Discover more from Just the Facts with Gerald Posner
"What Would There Be In Life Without Gambling?"
The Inside Story behind Baseball's Lifetime Ban on Pete Rose
"Say it ain't so Pete!” How did one of baseball's greatest players, Peter Rose, find himself at the center of the sport's most tumultuous scandal
Penthouse, September 1989 By Gerald Posner
Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati, September 11, 1985. The Padres' Eric Show hurls a fastball, and Pete Rose slashes at the pitch, shooting a line-drive single into left field. It was Rose's 4,192nd career hit, and before he reached first base, the capacity crowd was on its feet. For the next nine minutes, Riverfront Stadium rocked from the thunderous applause directed at the man who had broken Ty Cobb's all-time hit record, a feat many fans had considered untouchable. It is a scene that frames Rose's playing career, the culmination of a personal mission from the man whose relentless style of play earned him the nickname "Charlie Hustle." To many sports fans, Rose was not only assured a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but would be remembered as one of the game's greatest and most respected players.
Less than four years later, Pete Rose was the subject of investigations from the baseball commissioner's office as well as federal prosecutors. The multiple inquiries have focused on an assortment of charges: illegal betting, including wagers on baseball; the sale of prized and bogus memorabilia; dealings in unreported cash and possible income tax evasion; and associations with shady characters, including convicted cocaine dealers and bookies. Hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles, and dozens of radio and television specials, have focused on the charges Rose faces.
During this intense media scrutiny, many involved in the Rose investigation spoke about their roles. But one key voice remained publicly silent, despite tremendous pressure to talk. That person is Paul Janszen, one of Rose's closest friends during the past few tumultuous years. While serving a six-month sentence in a Cincinnati halfway house for income tax evasion on the sale of steroids, Janszen has been in the spotlight as the chief Rose accuser ever since Sports Illustrated broke the story in March. During the following months, Janszen first told his story to the baseball commissioner's office. A staff of attorneys and investigators then checked every detail of his testimony. Janszen passed a polygraph test, which he had taken at the request of the commissioner's office. One federal investigator concluded that "on a scale of one to ten, Janszen's credibility is a ten."
In addition to helping the commissioner's office, Janszen made himself available to Penthouse and me. I spent dozens of hours with him during the past several months. As a result of my conversations with others involved in the Rose affair, I agree with the federal investigator and have no doubts about Paul Janszen's credibility.
Janszen's intimacy with Rose allows him to reveal the inside story of how Rose went from the pinnacle of his sport to the abyss. He portrays Rose as living in a world where cash was king and everything was justified in order to fuel an ever-increasing gambling addiction. It is a story of a man with few moral qualms leading a disinterested and sometimes abusive personal life, repeating patterns of selecting friends to help him when he was in debt to bookies, and then abandoning them when he owed them money he no longer wanted to repay. The man exposed in conversations with Paul Janszen is not the Pete Rose that fans watched break Ty Cobb's record on that September night in 1985. He is instead a man obsessed with gambling. The wonder of the story that Janszen tells is not that investigators finally focused on Rose. Rather, it is that Rose's transgressions were not uncovered years earlier. This, then, is Paul Janszen's story.
Janszen is a 32-year-old Ohio native, born and raised in Western Hills, a white middle-class Cincinnati suburb. The eldest of five sons in a Catholic family, Janszen was an average student involved in high school track, weight lifting, and football. He spent three years at the University of Cincinnati, followed by a year at Northern Kentucky, but never received his degree. By 1979, Janszen moved to North College Hill, a working-class Cincinnati suburb. There he began working at a steel-drum factory, and also joined a hard-core bodybuilding gym, Mendenhall's, where he met some of the bodybuilders who later played roles in the Rose saga. "The first person I met when I walked in the door was Don Stenger ." (Stenger is now serving a ten-year prison sentence for in-come-tax evasion and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.)
