BOOK NOOK: Is gambling on sports out of control? Remembering Pete Rose



Another baseball season got underway with games in Korea between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres. And the Dodgers suddenly terminated their relationship with the longtime translator for their new superstar, Shohei Ohtani.

While the details of this situation seem muddled, the key factor relates to gambling. Remember, gambling is illegal in California. Somewhere the former baseball legend Pete Rose is surely observing this situation with interest.

Pete Rose has been disgraced for decades, exiled from baseball because he gambled on it and bet that he would never get caught, a wager he lost. In his incisive book “Charlie Hustle: the Rise and Fall of Pete Rose and the Last Glory Days of Baseball,” Keith O’Brien looks back at this Cincinnati guy who became a star.

During a spring training game against the Yankees Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford were mocking this kid who played with exuberance and passion during a meaningless game. They were making fun of Pete — their nickname for him morphed into something Rose embraced: “Charlie Hustle.”

Pete Rose was little known outside of Cincinnati until the 1970 All-Star Game when he barreled into Cleveland’s catcher Ray Fosse at Riverfront. Pete ran him over before an enormous national television audience.

We revisit the glory days of the Big Red Machine and Pete’s attempt to surpass Joe DiMaggio’s record for hits in consecutive games. Pete’s streak ended when he failed to get a hit against Gene Garber of the Braves. Pete was incensed at Garber. The author cites Hal McCoy as one of the few reporters who called Rose out about his tantrum.

In his column in this newspaper Hal wrote: “One question, Pete, if Garber were throwing a perfect game with two outs in the ninth would you lie down and die, or would you try your damnedest to slam a hit?” They eventually broke up that team. Pete ended up in Philadelphia and helped them finally win a World Series.

By the 1980s Rose was in the twilight of his career and playing in Montreal when Marge Schott’s Reds brought him back as a player/manager to pursue the all time hits record. They neglected to inform manager Vern Rapp about this. Rapp learned he was fired when McCoy asked him about it.

Pete could be the hero. He could also play the villain. He was unfaithful to his wife. When they asked him if he gambled on baseball he denied it. When they exposed his lies he continued lying. After he finally confessed it was true, it was way too late. He was a pariah. No Hall of Fame induction for him.

Initially Rose participated in interviews for this biography, then stopped. O’Brien met guys who placed Pete’s wagers — it wasn’t pretty. I’m not a gambling man, I have never even bought a lottery ticket, but if I had to place a wager on whether Pete Rose will like this book I would have to say he would not approve. The truth hurts.

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit Contact him at

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