Former Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent's sanctimonious comments about the Pete Rose case demand a responsible rebuttal. I worked as a public relations adviser for Rose in the year following his banishment from baseball, and Vincent seems eager that the public forget the actual incidents that led to that dramatic decision.
No one ever denied that Rose was a gambler. The question was whether he bet on baseball. Investigator John Dowd was mandated by the late Commissioner Bart Giamatti to build a case against Rose - as opposed to conduct an impartial investigation. Dowd's report relied on the testimony of convicted drug dealers, one of whom tried to blackmail Rose. His only direct evidence was Rose's fingerprints on paper used as betting slips, paper Rose insisted was stolen from his home. He acknowledged his past association with his accusers but maintained they lied to Baseball to gain mitigation of pending criminal sentences.
If the evidence was so indisputable, why did the well-respected baseball historian Bill James acquit Rose of Dowd's charges in his 1990 Baseball Almanac? If the evidence was so solid, why did Baseball ban Rose for "conduct unbecoming the game" rather than ban him outright for gambling?
Vincent knows that the banning of Rose was an out-of-court settlement reached in a lawsuit Rose filed against Baseball concerning the Dowd investigation and Giamatti's role in it. In the month before Rose left baseball, Giamatti and others - including Vincent - gave depositions that revealed how shallow and spiteful Baseball's case was. The full story of this sad debacle is told in James Reston Jr.'s excellent and fair-minded book, Collision at Home Plate. While Rose's peccadilloes are examined, so is the deep-seated hatred Giamatti had for the flamboyant Rose.
As for Vincent's suggestion that Rose be sentenced to two years of speaking engagements on the evils of gambling, I hope Rose waits until the parade begins with baseball's drug and alcohol addicts. The treatment of addiction issues derives from the players' contract with Baseball, and it's time a fair and consistent policy was set for the handling of all team personnel with addiction problems. No more Darryl Strawberrys and Steve Howes, no more Pete Roses.
Sadly, I find Rose's current admission that he bet on baseball lacking. He has admitted that he still gambles legally, and he doesn't seem to understand that he has an addiction, one that has destroyed his life and career.
I doubt that current Commissioner Bud Selig will reinstate him. Baseball and Rose went through a brutal divorce in 1989. As long as Baseball can get Rose to show up for events like the Player of the Century stunt, they have what little they want from him.
Barbara Pinzka of Mount Lookout retired from public relations in 1999.
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