On the surface Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose seemed his usual unflappable self. He looked out at the horde of reporters and the TV crews that descended last week on Plant City (Fla.) Stadium, the Reds' spring-training park, and joked that the supercharged, World Series-type atmosphere they had created would be a good experience for his team. "All you media people stick around," he said. But on a down note, Rose confided to reporters, "I feel like a piece of fresh meat."
This is an article from the April 3, 1989 issue
And with good reason: Even as Rose worked to prepare his team for its April 3 opener in Cincinnati against the Los Angeles Dodgers, his personal and business affairs were under scrutiny by the media, federal authorities and baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth, who on March 20 announced that his office was conducting a "full inquiry into serious allegations" about Rose. As SI went to press on Monday evening, Ueberroth, who is to be succeeded by National League president Bart Giamatti this Saturday, had yet to complete his investigation.
Ueberroth's dramatic announcement seeded the media clouds, and the downpour that followed drenched Rose—and baseball—in a torrent of stories about Rose's associations with convicted felons, his alleged huge betting losses and his handling of his lucrative memorabilia sales and autograph signings. The New York Daily News reported that Ueberroth had publicly disclosed his investigation "only after being made aware of an upcoming Sports Illustrated story," and, indeed. SI subsequently reported in its March 27 issue that Ueberroth had received information that Rose may have bet on baseball games, behavior that, if substantiated, could result in Rose's suspension from the game and could jeopardize his election to the Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible in 1992.
The information came from Alan Statman, a lawyer for Ron Peters, a Franklin, Ohio, restaurateur whom Statman described as Rose's "principal bookmaker." Statman approached SI in hopes of selling Peters's story—the magazine declined the offer—and said he had told baseball investigators that he and Peters could supply information that Rose had bet on baseball. SI also reported that it had discussed purchasing a story about Rose with Paul Janszen, a bodybuilder friend of Rose's now serving a six-month sentence in a Cincinnati halfway house for evading taxes on income derived from the sale of steroids. Although SI didn't buy Janszen's story, a fellow weightlifter told the magazine that he had overheard Janszen using a phone at Gold's Gym in the Cincinnati suburb of Forest Park to place baseball bets, he understood, in Rose's behalf.
Rose used to work out at Gold's and even promoted the gym. He met Janszen there, but he denies ever having bet on baseball. Rose has acknowledged that he's an avid bettor at the racetrack, where gambling is legal, but he insists he has never placed illicit bets with bookies on any sport. He also denies suggestions that he may have evaded income taxes and suffered large gambling losses. But even as Rose proclaimed his innocence, the rains continued to fall:
• SI has received further information about hand signals allegedly exchanged between Rose and Janszen during Reds games at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. Earlier SI quoted a source with knowledge of Janszen's dealings with federal investigators as saying that while in the dugout. Rose had exchanged signals somehow related to baseball betting with Janszen, who was in the stands. Two other sources close to the investigation said last week that the signals between Janszen and Rose didn't involve placing new wagers on games but related to updates on the scores of games in progress at a time early in the 1987 season when the stadium scoreboard was not working. Rose denied exchanging signals and said, "You can check—the scoreboard has never not worked." However, Jon Braude, the Reds' director of information, said that for 18 games in '87, from April 17 through May 28, Riverfront's main scoreboard, which displays scores of out-of-town games, was out of order; Braude said that two auxiliary scoreboards provided scores intermittently.
• In an interview with SI. a former employee at Gold's linked Janszen and Peters. The employee said that Tommy Gioiosa, another bodybuilder pal of Rose's, who once managed Gold's, and Janszen, who met Rose through Gioiosa in 1986, both placed bets on Rose's behalf The two men, the source said, "did their betting through Ron Peters. And they did call Rose, and they did get bets from him. I know that. They would say. "Pete, what do you want to bet?' " The source said he didn't know whether such bets were on baseball, although he said. "There was a lot of betting on baseball" in the gym.
