Pete Rose: An American Dilemma

Pete Rose: An American Dilemma

by Kostya Kennedy


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781618930965
Publisher: Time Inc. Books
Publication date: 03/11/2014
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 158,470
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Kostya Kennedy is an assistant managing editor at Sports Illustrated and the New York Times bestselling author of 56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports, winner of the 2011 Casey Award and runner-up for the 2012 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing. He lives with his wife and children in Westchester County, N.Y. To learn more, visit

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 Cooperstown, 2012 5

Chapter 2 Harry Never Walked 12

Chapter 3 West of Vine 21

Chapter 4 Cooperstown, 2012 30

Chapter 5 Black and White and Red All Over 40

Chapter 6 Cincinnati, 1970 59

Chapter 7 Cooperstown, 2012 87

Chapter 8 Rose in the Machine 96

Chapter 9 Raising Philadelphia 112

Chapter 10 Cincinnati, Forever 131

Chapter 11 Cooperstown, 2012 152

Chapter 12 Petey 163

Chapter 13 Suspended Belief 182

Chapter 14 John Dowd 190

Chapter 15 Fable 207

Chapter 16 Main Street to Marion 217

Chapter 17 Gate Keepers 227

Chapter 18 Petey 239

Chapter 19 Truth, Reconfigured 251

Chapter 20 His Prison Without Bars 262

Chapter 21 The Importance of Being Earnest 271

Chapter 22 Cooperstown, 2012 278

Chapter 23 Petey 295

Chapter 24 Where He Belongs 301

Chapter 25 The Sand Lot Kid 314

Acknowledgments 319

Bibliography 323

Index 329


Barnes & Noble Review Interview with Kostya Kennedy

Twenty-five years have rolled by since Pete Rose was banned from baseball for gambling on the game while serving as manager of the Cincinnati Reds. It's been only ten since Rose, after years of strong denials, finally admitted to it, though he made sure to make cash from his admission, putting it in the pages of his 2004 book, My Prison Without Bars. Rose doesn't excel at contrition. That weakness has helped leave him on the outside looking in when Hall of Fame induction time comes around each year. If there were a soft touch among baseball commissioners who even mildly considered letting Rose back in, the seventy-two-year-old's continued arrogance and obnoxiousness haven't helped him convince anybody that his case should be reconsidered. Rose remains ineligible to be inducted at Cooperstown even as the names of known performance-enhancing drug users such as Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Roger Clemens appear on the ballot for consideration.

This is a conundrum author Kostya Kennedy touches on in Pete Rose: An American Dilemma. Kennedy, an assistant managing editor at Sports Illustrated who scored a big hit with his first book, 2011's New York Times bestseller 56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports, spends most of the captivating Dilemma, though, artfully deconstructing Rose's car crash of a life and the effects its had on others, particularly his brother Dave, a Vietnam vet whose pro baseball hopes were cut short by a motorcycle accident, and his son, Petey, who spent eleven games with the Cincinnati Reds and more than twenty years banging around the minors.

Kennedy's detail-rich book makes clear that Rose isn't winning any Father or Husband of the Year awards and self- reflection for him is only done in a mirror. He's still an unapologetic gambler and makes most of his money signing his name endlessly on pretty much whatever is put in front of him. What isn't likely to be put in front of him is the thing that he most covets: a Hall of Fame plaque. Kennedy recently shared his thoughts via email about Rose's chances of eventually getting into the Hall, the art of storytelling, and how men communicate. —Mark J. Miller

The Barnes & Noble Review: You wrote a chapter about Rose and his forty-four-game hitting streak in 56. What made you want to sink your teeth into this one right here and right now?

Kostya Kennedy: Spending a day with Rose a few years ago at one of his extended autograph sessions in Las Vegas made a real impression. There was something unresolved about him, and something unresolved as well in the way people (customers) interacted with him. This wasn't clean or simple, the way an encounter often is when a fan meets an athlete. Seeing this made me realize that the Rose story, the layers of it, offered a real chance to explore. And that it is alive and charged. Rose himself is different now; his story has taken new turns and there is clearly new context, a changed landscape. Today's ethics around sports, and baseball in particular, have been shaped in part by the Steroid Era. All in all Rose, here in his evensong, provided rich character and rich story with which to work. And in many ways the things that define him — the ideal of the way that he played and the seriousness of his sin as a gambler, are more trenchant now than ever.

