Gambling on the Game
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RAY SUAREZ: Even as the baseball Hall of Fame’s class of 2004 was announced today in Cooperstown, N.Y., the sport was dealing with yesterday’s curve ball from Pete Rose — baseball’s all-time hits leader — who admitted that he gambled on the game while manager of the Cincinnati Reds in 1987 and ’88.
That confession came 14 years after Rose was banned from baseball for evidence of gambling. He had always denied publicly that he bet on the sport.
PETE ROSE: What do you want on there?
RAY SUAREZ: Rose came clean in his upcoming autobiography and in an ABC News interview.
PETE ROSE: Well, I, I think what happens is you’re, at the time, you’re betting football and then, then what’s after football is basketball and then the NCAA tournament, in those days. And obviously the next thing that follows is baseball. It’s just a pattern that you got into. And uh, that’s what happened.
RAY SUAREZ: Rose applied for reinstatement in 1997 in hopes of being admitted to the baseball Hall of Fame. But former Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent said in a radio interview yesterday he thought Rose didn’t deserve to be reinstated.
FAY VINCENT: You know, the difficulty with Pete is, we had 14 years of lies from Pete, and so it’s pretty hard to know what to believe. I wish he’d say he’s sorry.
RAY SUAREZ: Rose is running out of time on his Hall of Fame bid. His initial eligibility for the hall expires in December 2005.
RAY SUAREZ: For more on Pete Rose, we turn to Roger Angell, a senior editor at the New Yorker who’s covered baseball for more than four decades; and Jim Bouton, a former pitcher for the New York Yankees and author of two books on baseball, “Foul Ball” and “Ball Four.” Roger Angell, has Pete Rose done what he needed to do to clear the way for reinstatement?
ROGER ANGELL: I think he’s just barely begun the process, Ray. I don’t see any signs of contrition in him. I haven’t seen the book yet but from what I’ve read of it, he said he’s sorry it happened, meaning he’s sorry he’s lied about this for 14 years.
We need to discuss whether this is a significant part of his admission to the Hall of Fame.
RAY SUAREZ: He has made the distinction, Roger, that he didn’t bet on his own team, that he didn’t use inside information, and he said for him that makes it not corrupt. What do you think?
ROGER ANGELL: Well, Ray, he has said that he did bet on his own team but only to win. He didn’t bet on it to lose which is maybe a good thing.
He claims he didn’t have inside information, but he was the manager when he bet on the team. If that’s not inside information, I don’t know what is.
To go into that for a moment, that aspect of it, the way you manage a game, if you have a bundle of money running on it might change the way your game plays for the rest of the week because of how you use your pitchers. Everybody knows this. Pete is pretending or coming on as if none of this matters.
RAY SUAREZ: Jim Bouton, has Pete Rose’s latest admissions at least begun the process for his reinstatement do you think?
JIM BOUTON: Yeah, I think so. Because it’s pretty clear that he didn’t try to fix a ballgame or give less than his best effort which is the problem with the crime of the 1919 Black Sox.
So I don’t think he’s in the category of a fixer at all. I think … I’m disappointed in him because I believed he was innocent until proven guilty and he’s obviously admitted that he was guilty so probably there ought to be some punishment for 14 years of lying.
But I think whether he’s allowed back in the dugout is another question, but I do think he should be allowed to be in the Hall of Fame.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, it’s interesting that you make that distinction. So far in a lot of the conversations about Pete Rose, those two issues are kind of joined at the hip, whether he’s allowed into baseball’s Hall of Fame or whether he’s allowed to work in major league baseball. Should those issues be related?
JIM BOUTON: I think they can separate them — I mean, make him eligible for the Hall of Fame and don’t allow him in the dugout. That could be done soon.
Whether or not he’s eventually allowed to manage or be in the front office or something can be determined somewhere down the road. But baseball’s made its point about gambling and being good for the game. But, you know, in terms of the integrity of the game, drugs, steroids have unfairly affected the outcome of many games that we know of for sure.