SI had reported that a weightlifter at Gold's said that he had heard Janszen using a phone at the gym to place baseball bets the source understood had come from Rose, and that Michael Fry, a former co-owner of Gold's now serving an eight-year prison sentence for cocaine trafficking and tax evasion, said he had heard Gioiosa place bets to bookies on college and pro football and college and pro basketball games. Fry said he understood those bets to be for Rose.
Gioiosa, who describes himself as a professional gambler, answered "no comment" last week when asked by the Boston Globe if he placed bets with bookmakers for Rose. But Gioiosa did tell the paper he often made bets for Rose at racetracks and that there were days when Rose bet as much as $10,000 on the horses.
• A source with access to Gold's telephone records told SI that during the first 11 months of 1986, 104 calls were made from the gym's office phone to Jonathan's, the restaurant in Franklin that is owned by Peters. Three calls were placed to Jonathan's from Gold's office phone in 1987.
• An affidavit in support of a search-warrant request in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati disclosed that last July, after his arrest. Janszen wore a hidden microphone at the behest of federal investigators while purchasing an ounce of cocaine from Peters. The affidavit indicated that Janszen was also wired when he met Peters at a Middletown, Ohio, restaurant. According to the affidavit, that meeting was set up so that Peters, who hasn't been charged with any offenses, could introduce Janszen to a cocaine supplier. Janszen's attorney, Merlyn Shiverdecker, issued a statement last week that said his client had promised "to cooperate fully and completely with federal authorities.... Mr. Janszen has and will continue to comply with his obligations."
• The Dayton Daily News reported that federal investigators were looking into "tax and gambling issues" involving Rose, including income he derived from the sale of personal memorabilia. The paper reported that Rose sold the bat and ball used when he got his record-breaking 4,192nd major league hit in 1985 to Steve Wolter, a Cincinnati collector and Rose's insurance agent, for about $175,000. Rose later told reporters that Wolter indeed has the bat. Another prominent memorabilia collector told the Dayton Daily News that he thought a second man, Oregon collector Dennis Walker, had what Walker believed to be the bat used for hit 4,192. Walker died under mysterious circumstances in July 1987—his body was found in a room at a Las Vegas motel in which he was staying under an assumed name. Walker had purchased various memorabilia from Rose, including the Hickok Belt, valued at $30,000, that signified Rose's selection by 300 sportswriters and broadcasters as the outstanding professional athlete of 1975.
• The New York Post, quoting an unidentified source, said Cincinnati police estimated that at present Rose owes bookies between $500,000 and $750,000. The Cincinnati Post quoted a former Reds official as saying that Rose had gambling debts of "close to half a million" when Rose left the Reds in 1978 as a free agent and signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. The official told the paper that the Cincinnati management had discussed Rose's gambling, and the paper quoted Dick Wagner, then the Reds' general manager, as having said, "Pete Rose's legs may get broken when his playing days are over." Wagner, now a special assistant to Ueberroth, refused to comment on that report. William Dantschisch, a retired private investigator from Tampa, told SI that in 1977 he was asked by the office of then commissioner Bowie Kuhn to assist in an investigation of Rose for what Dantschisch understood to be possible involvement in illicit gambling and associations with undesirables. Dantschisch said operational problems forced him to abandon the case, and he didn't know what the investigation ultimately produced. Henry Fitzgibbon, who was baseball's chief of security then and is now retired, told ST he didn't remember such an investigation and would need to consult his files, which he says he left in the commissioner's office in New York.
• Rose changed his story regarding winning Pik Six wagers—made on Jan. 25 at Turfway Park racetrack in Florence, Ky.—that earned a total of $265,669 before federal and state taxes were withheld. The net winnings were $201,909. On a number of occasions, including an interview with SI on March 19, Rose had said that he had nothing to do with the winning tickets and that the tickets belonged to a close friend of his, Arnold Metz, a former Reds maintenance man. However, Turfway Park owner Jerry Carroll acknowledged in a press release last week that he and Rose had shared with Metz in the Pik Six winnings. On Saturday, Rose appeared to confirm the same thing; he said, "Everything is kosher on that Pik Six." Metz told SI that he misled IRS agents about the owners of the tickets "probably for one day," but "then I told them the whole truth."
