An excerpt from Kostya Kennedy
While the Hall of Famers and other important baseball people tend to spend induction weekend at Cooperstown sprawling Otesaga Resort Hotel, Pete Rose has always found his own accommodations. In 2012 he and his girlfriend Kiana Kim and her children, Ashton and Cassie, stayed in a two bedroom apartment above the downtown Safe At Home memorabilia store where Rose signed autographs for a fee throughout the weekend. Whenever they would look out the front windows before one of Pete signing sessions, Main Street was already thick with people crowded near the store entrance, many of them wearing Rose jerseys. “Wow!” said Cassie, 14, the first time she saw this. Trundling down the single flight of stairs a few minutes later, Rose quipped to Kiana, “Can beat the commute, babe.”
The 133 room redbrick Otesaga opened more than 100years ago, and Hall of Famers have slept there or at its sister property, the nearby CooperInn, during just about every induction weekend there has ever been. People gather by the enormous wooden front doors, and out back a spectacular terrace overlooks broad, immaculate green lawns and weathered oaks and glinting Otsego Lake, the Glimmerglass.
There can be an air of formality in the lobby and main rooms of the Otesaga, but things are a lot looser downstairs at the Hawkeye Bar Grill, where gaggles of Hall of Famers wind up at the end of each day. You might find stolen base king Rickey Henderson holding court at a table of 12, or come upon Phillies lefty Steve Carlton standing in the doorway of the marble topped men room talking about how to set up a batter for the kill. Tony Perez could walk in with one of his sons, inspiring Dave Winfield to bounce out of his armchair to say hello. Baseball front office types and team owners mill around with drinks in hand, and over by where the rock’n house band plays, you might see a 13 time American League All Star like George Brett start moving it like he means it on the dance floor.
“If Pete came through the door,” said Reds Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, standing near the bar and looking around the place, “I think everyone would stop what they were doing and go over and see him.”
But Rose and Kiana were half a mile away, alone with the kids in the fine apartment, which belongs to his pal Andrew Vilacky, the Safe At Home proprietor. Along with hardwood floors and a renovated master bath, the apartment is equipped with a couple of large flat screen televisions, which Rose naturally made extensive use of. When he not watching sports, Pete is the FoxNews type. “The guy who invented TV? I love that guy!” Rose says.
Rose presence touches that MainStreet apartment even when he not there. Two seats from the old Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, autographed by Pete, lean against one wall, and a corner of the living room has been given over to a metallic statue of Rose sliding headfirst. Near the front door hangs a T shirt also signed that reads HEY BUD TEAR DOWN THE WALL/GET PETE OFF MAIN STREET AND INTO THE HALL, AS WELL AS A BASEBALL UNDER GLASS. TO THE GREAT PETE ROSE. LOVE HIM, HATE HIM, YOU CAN IGNORE HIM, and it signed, REGGIE JACKSON, MR. OCTOBER.
Perhaps the most interesting piece of Roseabilia in Cooperstown, however, stands not in Vilacky apartment but a few doors down, on display at the Heroes of Baseball Wax Museum. Strange, whimsical and, yes, a little creepy, the museum features a hodgepodge of about three dozen life sized wax figures spread among its three floors replicas of Satchel Paige and Ted Williams, of GeorgeW. Bush throwing out a first pitch in the World Series after 9/11, of Wade Boggs on the back of a police horse after winning the World Series, of characters from the movie A League of Their Own. The wax figure of Rose bears no facial resemblance to him whatsoever, but you know who it is by the old style Reds cap and the pin striped vest uniform number14. The figure stands at a podium on a stage, and behind it a simply drawn sign announces national baseball hall of fame induction ceremony. Benches have been set up in front of this scene, and visitors to the museum can sit, gaze toward the podium and talk about what Pete might say up there if he ever did get the chance. More people do this than you might expect.
Rose Hall of Fame worthiness has come under renewed discussion in recent years as players linked to performance enhancing drugs have become eligible for Cooperstown, in particular two at Rose level of accomplishment: Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Neither has come close to induction in their two years on the ballot, and neither have other potentially deserving players tainted by suspected steroid use. Still, all have had a fair chance; Bonds and Clemens may yet get Burberry Factory Outlet in.