Players have taken these drugs and it has given them an advantage — not only an advantage against opponents but advantage against teammates for opportunities to play. So that’s a bigger problem for baseball than whether or not Pete Rose bet on baseball and wasn’t trying to fix a game.
RAY SUAREZ: Roger Angell, what do you think? Has baseball made its point? Gambling is bad and it’s time to let Pete Rose in?
ROGER ANGELL: Well, I agree that steroids and some contemporary problems of baseball are there and should be dealt with and that they’re very serious. I don’t think that the old warning against gambling which, it’s up on the wall of every clubhouse in big letters ever since the Black Sox’ scandal went up there.
I don’t think it’s a minor thing. I think baseball’s fixation on honesty of the game actually carries over to all the other major league sports. We all assume that all big-time sports, professional sports — football, hockey — are honest. I think that comes down to baseball’s own rule about honesty.
Pete Rose broke that rule and knew what the consequences were and it says up there if you bet as a player, that you’re suspended for one year. If you bet as a manager, you’re suspended for life. He accepted a finding that he had bet on baseball and hasn’t told us about the truth about this at any point since then.
Along the way he’s lied to his biographer, a distinguished baseball writer who asked him if he had bet on baseball and he said no, I did not. He put that into the book, to make him look like a fool. He lied to Jim Gray on national television in a famous interview during the World Series of 2000, shaming him and said why are you prosecuting me this way? He’s lied to all the fans including the fans who support him. I don’t think this is the beginning of rehabilitation by any means.
RAY SUAREZ: But are those two issues separable, whether he goes into the Hall of Fame as the all-time hits leader and whether or not he ever works in a uniform again?
ROGER ANGELL: I would love to see Pete get into the Hall of Fame at some time but I think the way the commission has been doing this which is over a long period of time should probably continue now.
I think the real reason Pete Rose is talking about this now and has the made confession is to sell his book which is going to make him a lot of money. That’s all right. I’m in favor of authors making money, but I think the commissioner should be very wary step by step.
I think it’s probably better if we let this go another two years at which point the veterans committee which is made up of people who are in the Hall of Fame can decide his fate about getting into the hall itself. He’s a great hitter. I love the way he played. He’s a great interview. I admire him extravagantly until all this began.
RAY SUAREZ: Jim Bouton, you heard Roger Angell talk about how as an act of contrition this doesn’t cut it for him. It doesn’t sound like Pete Rose is sorry enough. That was heard a lot from baseball people, Hall of Fame members, columnists today. What do you think?
JIM BOUTON: I really don’t think he’s deserving of anything. You know, the question is what’s better for baseball? I think it would be better off putting this behind him.
Let him get in the Hall of Fame or put him on the ballot and be done with it and move on so baseball can focus on other things.
To keep him in limbo status for another year or two, you’re talking about more books, more television interviews, more newspaper stories. I just don’t think it’s good for baseball. I think you need to get him in the Hall of Fame for the good of the game and get him off the front page.
RAY SUAREZ: Do you think this is going to end, Jim Bouton, with Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame one way or the other?
JIM BOUTON: Yeah I think so. I think once he’s in the Hall of Fame it will die down. Then he’s going to be arguing about whether or not he should be in the dugout. I don’t think is going to really care too much about that particular argument. I think fans are pretty united. Roger himself said it, that eventually he should be in the Hall of Fame. If that’s true, let him get in there and let this story be over.
RAY SUAREZ: Very quickly, Roger, putting your own feelings aside, the way you see things moving in baseball, do you think this story ends one way or the other with Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame?
ROGER ANGELL: I think he probably will get into the hall sometime, but I’m in no hurry to see it happen. I feel very bad for him and I feel bad for baseball.
RAY SUAREZ: Roger Angell, Jim Bouton, thank you both.