BNR: So much of the book centers on the relationships of families, particularly fathers and sons as well as brothers, and the family of pro baseball. The players look out for one another, squabble with one another, and are stuck with one another — for good and for bad — just like siblings. While reporting this book, what stuck out to you most about the way men communicate with and about one another?

KK: Anything here is an absolute generalization of course, but a couple of things come to mind. Men, that is, these men, in this context, tend to joke with one another when they communicate, tend to poke fun at themselves or one another or a situation. The idea, conscious or not, seems to be to keep the interactions unencumbered — often because they are unencumbered but also when the relationship or interaction is in fact weighed down. There's also a strong tendency for men to judge other men on their ability and talent. Men regard a man differently if they feel that he's good at the thing he does. It doesn't have to be a "big" thing or an "important" thing. Being good at a small or simple thing can win huge respect among other men. So, in the case of athletes it does not mean that respect is conferred only on the stars. Not at all. It means that if a man has a particular role or duty or specialized skill and does it well, other men treat him with a level of respect. In the case of this family being good at something — Dave Rose's winning one of Pete's golf tournaments, for example — assumes an outsized level of significance.

BNR: It's nice to see that Petey Rose actually has a relationship with his dad now. I've forever been affected by Pat Jordan's "War of the Roses" article that showed just how absent Pete Rose was during Petey's childhood. Watching Petey with his father and with his son, what struck you about what is being passed down through these generations and what isn't?

KK: What's being passed down is a belief in Pete Rose and a belief in baseball. Pete Jr. abides by a lot of his father's tenets when it comes to baseball; he sees and approaches the game similarly. There is also an openness to both of them, a similarity of style in conversation and interaction. But Pete Jr. is softer than Pete, without the edge. He is more thoughtful and more vulnerable. Recent years (and the grandkids) have helped bring them together, but so much of that comes from Pete Jr., because of his love, his unflinchingly loyal and unconditional love, for his father. That drives this relationship.

BNR: It is fascinating how in the '60s, Rose was, as you write, "a uniting figure in fractious times," a guy both hippies and bankers could love in Cincinnati. Now he is just a completely fractious figure. He's not an easy guy to love, though plenty of folks across the globe are devoted to the ideal of him. What do you make of that dichotomy?

KK: In the 1960s Rose was in his element, and the best parts of him were on display. It was almost impossible not to admire someone who tried as hard as he did, who gave everything to the game and performed with such ebullience and skill. The outside world could appropriate him however it wanted: On one hand he was a company man, loyal and devoted to his job and his team. On the other he was a rebel, racing down to first base after a walk, barreling into opponents, meeting fans on their own level. But that element — meaning, that is, baseball — no longer surrounds Rose. When he was a player, he was all about the game. Yes he wanted to make his money. Yes he sometimes did things for personal statistics, but the game came first and people of various leanings respected that. Now the thing that comes first for Pete, for better and worse, is Pete.

BNR: When reporting on a celeb, there is often a certain remove on the part of the person being profiled, a certain decorum that they (and their PR people) like to project in order to create whatever image they are seeking. Pete is clearly as unfiltered as they come. What was the moment for you when you realized just how unfiltered he was?

KK: [It was] at his signing table at a memorabilia shop in Las Vegas. It was a five-hour afternoon session, and Pete had had the guys at the shop set up a small television beside him so that he could keep an eye on the thoroughbred races at Hollywood Park while he signed. He made a call or two on his phone — he told me it was to a trainer at Hollywood Park — and then he reached into his front pocket and pulled out an enormous ball of cash. He peeled off a few hundred-dollar bills, called over a store employee and asked him to go to a nearby betting window and play a race for him. Despite Rose's history as a gambler and the trouble it had gotten him into, he had no problem doing this in front of me, a working journalist with a notebook in by hand, nor in front of the other people around him in the shop. That and his unrepentant public use of certain, might we say, colorful language, made it clear that his filter is not like most.

