The Case Against Pete Rose: The Dowd Report

Pete Rose keeps himself out of the Hall of Fame.

Dowd: As I understand it, in 1984 you were in the bookmaking business. 
Peters: Right.
Dowd: And you know Pete Rose?
Peters: Yes.
Dowd: And did you take bets from Pete Rose?
Peters: Yes.
Dowd: In what sports did you take bets from Pete Rose?
Peters: Uhm, major league baseball, college basketball and professional football.
Dowd: And did you ever have occasion to talk to Rose directly?
Peters: Yes.
[Transcript of Ron Peters Interview, Exhibit 50, pp. 1]

On August 24, 1989, one of the biggest stories of the 1989 baseball season came to an end. Well, okay, the story will probably never end.

Baseball’s hit king and the current manager of the Cinncinatti Reds signed an agreement with MLB commissioner, A. Bartlett Giamatti, to accept a permanent banishment from baseball. Rose had a cloud of suspicion about his gambling in his playing days. As the manager of the Reds MLB had investigated. As a result of the investigation, Pete Rose was willing to be banished from baseball.

Yet, the agreement also allowed for the possibility of Rose requesting reinstatement only one year after the banishment. In the present day, Rose remains banned.

Part of being banned from baseball includes excludes one from being placed on the Hall of Fame ballot. Baseball writers will not have the ability to argue about your legacy. It does not, however, exclude you from the Hall of Fame. The last time I was at the Hall of Fame there was a reproduction of a picture of Pete Rose on a large portion of a wall. Sliding headfirst, Rose seems to fly towards the base. It captures the passion and excitement that Rose brought to the game. His eyes and face express determination. A bat he used during his 44 game hitting streak accompanied one exhibit. The 24-year career of Rose is not exempt from the Hall. His story is available to explore.

What he does not have is a plaque in a separate wing. That plaque is missing because of Pete Rose.

There had always been rumors surrounding Pete Rose and gambling during his career. The allegation of the Hit King placing appeared to be common knowledge. The surprise was in the depth and scope.


Did the Hit King Bet on Baseball?


On February 3, 1989, John Dowd was hired, by then MLB Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, as Special Counsel to MLB. The purpose of the Special Counsel was to investigate allegations concerning Pete Rose betting on baseball. A. Bartlett Giamatti took over as MLB commissioner on April 1, 1989. John Dowd delivered his investigation, dubbed The Dowd Report, to MLB. The 225-page report, published on June 27, 1989, included eight volumes of evidence and supplementary material.

John Dowd had a history of investigation. When he worked with the Department of Justice, Dowd had investigated the Mafia. He handled investigations into members of Congress, including Daniel J. Flood. Flood would later plead guilty payoffs changes and resign his seat. After leaving the Government for private practice his clients included Robert Rechmeyer, John McCain, and Robert C. Dutton.

The Dowd Report was stunning. The report investigated claims of Pete Rose gambling during the 1985, 1986, and 1987 seasons. Rose was still a player for the Reds for the 1985 and 1986 seasons. He was also the manager of the Reds during 1985, 1986, and 1987.

“As detailed more extensively herein, Pete Rose has denied under oath ever betting on Major League Baseball or associating with anyone who bet on Major League Baseball. However, the investigation has developed information to the contrary. The testimony and the documentary evidence gathered in the course of the investigation demonstrated that Pete Rose bet on baseball, and in particular, on games of the Cincinnati Reds Baseball Club during the 1985, 1986, and 1987 seasons.”

The findings are problematic because MLB has some specific rules against these types of actions.

Section D of Major League Baseball Rule 21 states:

  1. Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform, shall be declared ineligible for one year.
  2. Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible.

I can hardly cover all the evidence in the Dowd Report. There are mountains of evidence. As an investigation document, the Dowd Report is impressive. Despite the protest from the team defending Rose their main attack was not the findings but the right of the Commissioner to invoke any recourse against Pete Rose.


You Can’t Kick Me Out!


Pete Rose’s team was able to get a temporary restraining order against MLB because according to, then, Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Norbert Nadel, Giamatti had “prejudged” Rose. The hearing would be “futile and illusory and the outcome a foregone conclusion.” The reprieve was short-lived live with the decision overturned when appealed. A read of the legal arguments in the case includes no questioning the validity of the Dowd Report. On January 8, 2004, Rose wrote a book, “My Prison Without Bars.” In this book, he validated much of the Dowd Report by admitting his betting on various sports, including baseball, while coaching the Reds.

In the years since the release of the report, its accuracy has continued. Rose publically admitted to the findings. In 2014 records from Mike Bertolini, which were seized in 1989, were made available. Bertolini was taking bets for Rose for a New York bookie. His records included betting records of Rose placing bets.


The Bets Came From Within the Stadium!


The Dowd Report is accurate; Pete Rose bet on baseball.

