Baseball’s Pete Rose: Gambling Scandal Cost Me $100 Million

Baseball’s Pete Rose: Gambling Scandal Cost Me $100 Million

Major League Baseball icon Pete Rose, focus of a new HBO documentary series, says the gambling scandal that got him banned from the game cost him dearly.

“You have to understand one thing, ladies and gentlemen,” Rose said at a Q&A after the premiere of episode 1 of Charlie Hustle & The Matter of Pete Rose, “gambling cost me a hundred million [dollars]. That’s what I’d have made in baseball if I hadn’t got suspended.”

In 1989, Rose was managing the Cincinnati Reds when Major League Baseball investigated claims he had wagered bets on MLB games, including his own team’s. Bart Giamatti (father of actor Paul Giamatti), then-Baseball Commissioner, issued a lifetime ban from baseball on Rose. That has kept Rose out of the Hall of Fame, even though he is baseball’s all-time hit leader and holder of many other MLB records, including games played and plate appearances.

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Moderator Al Michaels, Pete Rose and writer-director Mark Monroe participate in a Q&A following the premiere of 'Charlie Hustle & The Matter Of Pete Rose' in Los Angeles.
L-R Moderator Al Michaels, Pete Rose and writer-director Mark Monroe participate in a Q&A following the premiere of ‘Charlie Hustle & The Matter Of Pete Rose’ in Los Angeles. Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for HBO

In the documentary written and directed by Mark Monroe, Rose continues his campaign to be reinstated in baseball. At the Q&A moderated by broadcast legend Al Michaels, who called Reds games in the early ‘70s when Rose was a star player, the hits king reiterated that he thinks a ban of over 30 years is long enough.

“I’m the one that got hurt the most,” he said at the premiere, held as part of the Uninterrupted Film Festival in Los Angeles. “Me gambling on baseball, I didn’t hurt you,” Rose added, pointing to members of the audience. “I didn’t hurt her. I didn’t hurt you. I hurt myself and my family and I was stupid. But I’ve overcome it. I’ve overcome it.”

For years, Rose claimed he had never bet on baseball (in the documentary, one observer calls him a worthy candidate for the liars’ hall of fame). He eventually came clean, and at the Q&A he made few bones about his wagers. Recalling that earlier time, he commented, “I’m saying to myself, if I’m a gambler, why not bet on my team? I’m running the goddamn show. I can make the moves. I never bet against my team. I bet on my team every fricking night. That’s the kind of faith I had in my players… I won a hell of a lot more games than I lost. So in that respect, I was a respected gambler when I was betting on baseball. But I shouldn’t have did it. But it was fun doing it.”

Pete Rose and Al Michaels attend 'Charlie Hustle & The Matter Of Pete Rose' World Premiere At The UNINTERRUPTED Film Festival on July 10, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.
Pete Rose and Al Michaels Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for HBO

Michaels, who has known Rose for over 50 years, posed a question to him that he said he has long wanted to ask. Referring to Rose’s appetite for gambling — which extended to horseracing and greyhound racing — Michaels wondered, “Did you ever seek counseling or thought about going to Gamblers Anonymous at any point?”

Rose replied, “I went a couple times. I didn’t understand what they were saying. Really, I didn’t. I really didn’t. I mean, maybe I didn’t want to. But they should have been up on a soapbox.”

Episodes 1 and 2 of Charlie Hustle & The Matter of Pete Rose premiere on HBO on Wednesday, July 24. The final two episodes premiere the following night, Thursday, July 25. Monroe, an Emmy winner whose extensive credits include writing and producing Lucy and Desi and writing and co-producing Oscar winner Icarus, says he got full cooperation from Rose to make his series.

'Charlie Hustle & The Matter of Pete Rose' poster
HBO

“We had a Zoom and one of the first things I asked was if everything was on the table,” Monroe recalled. “And he said to me, literally, ‘You can ask me anything you want to ask me, and I’ll answer it.’ And he held true. It was amazing. Over many years, over many discussions, he got in the box and took the fastballs.”

At age 83, Rose is hobbled by bad knees, but he can knock a query out of the park, keeping the Uninterrupted audience entertained with a succession of stories, some of them off-color. In one non-off color example, he shared an anecdote: “I was at a function a couple of weeks ago and I took questions from the audience and the guy stood up and said, ‘What do you think you’d hit if you were playing today?’ So, I thought for a moment and I said, ‘I don’t know, .180, .185.’ He said, ‘Wow, pitching’s really that good?’ I said, ‘No, you dumbass. I’m 83 years old.’”

Proving that, into his 80s, he’s still a compelling personality with a flair for unvarnished commentary, Rose shared his philosophy of coaching: “A manager, a coach, whether it’s football, basketball, hockey, or baseball, is only as good as his players,” he observed. “Only as good as his players. If you’ve got horseshit players, you’re not going to win. You’re not going to win. It is hard to win with great players. And there’s too many managers that think that they know everything. Nobody knows everything. Most managers that will have success are the managers that know their personnel the best, that can get the most out of their personnel.”

Pete Rose slides head first into home plate in a Reds game vs Philadelphia Phillies at Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati, OH July 21, 1978.
Pete Rose slides head first into home plate in a Reds game vs Philadelphia Phillies at Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati, OH July 21, 1978. John Iacono /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

He was a stat machine as a player for the Reds, Phillies, and (briefly) the Montreal Expos. And he can readily recall his relevant numbers now.

“I never hit below third [in the lineup] in my life. In my life,” he noted. “I never hit below third. And I played in 3,500 games. 3,500. I’ve batted 16,000 times. Think how many goddamn national anthems I heard.”

Rose told Michaels he will be in Cooperstown, New York – site of the Baseball Hall of Fame – next month. Not to be inducted, but to sign autographs. He makes no secret he would like to allowed into those hallowed halls as an acknowledged member of the greatest to play the game.

“Here’s my deal on that,” Rose told Michaels. “I don’t want to go to the Hall of Fame after I die because the Hall of Fame is for your family and your fans. That’s who really gets the benefit from an individual going to the Hall of Fame. I don’t want to go to the Hall of Fame after they bury me. What good is that going to do to my family?”