• A senior U.S. Customs official told SI that Rose has been investigated at least twice for suspected currency violations involving large amounts of unreported cash brought in from Japan. In November 1981, customs officials said. Rose returned from a trip to Japan, where he received an undetermined amount of cash from the Mizuno sporting goods company, for which he does endorsements. When he filled out his customs declaration form in San Francisco, officials said, he failed to declare $46,197.54 in cash. Five years later, on Dec. 17. 1986. Rose's lawyer and agent, Reuven Katz, paid customs a fine of $23.098.77—half the unreported amount. In January 1984, federal officials said, two undercover agents tailed Rose from San Francisco to Tokyo and back but did not uncover any currency violations. Yoshizawa Tsunao, a Mizuno official in Tokyo, told SI's Shelley Smith on Monday that Rose was paid in cash only once. "He personally requested that he be paid in cash." Yoshizawa said. Asked the date of the payment, Yoshizawa said, "November 1981," adding, "That was when he was caught, wasn't it?" Another Rose attorney, Robert Pitcairn, would not comment.
There have always been two sides to Rose, and last week's revelations focused attention on the less appealing one. As a player for 24 years, Rose was a relentless overachiever who played with unmatched abandon. But off the field his aggressiveness sometimes manifested itself as greed and coarseness. Over the years Rose let nothing faze him, not a 1979 paternity suit while he was playing for the Phillies, which was settled out of court, not a '79 interview with Playboy, in which he admitted using amphetamines, not even increasing concern over his often shadowy associations and indications that his passion for betting might be excessive.
But last week, Rose's popular Charlie Hustle image was taking a pounding. Rose wasn't helping himself by being caught in seeming contradictions and memory lapses. The Pik Six case and his recollection about the Riverfront scoreboard are cases in point. Rose also made several statements in interviews with SI—among other things. Rose said he had never bet through a bookie, had never spoken to Peters and hadn't socialized much with Janszen—that knowledgeable sources challenged.
What some associates found hardest to swallow was Rose's benign view of his gambling practices. Rose told ST that he goes to the racetrack for relaxation and that sometimes he never bets. Some Rose watchers dispute that. "I would classify [Rose's betting] as an obsession," says one former friend. "I think it's a sickness." He says Rose bets not so much for the money as for the thrill: "If it took rocks to gamble, he'd have his backyard full of rocks." Rose disputes any assertion that he might be a compulsive gambler. "Hell no." he told SI.
Sources told SI that in recent years Rose would visit one Cincinnati-area track or another—either River Downs in Cincinnati or Turfway Park (formerly known as Latonia)—occasionally during the baseball season and nearly every day in the off-season. During spring training in the past he was a regular at Florida dog and horse tracks, and if time allowed during regular-season road trips, he would go to whatever track was nearby.
A source who often watched Rose bet at Latonia recalls Rose's showing up at the track in sweats, flashing a roll of "newly crisp, wrapped bills.... I think they were hundreds." Rose had the run of the press room at Latonia, where he and his coterie of Gold's Gym cronies and other friends set up shop on race nights. At the remodeled Turfway Park, an area a few steps above the press box is known as the Rose Room. Metz told SI that Rose will wager "$200 across, $300 across, $200 to win, $200 to place." Says a source close to the Florida racing commission, "[Rose] was good for $10,000 a day. That was the amount he was betting at [Tampa Bay Downs] during spring training." Rose is also a high roller at casino gaming tables. Gioiosa told the Boston Globe that Rose once won a bundle playing baccarat in Las Vegas. The next day he bought a Porsche.
Whether winning or losing, Rose says he prefers to maintain a low profile at the track to avoid attention. "I'll tell you this," he says. "No one at the track has ever seen me go to the window." The IRS casts a wary eye on bettors who send others to collect their winnings; in many cases bettors do so to hide the income they are receiving, but Rose says, "If I do anything in this world, I overpay my income tax."