Stenger and Janszen became friends, and together they frequented a downtown bar called Sleep Out Louie's. It was there in 1980 that Janszen met a small, loud man who checked IDs. His name was Tommy Gioiosa, and unknown to Janszen at the time, his newfound friend was almost a surrogate son to Pete Rose. (Gioiosa, who has described himself as a professional gambler, is under indictment for tax evasion and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.) Gioiosa had met Rose at the Reds' training camp during the late 1970s, and the two formed a special bond. He relocated from Boston to Cincinnati to move in with Rose and his first wife Karolyn. "To Tommy, Pete was like a father," Janszen said. "He always talked about Pete. It was his claim to fame."
While Janszen saw Gioiosa every Friday night, he did not meet the ballplayer. Rose, who signed with Philadelphia in 1978, returned to Cincinnati each off-season, sometimes rooming with Gioiosa. Janszen was not yet part of the inner circle.
During the early 1980s, Janszen, who had begun using steroids, also started selling them to other bodybuilders. Additionally, his friend Don Stenger had branched out into cocaine. In 1985 an event took place that brought Stenger, Janszen, Gioiosa, and Rose together. Stenger became the 50-percent owner of a Gold's Gym franchise in northern Cincinnati. His partner was Michael Fry (Fry is serving an eight-year prison sentence for cocaine trafficking and tax evasion). One of the first things Stenger and Fry did was to hire Stenger's friend, Tommy Gioiosa, as the club's manager. And when Rose returned from a trade with Montreal, Gioiosa brought him to Gold's for his workouts. It was through this gym that Rose formed friendships with an assortment of bodybuilders over the next several years.
But Gold's was more than a social center where Rose found friends. Shortly after the gym opened, a friend of Janszen's asked him if he could get an ounce of cocaine through Don Stenger. Despite his initial hesitation, Janszen acted as Stenger's middleman.
At that point, Janszen discovered that not only had Stenger's cocaine business grown, but that his gym partner, Mike Fry, was also a partner in the drug business. "An ounce or two had become penny-ante to Don, and he didn't want to fool with it anymore. So sometimes he told me, 'Hey, I don't have anything, Paul, call Mike up.'" While their cocaine business boomed, Fry and Stenger had the opportunity to meet Pete Rose, courtesy of Tommy Gioiosa. Janszen remembers the period clearly. "It was a big time, because Pete was approaching the record hit and all. Suddenly you've got Tommy [Gioiosa] and Don Stenger and Pete Rose hanging around together, all best friends."
During this time, Janszen and others first learned that Rose bet on sporting events. "Tommy would make it very clear to the girls working the front desk, '1 don't want to talk to anybody today, except Pete. As soon as Pete calls, get me. Pete Rose is going to call me.' And you would hear Tommy on the phone talking to Pete. Tommy would get his sheets out with all the teams being played--at the time it was football. And then he'd read off things to Pete on the phone. I mean, it was just like I'm talking to you. Pete called Tommy every night, almost. I guess Pete was somewhere and couldn't be reached. Sometimes Tommy would go back in the other office and take the calls. But most of the time he'd sit up at the front desk. It was very impressive for him to talk to Pete in front of all those people.
"Everybody in the gym knew what was going on. Tommy would come into the gym and say loudly, 'Oh, man, me and Pete got killed this week,' 'Pete lost $36,000,' or 'Pete lost $42,000.' And it was never 'Pete won.' It was always 'Pete lost, lost, lost.'"
Stenger became a third wheel with Rose and the ever-present Gioiosa during this period. He attended games at Riverfront Stadium and became a familiar face in the Reds' clubhouse. The cocaine-dealing Stenger reportedly attended a special celebration dinner hosted by Rose after his record-breaking game. Stenger even accompanied Gioiosa and Rose to several baseball card shows, where Rose charged fans for each signature, often earning more than $10,000, almost always in cash, for an afternoon's work. According to Janszen, as Rose's betting debts grew, Stenger helped the ballplayer by paying almost $70,000 in cash for his M-1 BMW sports car.
