John Dowd, special counsel to the commissioner and the investigator during the Pete Rose fiasco, wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Times that my friend Mike sent to me yesterday. In the letter, he responds to the Dave Anderson piece that advocates baseball's absolution or at least exculpation of Rose.
Dowd is in great form showing that he hasn't lost his chops in the intervening 12+ years since his infamous Dowd Report on Rose first appeared. Indeed the letter is almost a reincarnation of the beatific Report, in microcosm.
First, he reports on his opinions of the motives behind the actions of two different commissioners (Giamatti and Selig) as if it were fact: "I am afraid Commissioner Bud Selig did it [let Rose appear at the World Series] because he can't stand being booed by the fans." & "[In referring to Giamatti] the commissioner left a legacy that might help your readers understand where he might have come out on this question.
Second, he remains the same condescending pedant when it comes to viewing the particulars of a given issue. He cites Giamatti's legacy as if it were his own private currency. Like in the report, he derives Giammatti's mountainous legacy from the molehill of one somewhat related instance, that of Shoeless Joe Jackson. Dowd says that Giamatti "turned down the posthumous petition from the South Carolina Legislature on behalf of Shoeless Joe Jackson, who unlike Pete Rose was honest about his conduct in a letter to Charles Comiskey."
This brings up my third point, Dowd consistently gets his facts wrong or at least bends them to fit his argument. Joe Jackson was banned from baseball because of Rule 21, but his infraction was against paragraph (a) of the rule:
a) MISCONDUCT IN PLAYING BASEBALL. Any player or person connected with a club who shall promise or agree to lose, or to attempt to lose, or to fail to give his best efforts towards the winning of any baseball game with which he is or may be in any way concerned; or who shall intentionally fail to give his best efforts towards the winning of any such baseball game, or who shall solicit or attempt to induce any player or person connected with a club to lose, or attempt to lose, or to fail to give his best efforts towards the winning of any baseball game with which such other player or person is or may be in any way connected; or who, being solicited by any person, shall fail to inform his Major League President and the Commissioner.
That is, that Jackson and others threw baseball games, not that they gambled on baseball games or even had any involvement in gambling on baseball games.
Pete Rose never was accused of throwing any games. He was never even accused of betting against the Reds: "3) No evidence was discovered that Rose bet against the Cincinnati Reds." (In the footnotes to Section II. Summary of Report from the Dowd Report) The Dowd Report promulgated that he bet on baseball and on (i.e, for) the Reds. However, the agreement that he signed avoided the issue: "Nothing in this agreement shall be deemed either an admission or a denial by Peter Edward Rose of the allegation that he bet on any Major League Baseball game."
Therefore, his ban under Rule 21 can only be under paragraph (f):
(f) OTHER MISCONDUCT. Nothing herein contained shall be construed as exclusively defining or otherwise limiting acts, transactions, practices or conduct not to be in the best interests of Baseball; and any and all other acts, transactions, practices or conduct not to be in the best interests of Baseball are prohibited and shall be subject to such penalties, including permanent ineligibility, as the facts in the particular case may warrant.
Basically that he admitted to consorting with seedy characters and felons (and as it turned out was a felon himself). Leo Durocher was banned for a year under the same sort of circumstances. Yet Dowd picked the Jackson analogy, which is a poor one but one that resonates with the average fan.
Besides the Jackson confession letter, if there was one, went missing at the first trial and has not been heard from again. Jackson denied his involvement in the original trial and then sued Commiskey in 1924 for back pay. How can Dowd that he was "honest about his conduct in a letter to Charles Comiskey"?
Dowd further conveys his inability to grasp Rule 21: "The wisdom of the rule is that when the participant places his own financial interest on the game, he corrupts baseball." Only paragraphs (b) and (d) have anything to do with the player's own financial interests. Paragraph (c) deals with gifts to umpires and (e) with violence in games.
Lastly, Dowd states that "No one in the history of baseball who has been declared permanently ineligible has ever been readmitted to the game." This is incorrect. George Steinbrenner was banned for life on July 30, 1990, for paying Howie Spira $40,000 to follow Dave Winfield and was later reinstated. Steve Howe was permanently banned from baseball on June 24, 1992, by Fay Vincent for an attempt to buy cocaine. In November he was re-instated by an arbitrator who ruled after Howe claimed that the cocaine helped with his Attention Deficit Disorder.
John Dowd does not understand the facts or the rules concerned, he misrepresents the truth, and he out and out lies. I'm glad that major league baseball associates itself with such people to try to rid itself of the bad element in the game.