, Rose’s attorney appealed directly to the Hall of Fame board, but President Jeff Idelson said the board held a conference call and voted to uphold Rule 3(E).
“We feel it would be incongruous to be putting someone on a ballot that is otherwise banned from the game,” Idelson was quoted by the Los Angeles Times.
At 78, Rose says he’s resigned to not making the Hall of Fame in his lifetime.
“I don’t think I will while I’m alive,” he told FOX Business in June.
Rose said the recent honors he’s received from the Reds, who retired his number, enshrined him in the club’s Hall of Fame and immortalized him in a magnificent head-first-sliding statue at the entrance to Great American Ball Park, more than make up for not having his bust in Cooperstown.
Thirty years later, Rose and the Hall of Fame is still a popular topic on sports talk most anywhere. Last week, retired Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan weighed in in support of Rose.
As for Rose, he said he doesn’t care anymore.
“I’m over it,” he told FOX Business.
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