As the Stenger-Rose relationship continued, an important development took place in late 1985. According to Janszen, Tommy Gioiosa, Rose's point man for new friendships, began driving to Florida to pick up cocaine for Stenger. Janszen later discovered that Gioiosa's drug venture was not kept secret from Rose: "Pete later told me this, and Tommy told me this. At least one time, before he left for Florida to pick up the cocaine, he stopped off at the clubhouse to say hi to Pete, and he showed Pete the suitcase with $200,000 cash in it. He said, 'Yeah, I gotta go down and get five kilos.' Or eight kilos, whatever. And Pete was, like, 'That's a lot of money, Tommy.' Pete marveled at it and sat there and said to me, 'Boy, you wouldn't believe how much money Tommy showed me. That Stenger, he must be making a million dollars a year, Paul.'"
By year's end in 1985, Stenger and Fry had a falling-out at Gold's, and Fry bought Stenger's share. That business dissolution prompted Stenger to move to New Jersey. Gioiosa, who had distributed cocaine for Stenger, now moved closer to Mike Fry. Janszen remembers: "Tommy was now the manager of Gold's. He's getting paid about $800 a week, part checks, part cash, and he gets $4,000 for every kilo he distributes for Fry. And of course, what's Tommy's next move? Don Stenger is gone, and now Tommy's got a new friend in Mike Fry. So what does he do with Mike? He sets him up with Pete Rose."
The same pattern that had developed with Stenger and Rose repeated itself now with Rose and Fry. Janszen recalls that "Fry was now in the limelight. Pete was still coming to the gym. Fry started going to baseball card shows with Pete. Soon he was loaning Pete money. He told me that in the first two weeks he knew Pete, he gave him $17,000 cash. Fry said the same thing we all felt later, 'You just get lured in because it's Pete Rose.'" Fry is reported to have accompanied Gioiosa on ten to 15 trips to Franklin, Ohio, in order to pay one of Rose's bookies, Ron Peters, anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 Rose had lost in sports betting. (Peters is currently serving a prison sentence for tax evasion and cocaine trafficking.)
Rose remained friendly with Fry through the summer of 1986. By August, Gioiosa approached Janszen and once again encouraged him to act as middleman for a cocaine deal with Don Stenger. This time Gioiosa wanted the customer for himself and Fry. Janszen initially balked, but finally relented. Janszen recalls, "He was telling me how much it was going to help him pay for a house that he was going to build and I'd be doing him a big favor. And every now and then he was throwing up the words - you know, 'Maybe we'll go over and see Pete sometime.' And to tell you the truth, that was tempting. I wanted to meet Pete. I wanted to see Pete's house. I wanted to see what he was like."
From September to December 1986, Janszen acted as a middleman for Gioiosa on three cocaine sales. During the fall of '86, Gioiosa finally introduced Janszen to Rose. The first meeting included an introduction not only to Rose, but to his gambling on baseball. "The first time I met Pete was during the Mets-Astros play-offs that fall. Tommy asked me to watch one of the games at Pete's house. Pete didn't even know me, but he talked to Tommy about who they bet. I asked them, and they told me who they had their money on. It was an extra-inning game, a real exciting one, and I think Kevin Bass struck out or something to end the game."
Janszen soon discovered that Rose was talkative about his betting, even in front of strangers. "Later, when I would go with him to card shows, people would come up and ask, 'Pete, who do you have in this game or that game?' And he would tell them. Much later on, the only thing I ever said to him was, 'Pete, aren't you afraid of betting?' And he'd say, 'Paul, they want the bookie, they don't want the people betting.' Pete also thought that it would always be leaked to his attorney. If the F.B.I. was investigating, or the commissioner's office was investigating gambling, Pete thought he would be made aware of that. He would have to cool it for a while, that's all."
That first night, Janszen also met Rose's second wife Carol, a frosted blonde in her mid-thirties. In Janszen's opinion, Carol spent much of her time either shopping or checking on Pete's whereabouts, doubting his fidelity.
