Pete Rose's fall from grace became even more dramatic last week, when the former baseball hero pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati to two felony counts of filing false income tax returns. Rose, who faces a maximum penalty of six years in jail and $500,000 in fines, was fingerprinted and given a criminal ID number, and had his mug shot taken. "He is so, so scared about going to prison," a friend of Rose's told SI's Jill Lieber. "And Pete Rose never gets scared of anything."
Rose, who will be sentenced by Judge Arthur Spiegel sometime this summer, has reason to be fearful. Under federal sentencing guidelines established in 1987, Rose appears to be in line for a mandatory sentence of between eight and 14 months, at least half of which must be served in jail. Spiegel has a reputation for being hard on white-collar criminals.
Rose, who was permanently banned from baseball last August for his gambling activities and unsavory associations, admitted that between 1984 and 1987 he failed to report $354,968 in income from autograph sessions, memorabilia sales and gambling. In a written statement, Rose explained that he had sold prized memorabilia and appeared at lucrative autograph sessions to raise gambling money; he said he didn't tell his advisers about the income because "I didn't want anybody I cared about to know how much I was gambling."
April 29, 1990
To avoid tipping off the IRS to his memorabilia and autograph-show income, Rose took payments in cash or in checks written to fictitious payees or in small amounts. Among the unreported income was $129,000 from collector Steve Wolter for the bat Rose used to break Ty Cobb's career-hit record in 1985. Investigators found that Rose, who claimed last year that he had never even made exotic racetrack bets, had in fact earned $136,945 as his share of 10 winning Pik Six wagers between 1984 and '87—a mind-boggling number of winning tickets, considering the odds against winning a Pik Six. Despite these earnings and the huge sums he now admits having wagered through illegal bookies during that span, Rose reported no gambling income or losses on any of his returns from '84 through '87.
Why did Rose plead guilty instead of going to trial? Because the government had him nailed, and he didn't want to incur additional public humiliation and legal fees. Early last week Rose paid a total of $366,043 in back taxes, interest and penalties, but he still faces the possible half million dollars in fines.
Rose is said by friends to be showing the strain. He seemed unusually subdued during his appearance before Spiegel; when the judge asked if he was under the influence of any drugs or medication, Rose said he was taking Zantac for a "stomach disorder." Zantac is commonly used to treat ulcers.
After his court appearance, Rose flew to Tampa under an assumed name to avoid further publicity. When asked what he thought about the prospect of Rose going to jail, his former bookie Ron Peters, now serving 24 months in a federal prison camp in Terre Haute, Ind., for drug trafficking and tax evasion, replied, "We're having varsity soft-ball tryouts right now, and we can always use another good player. I'll reserve jersey number 14 for Pete."
SORRY, NO RELATION
Beset by scandals in its football and basketball programs, the University of Florida has been trying to shed its win-at-all-costs image. Ironically, its new president, a specialist in Latin American history, is named John Vincent Lombardi.
SI's Richard Hoffer on the collapse last week of the proposed deal to move the Los Angeles Raiders back to Oakland:
The (Put the Name of Your Favorite City Here) Raiders have explored more territory than Lewis and Clark and shown about the same inclination to settle. Los Angeles, Sacramento and Irwindale, Calif., all have been investigated and found wanting. Now Oakland, which seemed to have landed the Raiders last month with a 15-year deal worth $602 million in cash, stadium improvements and guaranteed ticket, luxury box and stadium club income (SCORECARD, March 26), has decided to back away from its offer. The Anytown Raiders can once again consult the world atlas and consider parts unknown.
The Oakland deal died on April 17, when the city council voted 6-0 to cancel it. Local residents had complained that a city short of funds for education, housing and other social needs ought not to be pledging millions to a team that had deserted them in 1982. Some 31,072 registered voters signed a petition to have the deal put to a referendum in November; by city law, only 19,716 signatures were needed to place the matter on the ballot.
