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Pete Rose May Admit he Bet on Baseball

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  • Pete Rose May Admit he Bet on Baseball

    Dec. 31) - A new autobiography of Pete Rose is scheduled to hit bookstores next week amid widespread expectations that Rose will use it to admit publicly for the first time that he bet on baseball games while managing the Cincinnati Reds.

    The book, "My Prison Without Bars," has a huge first printing, 500,000 copies, and is being handled in secretive fashion by the publisher, Rodale Press, which has embargoed the book until Jan. 8, when Rose will take part in interviews about its contents.

    Rose was barred from baseball in August 1989 for gambling on sports events, but not specifically on baseball games. Since then, he has denied that he bet on baseball, despite significant evidence to the contrary. But there were hints over the last year that Rose, who has the most hits in major league history, now understood that he would have to make such an admission to win reinstatement to baseball and entry to the Hall of Fame, and that he was prepared to do so.

    In fact, a major league official said yesterday, Rose made such an admission when he met with Commissioner Bud Selig in Milwaukee on Nov. 25, 2002. The official, who said he was aware of what was discussed at the meeting, said that Rose was asked by Selig if he had bet on baseball and that he replied that he had.

    The official said Selig responded to Rose's admission by noting that every clubhouse in baseball had a sign stating that gambling on baseball was prohibited and he proceeded to ask Rose why he had so blatantly ignored the warnings.

    The official said that Rose "never gave much of an answer." But perhaps he will in the book. The very fact that Rose told Selig 13 months ago that he had bet on baseball strongly suggests that Rose will make the same acknowledgment in the book. Otherwise, he will have a lot of explaining to do to Selig, who will ultimately decide whether to end Rose's exile.

    The Jan. 8 release of the book, which Rose wrote with Rick Hill, will come two days after the results of the annual Hall of Fame vote are announced. Although Rodale said the timing was coincidental, there had been speculation that the book's release was being linked to the vote, so that it could be argued that Rose, with his admission in print, should now get his plaque in Cooperstown.

    The embargo imposed by Rodale restricts bookstores from opening shipments of the book until Jan. 8. Reporters who will be interviewing Rose on that day will receive advance copies on Jan. 7 but cannot write about the book until after the interview. All this, and a first printing of 500,000 copies, which David Black, a Manhattan literary agent, called enormous. In comparison, a recently published sports book by Rodale, the autobiography of the basketball star Oscar Robertson, had a first printing of 39,000 copies.

    "I don't know what's in Rose's book," the major league official said, "but there's got to be something in the book that's worth all this."

    Warren Greene, Rose's business agent, declined to comment on the contents of the book.

    Rose already has an autobiography, "Pete Rose: My Story," which was written in 1989 with Roger Kahn. In it, Rose said that the investigative report that led to his ouster from baseball was "tainted" and that he had never bet on baseball games.

    Eight years later, Rose applied to baseball for reinstatement. Gary Spicer, the lawyer who did the filing for Rose, said yesterday that he took on the task only "because Pete convinced me that he did not bet on baseball."

    "If he did, I would be surprised," he said.

    One person who would not be surprised is John Dowd, the Washington lawyer who compiled the report that led to Rose's ouster from baseball 14 years ago. His report left little doubt that Rose bet on baseball games, including ones played by the Reds.

    At the news conference announcing Rose's "banishment for life," A. Bartlett Giamatti, who was then baseball's commissioner, said of Rose: "In the absence of a hearing and therefore in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I am confronted by the factual record of the Dowd report, and on the basis of that, yes, I have concluded that he bet on baseball."

    And, he was asked, on the Reds?

    "Yes," said Giamatti, who also said that Rose would have to reconfigure his life if he wanted to return to baseball.

    Now Selig is the commissioner and Rose's fate rests with him. He is aware of support for Rose his meeting with him in November 2002 came a month after Rose was showered with "Hall of Fame!" chants when he appeared on the field in San Francisco before Game 4 of that year's World Series but he is also aware of recent reports that Rose has been a regular visitor to Las Vegas casinos, where he bets, legally, on football and horse racing but not on baseball. Whether that suggests that Rose has not sufficiently changed his ways will be an issue for Selig to decide.

    In any case, the baseball official said, no reinstatement of Rose is imminent. He retired in 1986 and became eligible for the Hall of Fame five years later. Although he cannot be voted on because he is barred, his 15 years of eligibility in the annual balloting by writers have been ticking away. His last year of eligibility is for the class of 2006, which will be voted on in December 2005.

    If he is reinstated after his eligibility expires, he could be voted into the Hall by the reconstituted Veterans Committee, which meets every other year.