Contrary to what Rose says, the evidence indicates that he has bet heavily through bookies. Chuck Beyersdoerfer, a close friend who worked as a handyman for Rose from September 1985 to January 1987. says he watched Rose sit in front of three TV sets in his living room to view three football or basketball games at once. "He would talk about betting on the games, how much money he had on them." says Beyersdoerfer. Beyersdoerfer, Fry and other sources who didn't want their names used all told SI that Rose has bet on pro and college football and basketball.
Beyersdoerfer marveled at how Rose stayed on top of his multiple games and bets. "He'd be sitting there with the TV sets, keeping track in spiral notebooks of who was winning and who was losing." says Beyersdoerfer. "Pete would bet on anything, with anybody who was in the room. He would bet on the coin toss. He would bet on who would score the most points in the first half."
Rose's fervor for betting carried over to the baseball clubhouse. "Gambling just seemed like the normal thing for Pete to do," says former Reds pitcher Ted Power, recently released by the Detroit Tigers. "People expected him to say, I was at the track yesterday' or "Yeah, I picked the trifecta.' "
Rose solicited and received betting tips from at least one of his players, reliever Rob Murphy, who runs a computerized horse-breeding business on the side and also owns thoroughbreds. "I made him a lot of money last year," says Murphy.
Whether or not Rose is found to have bet on baseball, Ueberroth and Giamatti can't help but be concerned about Rose's questionable choice of company. Previous commissioners suspended Leo Durocher and Denny McLain from baseball, in part because of associations with gamblers, and Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle were barred from jobs in organized baseball by Kuhn after their playing days were over because they had ties to legal casino gambling. In these more litigious times, a commissioner might have trouble making a suspension for improper associations stick, and in fact, Ueberroth reinstated Mantle and Mays in 1985.
But Ueberroth has tried to keep undesirables out of baseball clubhouses. In the aftermath of a 1985 Pittsburgh trial in which testimony described widespread cocaine use among major league players, he issued a directive to all 26 teams to close their clubhouses to everyone except team personnel and accredited media. Yet Rose's pals and other outsiders continued to get into the Reds' clubhouse. "There were so many people in the clubhouse in '87 it was ridiculous," says former Cincinnati pitcher Frank Williams, who is now with the Tigers. Ueberroth called Rose in during the 1987 winter meetings and, according to Rose, told him to keep unauthorized people out of the Reds' clubhouse.
Pete would bet on anything, with anybody who was in the room. He would bet on the coin toss. He would bet on who would score the most points in the first half.Chuck Beyersdoerferx
The presence of Rose's cronies in the clubhouse concerned some Reds players. They thought the interlopers were gamblers; others thought the bodybuilders among them, particularly Gioiosa and Janszen, were Rose's private musclemen. Janszen even made some road trips with the Reds. "When I first saw them I thought they were Pete's bodyguards," says Power. "I was scared," says another former Red. "I didn't like the kind of people Pete had around him. You would think that a guy of his reputation and stature would be more careful who he's friends with. But Pete didn't care."
Rose remained friendly with Janszen right up to the time he ran afoul of the law, and various aspects of the ongoing federal investigation continue to come embarrassingly close to Rose. Last Friday, Donald Stenger, a former co-owner of Gold's, became the third associate of Rose's to be given a prison term on tax and/or cocaine charges. Stenger was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati to 10 years for income tax evasion and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
Rose now says he exercised poor judgment in his choice of associates. "Do you know what I'm guilty of?" Rose told SI. "I have one problem. This is it 100 percent. I have not been very good about picking my friends." Be that as it may, Janszen's dad, also named Paul, told SI last week, "We didn't want Paul to get mixed up with Pete Rose two years ago. We knew his character."
The younger Janszen won't discuss Rose's alleged baseball betting. He would tell SI only that he believes there is a campaign by Rose's supporters in Cincinnati to paint him as a villain because of his cooperation with law-enforcement authorities. Among those critical of Janszen is a source close to both him and Rose. "Last spring Paul told me Pete owed him a little more than $40,000, that it was for gambling." the source told SI. "I think it's blackmail when a guy says either pay me money or I'll ruin your career. That's extortion.... His motivation is to get back at Pete. He wants to cause him mental duress." Janszen would not respond to that allegation, but he did betray bitterness when he said, "I feel eventually the truth will surface. All I'll say is, the way I've been portrayed isn't correct."