But Rose seemed to ignore his wife, instead sequestering himself in his first-floor den, surrounded by a 40-inch television and two 19-inch models, all tuned to different sporting events around the country. "Pete had an uncanny ability to follow all three at one time," Janszen remembers. "He always watched the games and talked about what was happening. He was always active, always doing something. If there was a good play or if his team won, he'd jump up and give Tommy and me high fives. Pete's wife, Carol, would just stay in the kitchen. If Pete lost on a game, he wouldn't be bothered unless the game was lost by a real dumb mistake. Then he'd be upset for five minutes. Otherwise, it was always, 'Don't worry, we'll get even on the next game.'"
From that initial meeting, Janszen's visits to the house slowly increased. "I didn't go back over there, or maybe I went over one more time, to see one more baseball game. But I really didn't become a regular-by a regular I mean 'Monday Night Football,' Saturday night college football, Sunday football--until several weeks after that."
Gioiosa's introduction of Janszen and Rose assumed a new importance when Rose had a falling-out with Fry in the fall of 1986. Fry and Rose had entered negotiations for Rose to acquire an interest in Gold's. According to Janszen, Rose wanted one-half for no money down, a proposition that Fry rejected. But the deal was so close they even had sweatshirts printed, proclaiming GOLD'S GYM--HOME OF PETE ROSE.
Janszen believes that at the time Rose must have known about the cocaine involvement of Stenger and Fry, but he remained obsessed with gambling. According to Janszen, "Pete was impressed with cash, because it was a means of him continuing to do the thing he loves best in the world, which is to bet. He said this more than a dozen times to me: 'Paulie, $50,000 is like $100,000 to me. Tax-free, Paulie, that's tax-free money!' I mean, his expressions with his hands--I can still see his face. 'Tax-free money! Damn it, Paulie, $500,000---that's a million dollars, tax-free money!' If he made a million dollars a year playing baseball, he would be double, triple excited about the $15,000 cash, tax-free money he made at a card show. Because the million dollars went to Reuven Katz, his attorney, and Pete got an allowance. The other was tax-free money Reuven didn't know about. That was his little secret. That's how he felt."
But Rose had a sour taste from the Gold's discussions and backed away from Fry. At the same time, Fry blamed Gioiosa for the failed negotiations, and as a result, cut Gioiosa's cash payments as manager. Gioiosa was furious and quit Gold's. In retrospect, Janszen should have recognized what was happening. "The same scenario was taking place. It was the Don Stenger routine again. Now Tommy was leaning on me as his sole friend. I see this stuff on TV, and people are saying, 'They made Pete do it, they pulled Pete into this, they convinced him to be their friend,' and all this. It wasn't like that. And I'm not saying it just with me. It wasn't like that with Mike, with Don, with any of them. It was, like, Tommy. He was the--what do you call it in Vietnam?--he was the point man. Tommy's sent out there, and Pete's following behind, and Tommy is just out there gathering up whatever he can gather and reporting back to Pete. And if reporting back to Pete is introducing him to a new friend that could, first of all, show Pete that Tommy had some connections and power, and second, that Tommy's got someone that Pete can borrow money from and not always hit Tommy up for money, I mean, then everyone's happy."
While the scenario appeared the same, the difference this time was that Rose formed a closer bond of friendship with Janszen than anyone he had met in years. "1 think I was closer to Pete than anyone, including his own son," Janszen recalls. By November 1986, Janszen was a regular at Rose's house, visiting several times a week. Shortly after meeting Rose, Janszen introduced him to his fiancee, Danita Marcum, a striking blond bodybuilder. Danita and Carol hit it off immediately. Rose liked that--it meant that when Paul Janszen came to his house to watch sports, his wife had someone to talk to and would be less likely to bother him during the games.
One month into the football season, Rose's betting ways rubbed off on Janszen--he placed his first bets on football through Gioiosa. "We would be over at Pete's house, and Tommy would call in to Ron Peters, and he'd say, 'Pete wants this,' and then he'd say, 'The other guys want this.' The other guys were me and Tommy. Up until that time, I had never bet $1 on a baseball or football game." Janszen also began betting horse races that Rose, Janszen, and Gioiosa attended at Turf-way Park Racetrack several times a week, always sitting in Rose's private box. According to Janszen, at Turfway, Rose relied on his friends to place his bets at the track windows.