BNR: In addition to capturing Rose's saltiness, you also have a great eye for the details — the ads on the fence at Petey Rose's minor-league ballpark, the perfect street names near Rose's house on Indian Hill, all the great ways Rose signs baseballs: "I'm sorry I screwed up the economy." "I'm sorry I broke up the Beatles." When did that skill develop? What were a few of the most curious details you discovered during the course of writing this book?

KK: I'm honestly not sure. I suppose I think about the details that mean the most to me and those are the ones that come to the surface. There were so many memorable details and nuances that came out while reporting and writing this book — one of my favorites that I never quite got in was how Pete, now in his seventies and invariably beneath a fedora, wears these nice dress shirts with "Charlie Hustle" monogrammed into the collar.

BNR: Something you share with Rose is the ability to tell a good anecdote. What do you think are the essential elements of a good story?

KK: Clarity, precision, and rhythm. And the things you leave out are as important as the things you put in.

BNR: How much of the book do you think will be news to Pete? Do you think he knows the things people have done for him? Do you think he knows who turned in what info on him? Does he have an understanding of how painful life could be for Petey Rose?

KK: I'm sure there are events and incidents in the book that would be new to him, though I can't say specifically which ones. In the larger sense, is he aware of the impact of his life on the people close to him — such as his brother Dave and, significantly, his son Pete Jr.? Rose has some awareness; he knows, of course, that Petey has gone through a lot. But it is not something that he appears to be concerned with; it's not a situation that he traces, beyond surface level, to his own behavior. It's not something that would lead him to modify himself to try to change.

BNR: As you write, Rose chose his life of exile, but do you think he sees it that way? The piece of baseball history you bring up in the book that most folks don't know or tend to not remember is that the Hall rules were changed specifically to keep him out. Has he become self-aware in the slightest? Do you think he actually has regrets, if not about the gambling then at least about how he handled himself once his gambling was discovered?

KK: Rose knows he has made mistakes; it's a kind of inescapable conclusion as he looks around at his life now, and he shows that, in glimpses. Whether he sees how imprisoned he is (and has been) by himself, whether he is clear that he chose his exile, well, I doubt that. He's still full of blame, still believes he is owed something. But well inside Pete — and this can emerge when he is engaged in the matter — he knows that his father, his idol, would not be proud of him, and that his father would have wanted there to be a punishment for the things that he did. Pete has lived his post-baseball life ensuring that that punishment would go on.

BNR: The conundrum with the Hall, as you point out, is that known steroid users are now appearing on the ballot yet Pete Rose, the man who has more hits than anyone else in the game, is sitting on the sidelines. Do you think it is safe to say that Rose will get into the Hall, perhaps after he dies or after former commissioner Fay Vincent or current commissioner Bud Selig dies? He seems ripe for a veteran's committee pick down the road if and when his ban is lifted. Of course, as you also point out in the book, Rose is a lot more interesting (and marketable) as a guy who isn't in the Hall.

KK: It's surely possible, even likely, that a veteran's committee would one day put Rose in the Hall of Fame posthumously. You're right that he could be a ripe case. But it might not happen as well. The Rose case is unlike any in baseball history, unique, and it's still unfolding. There's so much cold principle attached to this, mixed right in with warmer emotional perspectives.

BNR: And, finally, because it has to be asked, do you personally think he actually deserves to be in the Hall of Fame?

KK: I'm agnostic on this one.