Just how much interest federal investigators have in Rose's activities is unclear. Although Fry, Janszen, Stenger and Peters have all been implicated in the sale of illicit drugs, there's no indication that law-enforcement authorities have evidence linking Rose to such activities. The Dayton Daily News story suggests that Rose has attracted the attention of the IRS, a possibility also raised by Metz, who told SI on March 19, at which time he was still claiming that he alone won the Turfway Park Pik Six, "The IRS people have been here like crazy the last two days about this Pik Six thing." And the IRS would surely be interested in whether Rose has fully reported his income from the sale of baseball memorabilia.
Rose hasn't been bashful about merchandising himself. In 1985, when he broke Ty Cobb's record, he collected fees and/or royalties on T-shirts, beer mugs, pennants, posters, plates, plaques, figurines, key chains, lithographs, and gold, silver and bronze medallions commemorating his accomplishment. Though Rose's keen sense of baseball history and pride in his own achievements are legendary, he has sold off many of his prized mementos.
Fans can still get a free autograph from Rose at the ballpark, but he has been a mainstay on the burgeoning baseball card show circuit. Rose can make up to $20,000 an appearance at card shows, where his autograph fetches $8 to $12. According to a show promoter who keeps track of such things, Rose is able to sign his lucratively short name 600 times an hour.
Indeed, Rose apparently turns out autographs even faster than he can sign them. Fry said that he and Gioiosa have signed Rose's autographs on baseball cards, balls, posters and photos.
One prominent memorabilia dealer, Alan Rosen of Montvale, N.J., says the market is flooded with Rose keepsakes of dubious authenticity, including items connected with hit 4,192. "I know many guys who have the shirt that Mr. Rose says he broke the record in," Rosen says. "I know many guys who have the hat and the spikes.... I've heard of more than five bats [sold]."
Sports autographs and memorabilia are often sold for cash, and cash transactions tend to attract the attention of the IRS. Two weeks ago Ueberroth issued a warning to those associated with baseball to pay taxes on the money they earn at card shows, and he disclosed that he had hired a retired IRS executive to talk to players on that subject. When asked about Ueberroth's tax warning. Rose told USA Today that he accepts checks for card-show appearances but added, "Just because you have a briefcase full of cash doesn't mean you're out to cheat the government."
As evidenced by his currency difficulties with U.S. Customs, Rose, who reportedly is making more than $500,000 this year, seems to keep himself well-supplied with cash. Gioiosa recounts finding $3,000 behind the cushions of a couch one day in Rose's living room. Beyersdoerfer says Rose routinely left large sums of cash out in the open at home. "Pete always had a wad of money, a stack of hundreds you would not believe," says Beyersdoerfer.
The first inkling of Rose's current difficulties came when Ueberroth called him to New York City on Feb. 20. Rose told SI that he was accompanied to the meeting, which both Ueberroth and Giamatti attended, by Katz and Pit-cairn. Asked why he needed two lawyers, he said, "There were two commissioners."
Under baseball rules, if Rose bet on games not involving the Reds, he would be subject to a one-year suspension. If Cincinnati games were involved, the banishment would be for life. Last week Kevin Hallinan, baseball's director of security, and special counsel John M. Dowd, who is heading baseball's inquiry into Rose's activities, met with federal investigators and with Peters and Stat-man. Reds owner Marge Schott also met with Hallinan and Dowd.
There are those who believe that the two sides of Rose's personality aren't all that different. "He has always said that he did everything with average ability and hustle," says Power. "He beat the system and became the best hitter in baseball history. Maybe he figures if you can beat one system you can beat another." But Power adds, "It will catch up with you. In baseball it did. He got old."
Characteristically, Rose was reluctant to concede anything last week—even to age. As he told a group of reporters on Tuesday, "I'd feel sorry for a pitcher today if I had a bat."