The investigation pulled phone records. There are phone records of Pete Rose calling the people who placed bets for him, or the bookies directly, from his office in the ballpark. Some of those calls happened at 6:40 PM on a day when the game started at 7:05 PM. Rose generally bet about $2,000 per game. If he bet the full slate of games that day, he could easily wager $18,000. Just 25 minutes before the first pitch of the game. He would bet nearly every day also. Let that sink it. He would bet $2,000 on a game he was about to trade lineup cards from the baseball stadium. Daily.

An interesting character from the Dowd Report is Peter Janszen. Janszen was a friend of Rose that was one of the people that placed for Rose. Janszen was also a bodybuilder that ended up in jail for tax evasion. Janszen failed to report his income from selling steroids. Yep. Pete Rose, manager of a baseball team, had a steroid dealer placing bets from him. Janszen cooperated with the investigation. John Dowd would send a letter to the Federal authorities describing Janszen’s help. It was this letter that caused Rose’s lawyers to claim that the commissioner had prejudged Rose.


“She don’t mind, She dont’ mind. Cocaine.”


The report makes one thing fairly clear; Rose wasn’t a successful gambler. He was often in debt and would have his bets refused until he cleared up his losses. In an exhibit from the report, Janszen claims that Rose was willing to explore other revenue streams to fund his losses.

“He had made a comment to me . . . and I’ll remember this word for word: ‘Let me in on it, I’ll have a certificate of deposit which is coming, which will mature in the next couple of weeks, and I am getting back $75,000 or $65,000. I’ll use that money and buy the kilos, and I’ll keep them in my house because nobody would have the guts to come to my house.’ “

Janszen claimed that Rose wanted to front the money, and remember Janszen was a drug dealer, to fund a quick cocaine deal. These did not make the final report because Dowd did not feel it was relevant to the gambling focus of the investigation. In 1985 and 1986, Tonny Gioiosa ran bets for Rose. He would get into trouble with the law for protecting Rose during his tax evasion investigation. Rose was convicted for tax evasion and spent time in jail. Gioiosa was served jail time for being part of a cocaine distribution ring. Rose’s gambling brought him in close contact with people that distributed cocaine and steroids.


He only bet for the Reds to win!


An argument I often hear gives Pete Rose a slight reprieve because he claims he always bet on the Reds to win. Always is a difficult phrase in a situation such as this. The investigation was limited in scope and time. Did Pete bet on baseball when he was the manager for the Reds? Can we get concrete evidence of such? The report did that. Additional evidence, like the drug information, was considered irrelevant. John Dowd mentioned, at times, that there was inconclusive evidence of Rose betting against the Reds. In the scope of the investigation how Rose bet on the Reds is irrelevant. Any bet on the Reds was cause for punishment.

Based on the exhibits in the report on other facts that have come out there are patterns to be found. In 1987, Rose never bet on the Reds when Bruce Gullickson pitched. Rose was not betting with legal sports bookies. A smart bookie would use Rose’s betting patterns to help with the line.

Giamatti and Dowd were not out to get Rose either. Giamatti was open to only suspending Rose if he admitted to betting on baseball and started treatment for his gambling problem. Giamatti and Dowd were also, claims Dowd, working with federal prosecutors to drop the tax evasion investigation. The FBI had entered negotiations to take care of Rose’s gambling debts. These actions never happened as Rose refused to admit to gambling on baseball. If Rose had worked with MLB he would have never been banished. Just ask Don Zimmer and umpires Rich Garcia and Frank Pulli. All three were investigated for gambling and received two-year probation for gambling. There was no evidence that they bet on baseball. Baseball was willing to make a deal.

I do feel bad for Pete Rose. The research shows a man with a gambling problem. He often was carrying a large amount of debt to the type of people you generally don’t want to be carrying a large amount of debt. When Giamatti offered a solution that would have kept him in baseball, a combination of ego and addiction held him back. Yet people and baseball were still willing to give Pete Rose a break. In 2003, Mike Schmidt and several former teammates encouraged then MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to meet with Rose to discuss reinstatement. Rose, according to Schmidt, admitted to betting on baseball to Selig. The commissioner then developed a plan for reinstatement. Part of the plan was to announce the reinstatement in the events surrounding the Hall of Fame announcement. Rose moved the publication of My Prison Without Bars to before the Hall of Fame announcement. Selig dropped the idea and never revisited reinstating Rose again.

Two MLB commissioners; two opportunities were wasted. The MLB Hit King is out of banished from baseball because of himself. Baseball, teammates, and other players have offered a hand to help pull Rose back into baseball. He slaps it away each time.

Yet, if you have a copy of the Dowd Report and pay the proper fee Pete Rose will not slap away the Dowd Report. He’ll sign it for you.


Photo by Greg Reese/Pixabay | Feature Image by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

Mat Kovach

Despite being an Indians fan in the late 70's I grew to love baseball. I started throwing spitballs when I was 10 and have been fascinated with competitive shenanigans in baseball ever since.

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