During that November, Janszen witnessed the extent of Rose's gambling fever. "Pete was betting $4,000 per game on football," Janszen recalls. "He was betting 20 to 30 college games on a Saturday. He could easily have more than a hundred grand riding on a single day. On pro football, he bet the early games, up to seven of those, and then three to four late games." There were few teams Rose did not bet on. Although the amount he bet was staggering, Janszen did not think it was out of line for a man he assumed was a millionaire. But Janszen was surprised at how often Rose bet. He was also surprised that Rose never changed the amount. Whether he won or lost on the early games, he bet the same amount on each evening game. According to Janszen, it seemed betting was more important to Rose than if he won or lost; winning was only good because it provided Rose with cash, allowing him to do more of what he loved most in the world.
During November 1986, Janszen also attended his first baseball card-signing show with Rose and Gioiosa. "And whenever we got to a baseball card show, they would have to put out a TV on the table so Pete could watch the games," Janszen remembers. At the first card show he met Mike Bertolini, then a five foot eight, 350-pound New Yorker who was sometimes Rose's representative for memorabilia and card shows. (Bertolini was subpoenaed in May 1989 to testify before a Cincinnati grand jury investigating possible tax evasion by Rose.)
At today's card shows, Rose's signature commands $12. The ballplayer keeps up to 90 percent and the remainder goes to the show's sponsor. Janszen remembers that "Pete was insistent about being paid cash. Bertolini would come up with a big bag filled with cash and hand it to Tommy, and Tommy would hand some of it to me, and we would count it. Pete cleared $8,000 to $12,000 a show. He was the fastest signer at the card shows. Pete could do 500 to 600 autographs an hour. He just thought of each one as more cash money, and for him , it was all business."
According to Janszen, during the early card shows he also discovered Rose sometimes double-bet football games through Bertolini. The rationale was easy. Either Bertolini's betting source had a different point spread or rules about paying debts, or Rose liked to spread his liability over several bookies.
Within a month, Janszen started to realize that the real Pete Rose was different from his baseball-legend image. "I'm finding out very quickly that the only things that Pete cares about--I mean, he never talks about his kids. The only thing he really cares about is getting in that living room and getting that TV on, making sure his cars are polished so that they sparkle, and, of course, betting."
Also during the late fall of '86, Janszen discovered that Rose could not always cover his large betting losses. Just as Fry had loaned Rose money to fuel his highstakes gambling, Janszen learned that Gioiosa was loaning Rose money. According to Janszen, Rose almost always lost, and Gioiosa gave his friend thousands at a time. While Rose eventually repaid the money, Gioiosa was afraid that one time Rose's losses would be so great that he would not return the money. That's when Gioiosa developed a scheme that brought Janszen deeper into the web of Rose's betting addiction: "And so Tommy starts talking to me about how when Pete comes to him to borrow money, that Tommy's going to loan Pete the money--but he's going to tell Pete it's my money: 'Paul's money.' That way he feels Pete won't hold back on repaying for several weeks if he thinks the money belongs to me. That way Tommy could go to Pete and say, 'Paul's getting upset,' and then Tommy's not the guy who's whining--he's doing it for me. And if Pete ever gets upset, he's upset with me, and Tommy's friendship with him would be intact."
But making Janszen the fictional middleman established in Rose's mind that Janszen had access to sizable amounts of cash. Over breakfast at Perkins restaurant, Rose would meet the bodybuilders and hand Janszen stacks of $100 bills. Upon leaving the restaurant, Janszen gave the money to Gioiosa. Rose never knew of the deception, and continued to move closer to Janszen.
Rose asked Janszen to accompany him to card shows in New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. It was during these trips that Rose, who, according to Janszen, talked about sports "99 percent of the time," turned to another subject that caught Janszen totally by surprise-- -drug dealing. Janszen remembers the events clearly. "Drug dealing, cocaine dealing. When we would sit down at the shows--this was amazing, Tommy, me, and Pete--discussions would come up: 'Oh, man, Paulie, it sounds like there's a lot of money to be made in this cocaine business. You know, Tommy tells me about all the money Stenger made.' It's like Pete is looking at me, this real muscle-bound guy like Don Stenger, and figuring I could be a big coke dealer like Don. And who knows what Tommy's been telling him I do." Sometimes Danita Marcum would overhear a conversation where Rose mentioned cocaine. Later, when she confronted Janszen, he dismissed it as "crazy" talk by Rose.