March 18, 2014

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Pete Rose: An American Dilemma 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Pete Rose controversy has been on my agenda since the first drug wave went through the major baseball. If anyone who feels they are an "expert" in the game would take a moment and think. How is gambling as severe as consuming, purchasing, selling, distrubing drugs to enhance ones performance while destroying over the course of time one's body? All for the sake of a temporary job and a statistic that will eventually be broken? Let's be real here everyone. A Rod is just getting banded for one season and look at all that he did and didn't do. How does Pete Rose's situation worse than that? Mr. Kennedy takes a look at the entire Pete Rose the baseball player. His talent is real, not drug enhanced, but personally given and developed. His mistake was self developed and self realized. Mr Kennedy looks behind the scenes to see what makes Pete Rose, Pete Rose. Perhaps if all of the hierarchy of baseball would take time and red this book with an open mind they will see he has long paid his duty to the game and the fans.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
senated More than 1 year ago
Interesting account of a player, who if I was choosing my all time team, he would certainly be in the top five.  So why isn't he in the Hall of Fame. It's because his IQ must be about one fifth of his lifetime batting average.  Pete say you are sorry, quit gambling, and you may get in before you are dead.
edwinhope More than 1 year ago
Whether Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame or not has to do with your idea of whether the Hall commemorates achievement or character/achievement. This book sup pies the reader with abundant evidence that if the operative criterion is the latter, Rose should be banned. But then probably so should a number of others who are now safely ensconced in the HOF. The book is uneven in its apparent bias on any given page, but whether you are a baseball fan or just fascinated by the human condition, it is well worth your reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MinTwinsNY More than 1 year ago
Rating:   5 of 5 stars (outstanding) Review: Pete Rose has been one of the most polarizing figures in baseball for the last 25 years.  In that time, he signed an agreement that permanently banned him from associating with Major League Baseball, has admitted in a tell-all book that he bet on baseball after denying so for over 15 years, spent time in prison for tax evasion, hawked as much memorabilia and as many autographs as he could and yet still have a lot of support to win reinstatement and enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame.   All of these topics and more are covered in Kostya Kennedy’s outstanding book on Rose. This isn’t a typical biography in which the story of the subject is told from birth to present day.  Oh, sure, there are pages about Rose’s youth, his relationship with his father and his climb from the minor leagues to the Cincinnati Reds.  However, the focus of the book is on Rose and the manner in which he handles himself with the ban from baseball.   There are several chapters interspersed throughout the book on his presence in Cooperstown, New York during the weekend in 2012 when two players were inducted into the Hall of Fame.  These stories of Rose and his presence in the hamlet selling anything he can while at the same time being banned from enshrinement in the museum less than a mile away on Main Street smacks of part irony, part melancholy.  Kennedy makes the reader feel like he or she is experiencing induction weekend in Cooperstown during these chapters.  When Barry Larkin, one of the players inducted that year, mentions Rose during his acceptance speech, the reader cannot help but feel Rose is there, thanks to the prose of Kennedy. Other topics which are captured and vividly described by Kennedy are Rose’s relationship with his oldest son, Pete Jr.  Here another emotional event is illustrated well when Pete Jr. makes his major league debut with the Reds in 1997, but cannot enjoy the moment with his father in the clubhouse because of the ban.   However, my favorite chapter in the book was chapter 17, simply titled “Gate Keepers.”  The first paragraph in this chapter is all you need to know in order to understand the title.  It ends with the phrase “Keep Pete Rose out of the Baseball Hall of Fame.”   This was the meeting in 1991 when a special committee met and drafted the rule that became known as the Pete Rose rule – simply that a person on baseball’s ineligible list shall not be eligible to be elected to the Hall of Fame.  Kennedy can barely hide the contempt for this rule, calling it “the greatest disservice to be inflicted upon the Hall of Fame induction process…”  and further stating that nothing else “has so deeply stained the procedure, nor delivered such a blow to the integrity of the process as a whole.”   This shows that not only has Kennedy done his research, but that he has a deep passion for the topic.  His writing is a reflection of that passion.  No matter how the reader feels about Rose and whether or not he belongs in the Hall of Fame, this outstanding book should be read by every baseball fan. The stories are rich, the research through, the interviews with other players and Rose’s family members riveting and the entire book is a fine work by Kennedy.  Did I skim? No.   Pace of the book:   Excellent.  Kennedy’s writing keeps the reader engrossed and the pages turning, whether the topic is Rose hustling to third base on a hit, the gambling investigation, Pete Jr. or the latest sale of Rose merchandise in Cooperstown.  Do I recommend?   This is a must read book for any baseball fan.  It doesn’t matter whether you like Rose or not, nor does it matter how the reader feels about whether or not Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame, this book will keep the reader riveted. Book Format Read: e-book (Nook)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If Pete Rose is not in the Hall of Fame, it's not really a Hall of Fame then. D.D.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
don't waste your time and money on thid book.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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