Pete Rose was an all-time great Philadelphia Phillie. He was one of the catalysts to the Phillies' 1980 World Series title, and despite being at the end of his career and seeing his productivity fade, he was a big part of the 1983 NL championship team.
Nonetheless, the Phillies should not induct Pete Rose into the Wall of Fame on August 12, when he is scheduled to join the other all-time great Phillies players, coaches, executives, and broadcasters. In fact, not only must they cancel his induction on that day, they should rescind his inclusion altogether.
In April, when the Phillies announced that Rose had been selected to join the Wall of Fame, the team obviously knew about his troubled past with gambling on baseball. Everyone in the sports world knew about that.
The team also almost definitely knew about John Dowd's allegations about Rose and underage girls. Dowd was MLB's special counsel who ran the investigation into Rose betting on baseball. In 2015, Dowd was talking about Rose in a radio interview and said that Rose regularly had someone bring him underage girls to spring training for him to have sex with. The direct quote: "Michael Bertolini told us, you know, he not only ran bets, but ran young girls down at spring training, ages 12 to 14. Isn't that lovely? So that's statutory rape every time you do that."
Rose has since sued Dowd for defamation, claiming that this was a false claim that Rose was a pedophile. The case has moved through the court system with not much attention paid to it . . . until yesterday when a bombshell dropped.
Yesterday, an unidentified woman filed a sworn statement with the court saying that Rose had a sexual relationship with her in the 1970s, starting when she was under 16. In Ohio, where Rose and the woman lived, the age of consent is 16. This thus amounts to an accusation that Rose engaged in statutory rape in Ohio. The woman also claims that she and Rose had sex in other states as well. Those states are unidentified, but one possible state -- Florida, where Rose would have been in spring training and where Dowd alleged the underage sex trafficking took place -- has the age of consent at 18.
Here's her description from the court documents, as reported by USA Today:
In 1973, when I was 14 or 15 years old, I received a phone call from Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds. Sometime after that, Pete Rose and I began meeting at a house in Cincinnati.It was at that house where, before my sixteenth birthday, Pete Rose began a sexual relationship with me. This sexual relationship lasted for several years. Pete Rose also met me in locations outside of Ohio where we had sex.
These new allegations alone should be enough to force the Phillies to cancel the ceremonies on August 12 and then to rescind his induction completely. But Rose's response yesterday should mean there's absolutely no debate. His response was not that he did not have sex with this young woman but rather that he did - but he thought she was 16.
Putting aside that mistake of fact is not a defense to statutory rape (it's well past the statute of limitations, so he won't be prosecuted regardless), taking Rose at his word means that he, as a married man in his mid-30s with two kids, regularly had sex with a 16 year old (who was, according to her, actually under 16 at the time).
The Phillies knew Rose was a degenerate gambler who bet on baseball when they announced his induction into the Wall of Fame. That is serious and reflects a terrible character flaw and bad judgment, but it is limited to this silly game of baseball that we all love. Yes, some people were probably harmed by his actions because they bet on games too, but it's not hard to cabin this off into the world of adults doing stupid things to each other that, in the end, don't matter that much.
What we're talking about now, though, is entirely different. This is no longer the world of adults showing bad judgment when it comes to games that adults play. This new revelation is about a well-paid much-revered adult man preying on a young woman who, by his own admission was only 16, but by her sworn court document was even younger.
The Phillies must wash their hands of Pete Rose once and for all. Otherwise, they are placing their organization in the position of siding with a sexual predator over a young woman. (And so far, it's just one young woman, but if Dowd's claim turns out to be true, it could be a lot more and a lot younger.) This is a terrible message to send to this woman as well as every young woman who is a Phillies fan. The Phillies would effectively be saying to their fans, especially their young female fans, that it's no problem if our athletes prey on you.
August 12 must be canceled. Pete Rose's Wall of Fame plaque, which has probably already been made, should be thrown in a landfill. And the Phillies should refund tickets for fans who bought them for that night to see Rose.
Actually, the Phillies should go one step further - donate all profits from August 12's game to Women Organized Against Rape, Philadelphia's leading organization working against sexual violence. The team should show the world that sexual violence in all its forms will not be tolerated.
This should be a no-brainer.