Steroids were never an option for Rose “It too late for me,” he told a Reds trainer as PEDs began to proliferate in the mid 1980s and he is often asked his views on players who have used those drugs. At times, even as recently as last year, Rose has referred to Alex Rodriguez as his favorite player (he has also had A Rod programmed as a “favorite” contact in his phone), and he has suggested that players such as Bonds and Clemens are indeed Hall worthy. But Rose has also cast sharp aspersions, saying he could only imagine what men such as Babe Ruth and Roger Maris would think to know that “guys came along and cheated their way past those records.” When asked to weigh the sin of his betting on baseball against that of ingesting steroids, he has said, “To all the young kids out there, I say don do either one but if you do the one that I didn do, you have a good chance of hurting your body in the long run.”
At the same time that baseball has over the past decade adopted an increasingly strong stance against performance enhancing drugs, its resistance to its teams having an affiliation with gambling interests has softened. The Yankees installed the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar just above Monument Park at their new stadium. (Though of course there no gambling in the bar, the Mohegan Sun is a prominent casino, 212hours northeast of YankeeStadium.) The Tigers invite guests to their MotorCity Casino Hotel Champions Club at Comerica Park. Several other teams feature casino presences including, yes, the Reds, who display prominent ads for Cincinnati downtown Horseshoe Casino. When the Mets opened CitiField in 2009, they did so with Harrah on board as a “signature partner” and with its Caesars’ Club restaurant as a core attraction.
The clear and enormous danger of Rose baseball gambling lies less in its own crude execution and more in its implications. “The Pete Rose case represents the larger issue of gambling prevalence in America,” says Fay Vincent, the former baseball commissioner who, as deputy to that office, was deeply involved in Rose 1989 banishment from the game. “It is always out there, and it is a real threat to professional sports.” The crux, as ever: Gambling can lead a player to intentionally influence the outcome of a game in order to benefit a wager. A player might try to lose. And while fans will continue to pay to watch games played by athletes engorged by drugs, folks are not likely to stand for games that are not on the level.
As unsettling as it is to imagine an active major league player engaged in baseball betting, a manager involvement may be even more ominous. A corrupted manager for example, one who might want to throw a game as a way to help erase a personal gambling debt would have ample opportunity to make lineup and strategy decisions that work to undermine his team.
Even if a manager only wagered on his team to win, he might be swayed to give that short term gambling interest precedence over his team long term needs. Theoretically, for example, in the mid 1980s as Reds manager Pete Rose bet heavily and regularly on his team, he might have called upon an already overtaxed relief pitcher to try to win a particular game rather than preserve the pitcher for the long haul of the season. While this may seem a trivial baseball subtlety to those outside the game, it a real issue on the ground. So it should be noted that Rose had a lefthander in the bullpen, Rob Murphy, who in 1987 and ’88 appeared in 163games, the most in the National League. Murphy was effective (he had a 3.06ERA over that time) but not remarkably so. In ’88, for example, he went 0 6.
“The idea that Pete might have overused me or overused some other pitcher I was in the pen with, I never saw that at all,” says Murphy. “I just about say it is a ridiculous idea. If anything, I wanted to pitch even more times than I got in.” Murphy, who involved in thoroughbred breeding, is still in touch with Pete. “Early May, I know I might get a call,” says Murphy. “Pete will want to talk about who I like in the Kentucky Derby.”
There no indication, either through game logs or player testimony, that Rose betting influenced how he managed. But it could have. Speculation, sure. Evidence? Not yet. Rose himself, not surprisingly, says wagering had no impact on his managing although there always the possibility that his stance will change. If there is enough money to be made, as even those closest to Burberry Factory Outlet Rose will tell you, Pete can change his mind on just about anything.
Of all the ways one might characterize the differences and similarities between Rose and those players known to have used performance enhancing drugs the Hall of Shamers, as it were it comes to this: Rose has been banished for the incalculable damage he might have done to the foundation of the game. Steroid users are reviled for the damage they actually did.
In 2009 a special and unexpected visitor stopped by to see Rose at his table on induction weekend: Sparky Anderson. The two had been on uneasy terms ever since Rose banishment in 1989 Sparky, the Cincinnati manager through most of the couldn get over how Pete had lied so brazenly about his gambling and had not spoken in many years. As Anderson approached, frail but still vital at 75, a smile broke over his creased face, and then a mock scowl. When he got to Rose, he took off his baseball cap and, holding it by the bill, thwacked Rose back and forth about the head, muttering no goods at him all the while. “He knocked my cap sideways!” Rose later said, laughing. It was the scolding of a boy who had strayed, a what am I gonna do with you! display of benevolent pique. Anderson had known Rose for nearly 40years. “I owed him that visit. He played his heart out for me,” Sparky said later to friends at the Otesaga.
