The evidence was so staggering that it was difficult to fathom. Records of phone call after phone call made to bookies, sometimes just minutes before the national anthem. Records of bets, one after another, day after day, on virtually every team, including the team he managed, along with the amount of the bet. Nearly $20,000 a day being waged on bets.
The baseball world -- and the world in general -- was staggered by the amount of evidence, leaving little doubt that Pete Rose, baseball's all-time hits leader and one of history's greatest and celebrated players, had gambled on baseball and bet on his own team.
Rose was known as a huge gambler, often seen at race tracks. But then rumors began swirling in early 1989 that he had gone too far, that he had actually gambled on baseball.
On Feb. 20, 1989, Rose and his attorneys were summoned to New York to meet with then-commissioner Peter Ueberroth. The next day, word was out that the meeting concerned gambling allegations against Rose. One month later, on March 20, the commissioner's office released a statement that it was investigating "serious gambling allegations against Rose."
On April 1, the IRS seized betting slips with Rose's name, writing and prints on them. The next day, it was reported that Rose had bet $8,000 to $16,000 daily on baseball games during the 1987 season. Then, on May 9, the avalanche fell when baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti received a 225-page report from investigator John Dowd that contained depositions, documents, reports, transcripts and other materials illustrating that Rose had gambled on baseball. A handwriting expert determined that Rose's writing was on betting slips, as well as his fingerprints.
Rose was cornered. Finally, after a series of motions were filed by attorneys from both parties, and a series of phone calls between Giamatti and Rose's attorney's, it was Judgment Day for Rose.
August 24, 1989, Thursday, 9 a.m. Giamatti, the commissioner of baseball, steps up to a microphone in New York City.
"One of the game's greatest players has engaged in a variety of acts which have stained the game, and he must now live with the consequences of those acts," he tells a packed room of reporters.
With that, Giamatti announces that Rose, baseball's all-time hits leader and one of history's greatest players, has been banned from baseball for life for gambling on baseball.
"There had not been such grave allegations since the time of Landis," Giamatti says, referring to Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the commissioner who suspended for life the Chicago White Sox players involved in the Black Sox scandal after the 1919 World Series.
The previous evening, Rose had signed a document stating that he would neither admit or deny he had gambled on baseball, that he would be banned from the game for life, but that he would be given the opportunity to apply for reinstatement.
Shortly after Giamatti holds his press conference in New York, Rose and the Reds hold theirs in Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium, announcing that Rose is no longer the Reds manager because of his banishment from the game, and that one of his coaches, Tommy Helms, will be taking over.
At the news conference, Rose continues to deny he gambled on baseball, despite the enormous amount of incriminating evidence.
"Despite what the commissioner said today, I didn't bet on baseball," he tells the media. He does, however, admit that he bet on other sports. "I made some mistakes and I'm being punished for mistakes," he says.
Back in New York, Giamatti is convinced that Rose has gambled on the game that has made him rich and famous. "In absence of evidence to the contrary . . . yes, I have concluded that he bet on baseball," Giamatti says. He is asked directly if he has concluded that Rose bet on his own team, Giamatti says, "Yes."
Back in Cincinnati, Rose, holder of 19 major league records and now the 15th person banned for life in baseball history and the first since 1943, insists "I don't think I have a gambling problem at all."
The city of Cincinnati is in mourning. The streets are empty. Everyone is watching the live broadcast of Rose's press conference. Big TVs, small TVs, every home, every office, every store. Rose's words echo through hallways, buildings, the entire city.
He is asked to explain why he regards Giamatti's penalty as "fair" if he did not bet on Reds games. "I could get a year's suspension for betting on anything," he would say. "I've already admitted I've bet on other things."
"My life is baseball," Rose would say. "I hope to get back in baseball as soon as I possibly can. I've been in baseball for three decades, and to think I'm going to be out of baseball for a very short period of time hurts.
"I made some mistakes, and I'm being punished for them," he would continue. "However, the settlement is fair. One of the mistakes wasn't betting on baseball. I have too much respect for the game, too much love for the game."