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ESPN Report Finds Pete Rose Bet On Baseball As A Player

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

For a minute there, it looked like Pete Rose might be resurrected. The all-time leader in hits was banned from baseball in 1989 for betting on games when he was a manager for the Cincinnati Reds. And since then, Pete Rose has been on a 26-year long image rehab effort. That included admitting on national TV that he did break the cardinal rule of baseball and bet on games while he was a manager but not as a player. The new Major League Baseball commissioner recently said he would consider reinstating the apparently reformed Pete Rose back into the game. But yesterday, ESPN reported that documents show that Pete Rose did bet on baseball while he was still playing. T.J. Quinn was one of the reporters who broke that story, and he joins me now. Welcome to the program, T.J.

T.J. QUINN: Thanks, Audie.

CORNISH: All right, so listeners may be wondering, hey, the guy already admitted to betting on baseball; why does it matter that he did it as a player versus having done it as a manager?

QUINN: To Major League Baseball, it doesn't matter. Rule 21 is clear. If you're involved in a game and you bet on it, that's it, and you're done. But Pete drew a distinction, and his supporters agreed, that what he did as a player is what should get him in the Hall of Fame. And if he didn't bet as a player, his career is still unsullied. Baseball doesn't look at it that way.

CORNISH: So tell us a little bit more about your investigation. These documents that showed he bet on baseball as a player, where did they come from?

QUINN: These documents - they're copies of a notebook that has been under seal for 26 years. The U.S. Postal Inspector's Office had a raid on the home of a guy named Mike Bertolini in Staten Island, N.Y., who was already connected to Rose, and he was identified as having run bets for him. People who knew about this notebook thought this could be some sort of smoking gun about Pete's betting. But it was kept under seal. U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn didn't want to release it.

CORNISH: What happened? Why were these documents sealed for so long? Why weren't they revealed?

QUINN: No one really understood what the thinking was in the U.S. Attorney's Office. The U.S. Postal Inspector agents who seized the notebook said they wanted to give it to baseball right away. And John Dowd, who led their investigation, he certainly wanted his hands on it. But they transferred it to the National Archives under seal. We've filed numerous Freedom of Information Act requests over the years to get it, and they've all been turned down.

CORNISH: Tell us a little bit more about these notes themselves 'cause I understand they're pretty clear, right? He was a fastidious guy.

QUINN: They are very clear. Michael Bertolini had pretty clear handwriting. He wrote down the date. He even wrote 1986 at the end of every entry. He had the unbreakable code name of Pete to refer to Pete Rose in all these ledgers. We actually were able to get a hold of two of the investigators who were on that raid. They looked at the documents we had and said, yes, this is the notebook that we seized. Mike Bertolini told us that these were bets he placed for Pete Rose.

CORNISH: So help us understand, here, the full response from Pete Rose. What has he said about your reporting?

QUINN: Very little. In fact, there wasn't even a denial. It was simply a statement that they promised Commissioner Rob Manfred they wouldn't talk about this and that he's going to honor that and that he looks forward to meeting with the commissioner. So he's really painted himself into a corner. Just two months ago, he was on the air with a sports talk show and said, no, never bet as a player; that's a fact. So I don't know really what explanation he could offer.

CORNISH: What does this mean for his chances for reinstatement or even the movement behind it?

QUINN: His chances weren't great to begin with. Even if he had convinced Rob Manfred to let him back in, he had a serious long shot to ever get into the Hall of Fame. This obviously isn't going to help him. And where it's going to hurt him more is with the support he seemed to be getting from the public and maybe even from other veteran players, people in the Hall of Fame who might've felt, it's been 26 years; that's enough.

CORNISH: T.J. Quinn - he's a reporter for ESPN's program "Outside The Lines." He spoke to us about Pete Rose's latest troubles with Major League Baseball. Thanks so much, T.J.

QUINN: My pleasure, thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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