This Day in Baseball History: March 20th, 1989

It’s too bad, either way you look at it, that the all-time hits leader isn’t in the Hall of Fame.

On March 20th, 1989:

Peter Uberroth announces that Major League Baseball is investigating Pete Rose’s gambling habit.

It was well-known that the then-Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose bet on sports — from basketball to football to horse racing. It seemed logical that he would have bet on a sport he knows most about — baseball. However, since the 1919 World Series scandal, gambling on baseball was (and still is) a big no-no. In February of 1989, Peter Uberroth, the commissioner at the time, called Pete Rose into his office to discuss his gambling. Of course, the media was all over it, but Rose simply said he had been called into his office to offer some advice of some sort.

A few weeks later, Uberroth came out and disclosed that he had, indeed, brought Rose in to discuss Rose’s gambling. Making this situation a bit more interesting was that Uberroth was on his way out while Bart Giamatti was on his way in as commissioner. Originally, Uberroth believed Rose’s statement that he had not bet on baseball, but Giamatti was not as convinced. He went on to hire John Dowd to investigate Rose. By May, Dowd gave the commissioner a detailed report of the games on which Rose bet over the past few years. For instance, the Dowd Report, as it was called, would say that Rose not only bet on baseball but on the Reds as well. In fact, Dowd found evidence that Rose bet on 52 Reds games in 1987 with the bets between $2,000 and $10,000 each. It is important, however, to note that no evidence was found that Rose bet against the Reds, only for (a distinhuishing characteristic from the Black Sox who sabotaged their own team).

For the next few months, new stories emerged every day about how this person or that person saw Rose betting on this game or that game at this place or that place. Rose would, of course, deny the allegations. When the Dowd Report was finished, Rose’s lawyers asked to view it before it was made public, and they received the document. Before anything could be done, Rose sued Giamatti stating that the report was biased against him. After a series of confusing and ineffective stall tactics, Rose and his lawyers realized fighting Major League Baseball and the commissioner was a losing battle, but the MLB also realized that this scandal had an effect on the sport, not just Rose. On August 24, 1989, Rose accepted a place on the ineligible list, making his Hall candidacy moot.

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