People around Rose say that for the rest of that day, after Sparky had chatted for a while and then left, and the tear between them seemed suddenly, miraculously mended, Pete was in an exceptionally light mood easier and more forgiving than usual, with all of his ebullience coming through.
About a year after that Cooperstown exchange, on an August afternoon in 2010, Rose and one of his steady associates, memorabilia dealer Charles Sotto, drove out from LosAngeles to visit Anderson at his home in Thousand Oaks. Sparky was thinner still than he had been in Cooperstown, smaller, it seemed, in every way, and his chalk white hair was yellowing at the sides. Although the day was not at all cool, he wore a jacket inside the house. Sparky and Pete sat at a table and drank iced tea and told each other stories they both already knew about the Big Red Machine, Anderson own playing career and Pete hit record, and about so many people they had known in the game that had once been everything to both of them. Sparky had some trouble hearing Rose, had trouble at times deciphering the rapid, Roseian chatter scat that had once been part of the sound track of his life.
They phoned former Reds coach George Scherger and left messages on his voice mail Sparky and Pete calling. Together! and they took a few snapshots standing side by side in the kitchen.
Six weeks after that visit to Thousand Oaks and six weeks before the November morning when Sparky would quietly pass away Rose officially returned to the ballpark in Cincinnati. The Reds had invited him to commemorate, before a Saturday night game on Sept.11, 2010, the 25thanniversary of his 4,192nd hit. On the big screen, video aired of the Ty breaking atbat and the pandemonium surrounding it, and then a recorded message played through the stadium: Pete voice recalling that night and hailing his teammates and thanking the fans who “made everything possible made everything what it was.” The sky was clear, and the evening sun still shone.
Rose was driven out in a cart from the bullpen, traveling in foul territory along the rightfield line until he signaled to the driver, “Here, this is fine.” The cart stopped, and Pete lumbered out and began to walk toward first base as the crowd rustled and cheered, the hooting increasing when Pete neared the bag and, once there, raised his right leg and stomped his foot hard upon it. Home again. Cries of “Peeete! Peeete!” came out of the stands and then a spontaneous chant: “Hall of Fame! Hall of Fame! Hall of Fame!”
The whole scene, this particular Cincinnati homecoming, almost never happened. The casino operators said that was Burberry Factory Outlet absurd, that of course Pete should go and appear at the Great American Ball Park, and that he could just come over to the casino afterward. They would push the start time back; the customers could wait.
And would he still collect his check, the full amount? Pete wanted to know, making sure to get a guaranteed yes.
The purpose of the casino dinner was a roast of Rose, and teammates came up one by one to give him a zing: Tom Browning, George Foster, Tony Perez, Ken GriffeySr. About 500people were in the room, seated at round tables of 10 or 12. Rose son Petey took the microphone briefly and made a crack about his dad retro chic clothes. At one point the lights dimmed and a clip aired of Rose singing in an old Aqua Velva commercial.
Then Pete himself got up there. By now the night was nearing its end, and the coffee cups were half full on the tables and the wine had been drunk. Everyone attention was right up front on Pete, this being the moment they had all really come for. Rose zapped Perez (for his unusual use of English) and Griffey (for his batting style), and Rose told the one about the time Petey had phoned him from the minor leagues, battling through an 0 for 22 stretch, to ask his father the best way to get out of a slump. And Rose answered, “How the hell would I know? I never been in a slump. Call [Dave] Concepcion.”
Not only was PeteJr. there, but Tyler Rose as well. Maybe what happened next was because those two were in the room (it was so rare to have his sons together), and maybe it was also because of the aftereffects of the celebration at the ballpark that night and having so recently seen Sparky in the condition he was in, and also having those teammates in the room around him, but what happened next, to everyone great surprise, is that Pete broke down. His voice did not simply waver or crack, he began to sob, much as he had while standing on first base 25years ago that night.
“I was covering this dinner, and it was kind of standard stuff,” says John Erardi, a reporter for The Cincinnati Enquirer, “but then Rose started to lose it, and that really got your attention. It felt completely unscripted, completely sincere and very powerful. I had covered Rose for more than 25years and hadn ever heard him like that.”
Rose told the room that he finally understood what it meant to “reconfigure” his life. He said, “I disrespected baseball.” He looked at Perez calling him, “like a brother to me” and apologized directly, and also apologized to the other teammates from the Big Red Machine. “I a hardhe Burberry Factory Outlet aded guy,” Rose choked out. “But I a lot better guy standing here tonight. I guarantee everyone in this room I will never disrespect you again.” As he fought to get his composure, he added, “I love the fans, I love the game of baseball, and I love Cincinnati baseball.”