Why did Pete Rose bet on baseball and then lie about it for nearly 15 years? The notorious baseball legend is answering questions from ABCNEWS viewers.
For details on Rose's confession to betting check out:
• Rose's interview with Charlie Gibson on Primetime.
• Read an excerpt from his book.
Question: "Way to go Pete, the truth has set you free. Doesn't it feel good?"
Answer: Well, I'm just glad that everybody doesn't have to go through what I put myself through the past 14 years. And to take that strain and lift if off my shoulders is a great thing. Now I have a job to do, to try and win back the respect of any fans I may have lost through this whole ordeal.
Question: "Why did you deny allegations that you did bet on baseball before and decide now to tell the truth?"
Answer: That was my first and biggest mistake not fessing up in 1990. There's several reasons, I think one reason is you're scared for your family, when our looking at a gentleman [baseball commissioner] to be honest with you, that could give you life or you say 'no' and I just happened to say 'no, no prove it.' ['life' for Rose means a lifetime ban from baseball]
And then the whole investigation went down and here we are in 2004, it just seems that time flew by — but you're absolutely right that I shouldn't have denied it in 1989 but because of the lying situation you kind of stick to you guns. And even that, you realize that you're wrong. I never had a passion to tell the person I needed to tell that I was wrong, that being the commissioner of baseball.
In 1990 that was a rocky road, Giamatti dying after suspending me … then Fay Vincent being fired … then Bud [Selig] filling in. … when Bud became the full commissioner, two months after that was when I sent him a letter. But up until that time we never got a response when we tried to call him, so I was put in limbo for 8 or 9 years."
Question: "If you had a chance to re-answer for the first time as to whether you bet on baseball, what would you say?"
Answer: Oh yeah, going through what I went through, knowing what I know today, realizing this situation you would have to take your chances and just plead for mercy on the spot.
I think the thing that happened to me, looking back, I'm not so sure that this whole situation would have been different if Bart Giamatti had lived, down deep. I got along with Bart pretty good before this happened, and I think when he put that clause in there that I could apply for reinstatement in a year, had I been remorseful in that time, if he had lived I think he may have given me a chance.
Once Fay Vincent took over he made it clear to me, or to the press, that he didn't want to have anything to do with me, put it on the back burner — which is fine, which is his prerogative as commissioner of baseball.… But we'll never know, that's just me speaking because of my relationship with Bart Giamatti.
No one ever asked what was my relationship with Bart Giamatti. We used to talk about baseball a lot as a player and a commissioner, just talk about the game, what could we do to help the game, where's the game going, he was pretty good.
Question: "Have you ever received professional help with your gambling problem?"
Answer: This is not a denying statement, but I went through 3 or 4 Gamblers Anonymous meetings and I'd sit there and listen to other people talk about their problems and I tried, and I tried to put myself in their position, but their stories didn't sound like — I wasn't stealing money to make bets, doing this or doing that … and I appreciated them, but the other stories I heard from the addicts, were illegal and desperate … I was illegal betting with a bet maker but I was never desperate — take my house payment money or car payment — I took money that I had for entertainment and the entertainment that I had was gambling. At the time we're talking about [I] was a pretty high-salary individual to begin with.
I'm not trying to insinuate that because I had money that it excused me from what I did, I still was wrong doing it. What I was trying to clarify, I wasn't in my eyes in the same category as the other people at the gambling anonymous meetings. …
And I appreciate their honesty because I was there as someone that was trying to find myself, although I didn't agree with what I was hearing, I think it helped me. I had to leave in back doors so no one saw me coming in, so it was a rough period of time. I think it was during the investigation, it might have been after I was suspended, I don't have total recall on that situation.
Question: Since you admitted to betting on baseball and hope for reinstatement, and eventually a spot in the Hall of Fame, do you feel that others such as the 1919 Chicago White Sox players who supposedly bet on baseball should be reinstated and be eligible for the Hall of Fame?
Answer: Well, you know not being 100 percent up to speed on what happened in 1919 I really don't know, I don't know what they were accused of. I know what I did, I know what I admitted to and I can only speculate on what I read. And if I'm not mistaken, now don't hold me to this, if I'm not mistaken the 1919 Black Sox scandal was a scandal because of guys taking money to lose teams, I don't think that has any similarity to what I did. I bet on the game of baseball and I bet on my team, even the mistakes I made, I have to take a different look at someone betting against their own team … that's' throwing the game.