Mayor Lionel Wilson, a strong booster of the Raider deal, called the $602 million figure misleading. He said that renovations to Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum would be needed even if the Raiders didn't move back. He also contended that the Raiders would take in more than enough revenue to cover the $416.8 million in ticket guarantees. Yet even after Wilson had the ticket guarantees scaled back to $242.8 million, opponents still said the city was guaranteeing near sellouts with tickets that were scaled impossibly high (cheapest seat: $30).
City Councilman Wilson Riles Jr., a main rival in the upcoming June mayoral primary, was making political hay by attacking the deal, so Wilson finally agreed it should be scrapped. Wilson believes that Oakland still has a 50-50 chance of getting the Raiders back under reduced terms. He says Raider managing general partner Al Davis wants to bring his team back, and, indeed, Raider cognoscenti have speculated that Davis thinks the Raiders must return to their blue-collar roots to excel again.
Los Angeles, meanwhile, is trying to keep the Raiders. Spectacor, which manages the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, where the Raiders play, is making plans to renovate the stadium and build Davis the club boxes and luxury suites he has asked for. The city is said to be willing to give him as much as $30 million in cash and make long-term guarantees on ticket revenue.
By last week, more than 40,000 Bay Area fans had sent in deposits for Oakland Raider season tickets. At Ricky's Lounge in nearby San Leandro, owner Ricky Ricardo Jr. vows to keep his WELCOME HOME RAIDERS sign up until a final decision on the team is made. Ricardo has even placed a director's chair in the entrance of the bar with a sign on it: RESERVED FOR AL DAVIS. Like all those expensive stadium seats, that one remains empty.
The most painfully self-descriptive event we've heard of lately is a Southern California competition in which participants scale man-made climbing walls 30 to 50 feet high. The event is called Rock Til You Drop.
SI's Jack McCallum previews the NBA playoffs, which begin this week:
The teams to beat are still the defending champion Detroit Pistons and the Los Angeles Lakers. Can anybody knock them off?
In the Eastern Conference, Philadelphia would seem to have the best shot of upending Detroit, having defeated the Pistons in three of four meetings this season, including a brawl-marred game last week (page 34). But the Sixers won't get the chance. After dispatching Cleveland in the first round, Philly will have its surprisingly successful season halted by Michael Jordan and the Bulls (who will have glided by their first-round foe, Milwaukee). The 76ers just don't have the one-on-one defender or the strong team defense needed to stop Jordan.
Meanwhile, Detroit will take care of Indiana and then Boston, although the latter series should more closely resemble their bruising playoff battles of 1987 and '88 than the Pistons' first-round sweep of the Celtics last season. Boston won't have quite enough left after nipping the Knicks in an excellent first-round matchup.
As for the Eastern final, it's clear that the Bulls are a better team than in years past, and Jordan, frighteningly, a better player. But with time to prepare, Detroit coach Chuck Daly and his gang of voracious defenders will hold off Chicago's charge one more time.
In the tougher Western Conference, Portland presents the most formidable challenge to the Lakers, whose 63-19 record was the NBA's best this season. The Trail Blazers will oust Dallas in the first round and San Antonio (which will have gotten past Denver) in the second, to move into the Western final for the first time since the 1976-77 season.
The Lakers will be waiting for them there. Los Angeles will have its hands full in Round 1 with the Rockets, who split four games with the Lakers this season, but Akeem Olajuwon doesn't have enough help to pull off an upset. In the second round, the Laker defense will take care of Phoenix, which will be exhausted from turning back Utah in another outstanding first-round series.
That brings us to Pistons-Lakers III. Never before have the same teams met in the NBA Finals three years in a row. The Lakers are a little better than most of us expected, and the Pistons are just another Joe Dumars injury away from big trouble. But Detroit is more balanced than L.A. and every bit as battle-tough. The pick here is the same as it was at the beginning of the season: Detroit.
THEY SAID IT
•Scott Hastings, little-used Piston forward, who claims to lead the NBA in a category that he calls the "trillion": "That's when the box score reads one minute played followed by 0-0, 0-0, 0-0, 0 0 0."