(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)
At some point in the mid to late 1970s, Pete Rose, at the time one of America's most celebrated athletes, easily one of the country's most famous people, and someone who was known throughout most of the world, decided that a 16 year-old girl, presumably a high school student not that much older than his oldest daughter, was the perfect piece of side beef.
And that's if his story checks out.
That's a big if.
A woman with whom Rose admits to having sex with more than 40 years ago has issued a sworn statement as part of a defamation lawsuit by Rose against John Dowd that her physical relationship with Rose began before she turned 16. Rose claims that, to his knowledge, the woman was 16. This on the heels of Dowd's 2015 claim that he'd heard during MLB's investigation into his gambling that Rose had girls as young as 12 years-old run to him at spring training while he was an active player.
This, of course, raises questions.
Not the least of which is why Dowd, if he indeed did hear during his digging into Rose's gambling on baseball that legitimate crimes against children might been committed, didn't run that information up the ladder. If John Dowd found out in 1989 that pre-teen and early-teen girls had been supplied to Pete Rose, why did he sit on that information for more than 25 years before going public with it? Wouldn't an investigation into that trump an investigation into how often Pete put down a couple of dimes on the Reds?
You also can't help but wonder why Rose, who suffered no apparent collateral damage when Dowd originally made his claims - he's since been employed by Fox, he's been feted on multiple occasions by the Reds, he's and probably made hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking, appearance, and autograph-signing fees in the intervening two years - would go to court knowing that sordid details of what's been often series of cringe-worthy behaviors in his personal live would be made public.
If you don't want the world to know that when you were at the height of your powers, you were having regular sex with a 16 year-old girl, you don't sue the guy who says he has information about you having sex with 12 and 14 year-old girls.
And if you don't want the world to wonder if you were having sex with 12 to 14 year-olds, you don't go out of your way to tell the world that way back when, you were screwing around with what you thought was a girl barely old enough to drive.
The problem with Pete Rose isn't limited to the fact that nearly every glimpse into his private life over the last 28 years has either left us shaking our heads or compelled us to run some bath water, it's that when he's publicly involved in a he said/he said in an effort to clear his name, his track record isn't exactly hall of fame-worthy. When Pete Rose's word stands in against that of John Dowd's, the Hit King has failed to make contact.
He's a liar. That's a well-documented fact that goes back years, most significantly during the period of time in 1989 when Major League Baseball was investigating his gambling, but also during the subsequent 15 years as he continually and openly fibbed about whether he was guilty of what baseball ultimately banned him for. His patterns have been to be either liberal or forgetful with facts, to stretch truths, to claim ignorance, or sometimes, to downright lie.
Remember when Rob Manfred, late in 2015, handed down a decision as to whether Pete would have his application for reinstatement accepted, emphatically denying his chance for re-entry into baseball? When Pete, in his meeting with MLB's commissioner, admitted that he was still and active baseball bettor? Remember this part?
"Even more troubling, in our interview, Rose initially denied betting on baseball currently and only later in the interview did he 'clarify' his response to admit such betting."
Pete Rose lied about whether he was still betting on baseball. Still. This wasn't 1989. Or 1999. This was at the meeting he'd longed for, the one where he would make his long overdue case for reinstatement. In 2015.
During that meeting, he lied. Blatantly. Maybe, but just maybe, astoundingly.
Which reaffirmed for the billionth time that it's hard - really hard, sometimes - to take Pete Rose at his word. Especially - primarily - when his name and reputations are at stake. If Pete worked as hard at hitting as he has at erasing any benefit of the doubt, he'd be the only player with five thousand hits. You can't take him at his word, as badly as you might want to. There's something about Pete Rose going into denial mode that evokes memories of what it felt like to have confirmation of what nearly all of us long suspected when he finally made his long overdue admissions of gambling.
This might be where you tell me that you don't care, either because you're too young to remember Pete in his heyday, when he was helping the Reds to pennants while apparently balancing a lovelife that apparently included homework help. Or because the transgressions in question occurred too long ago for anyone to really do anything about.
Or because, you've long reconciled with yourself with Pete Rose the ballplayer and Pete Rose the person having to be - for our convenience as much as his - mutually exclusive.
But like it or not, whether it makes you uncomfortable or not, this is a big deal. Cincinnati has nothing that it's identified with as closely as it is with the Reds. And the Reds will never have someone it's identified with as closely as it is with Pete Rose.
Pete's ours. Player and person. For better or for worse. And for whatever's worse that worse.
On the front door to our city is a ballpark. In front is a statue of Pete Rose that essentially serves as a head-first welcoming mat. Some will always come up to the statue and see only the ballplayer. Others will stop at it and see a tragic, even sympathetic, figure.
Many will walk past it and see a pedophile.
They'll never believe Pete Rose. They'll never believe in Pete Rose.
Can you blame them?