It's hard to tolerate what I did, but ” that you can't tolerate. But baseball's pretty good if you could have a gambling scandal in 1919 and not again until mine that's pretty good.
Because of what happened to me … because I don't think that being suspended from 1989 to today, going on 15 years, if you get 15 years for something it's more than a slap on the wrist. And you take the type of money that the players are making today, the average player makes $5 million a year, and suspend him for 15 years, that's $75 million he's going to lose. So they should be thinking before they even consider gambling and that's just from looking at my case. So maybe we can take this negative and hopefully make it a positive for the future of baseball.
Question: Did you ever gamble as a player?
Answer: Not to my knowledge, see that was a question that kind of astounded people yesterday, that I don't really understand is this.
I can't remember, I wish I could remember the first time I bet on baseball. Maybe I don't want to remember, people find that hard to believe. We're talking about something that happened in 1987 … and the reasoning is that I'm so good with numbers. If you ask any player who they got their first hit off they can tell you … not number two.
For something to think that I can remember when I first bet on baseball I can't — and I'm not trying to duck the question I just can't. And it's kind of immaterial what I did to be honest, the fact is that I did, and I did that on baseball … not when, or how often. I don't think any of those things are important.
Question: Do you think that you were alone in your gambling problem? As personal as it was for you, do you think that other player/managers in sports frequently make wagers on games?
Answer: I'm not a naive person, but I'm not going to sit here and tell you other people gamble. I really don't know, if you're going to go on statistics, you have to remember, fans have to remember, and it doesn't make it right, athletes are humans too. Athletes make mistakes too. Not knowing one way or another I can't answer that question but speculation you'd have to think there's a chance they gamble because they make so much money. Just like you have to think they take steroids, the only ones I know who take steroids are Jose Conseco and Ken Caminiti, but until anyone steps forward I can't say they do.
Personally I don't think baseball has any kind of a gambling problem. And I'm pretty close to the situation — my son being a baseball player, I don't think there's any kind of gambling problem in the world of baseball, just from knowing people I don't think there's a problem in football or basketball. Now that doesn't mean that everyone is a goody goody, but I think players understand that they have too much to lose.
Question: It seems baseball is more sensitive to your gambling problem than Steve Howe or Darryl Strawberry's drug problems?
Answer: I think to be honest with you, I kind of chose the wrong vice because of 1919, to my knowledge, baseball does not have a rehab program for gamblers. They have a rehab program for drugs, alcohol, spousal problems. I guess that's the situation that we're talking about, they don't think there's any kind of problem, I'm not going to disagree with them, but you do get a lot of chances in the three I mentioned.
Question: Why do you think you should be let back into baseball after you bet on baseball? MLB has to have some rules that they stick by.
Answer: Well, he makes a good point, but I think if he understands that I understand how big a mistake I made, if he understands how sorry I am that I made that mistake, most people are willing to give someone a second chance.
This is America, and unless he's one of those gentlemen … and doesn't believe in giving someone a second chance, I mean that's why I wrote my book to try and let people hear me about the situation because I'm the only one who really knew what went on — you can hear it from me. And I would be very surprised if he read the book that he would conclude that statement.
You know he has to understand that there's a possibility that I'm human and I can make mistakes like everybody else, I wonder how he'd feel if I was his brother, or if I was his uncle, or his dad. Or I wonder if he's ever had a member of his family that had any kind of addiction or any kind of problem that would be interesting. That's why you should always think before you conclude something.
Question: When you get reinstated (I say when because I believe you deserve it) and get voted into the Hall of Fame, will you go in as a Cincinnati Red or as a Phillie?
Answer: That's a real good question and it's very easy to answer. First of all I have to tell this gentleman that my five years in Philadelphia were wonderful. I had great teammates there … we went to the World Series in '81 and '83, But this gentleman has to understand, and I think he will, that the Cincinnati Reds play in a ballpark named Pete Rose way. I was born in Cincinnati, I played 18 years and six weeks with Cincinnati.
So it's a shame the way it happens today that this guy has to go in as a Red Socks, not as a Phillie … I mean, you go to the Hall of Fame as a player and a player shouldn't have to worry about what hat he has on, but if they're going to make me elect it will be a Cincinnati hat.