Since Janszen never encouraged Rose, the ballplayer apparently pushed the issue. During December 1986, Rose invited both Janszen and Danita to accompany him, his wife, and Gioiosa, to a Brooklyn autograph show. Bertolini met the group with two limousines at the airport in New York. Rose asked Gioiosa and Janszen to ride in the second limousine with Bertolini, and he took the women into the front car. Stepping into the first car with Rose, Danita remembers that Carol asked her husband where Paul had gone, and Rose replied, "He's taking care of business for me."
When Janszen got in the second car, he noted another man, introduced only as "Tom," already inside. A few minutes after leaving the airport, Tom grabbed a brown paper bag and pulled out a large block of cocaine. He leaned over and put it on the lap of a stunned Paul Janszen. Gioiosa eagerly asked if the cocaine was good quality. Janszen told Tom that if he didn't put away the cocaine, he would hold him out the limo and roll the window up on his neck. Bertolini and Gioiosa tried to calm Janszen. When they reached the card show, Janszen stayed as far away from Tom as possible. Yet he was amazed to see Tom wander the card-display aisles, cavalierly dangling the bag of cocaine from his hand. "Bertolini was called over, and we told him to get rid of Tom."
After the card show, while Danita and Carol were still shopping, Bertolini brought a limo for Rose, Gioiosa, and Janszen. He entered the car with them, and inside was the stranger called Tom. Janszen remembers the scene clearly: "'What the fuck do you guys want?' Tom asked. He told us that the people he had taken the cocaine back to were real pissed." Rose, Janszen, and Gioiosa remained silent. Finally, Bertolini changed the subject to a credit-card scam that Tom was involved with. Then the discussion changed again to a friend who ran a stolen-car ring. Janszen remembers, "I'm thinking, 'Oh, man,' and I looked at Tommy."
But any doubts that might have been raised by the Brooklyn card show were forgotten by the holidays, when Janszen and Danita spent Christmas Eve with the Roses, their family, and Gioiosa. Janszen met Rose's brother Dave, his mother, and Rose's son, Pete junior. At a later date, he met Rose's daughter, Fawn. That first family reunion confirmed many of the public reports about Rose's strained relations with his family, from his calling his daughter "too fat" to his chiding his son as a "sissy" for any show of affection. Janszen remembers, "Hell, I never even heard him say to Carol that he loved her. The most affection he showed her was to smack her ass or grab her boob and say, 'Now, Paulie, you've got to get Danita a boob job. Now look, these are real tits.' That was Pete. He just didn't care about the people right around him."
But Janszen was still enamored with Rose's stature as a baseball superstar and ignored the warning signs coming from the ex-ballplayer's behavior. In January, Janszen was present at an important betting night at Turfway Park, together with Rose and Gioiosa. It was an evening when the jackpot for the Pick Six ticket (the bettor wins if he picks the first-place finishers in six races) had reached more than $150,000. Rose played a ticket in excess of $2,000 and gave one-quarter to Janszen; Janszen then split his share with Gioiosa. The ticket won, but several other bettors also held the winning combination, and as a result, Rose won $47,646. Janszen remembers what happened next: "And Pete immediately--no questions, no thoughts about it---he just turned around, handed the ticket to Tommy, and said, 'Here , Tommy, you could use a good write-off. Why should I pay the fucking I.R.S.?'" Gioiosa claimed the winning ticket as his own, thereby shielding the income Rose would have to otherwise report.
But despite Gioiosa's continuing help, the ex-ballplayer began distancing himself from his longtime friend and drew closer to Janszen. Rose had noticed a change in Gioiosa, aggressive and antagonistic behavior. Janszen claims that Gioiosa's transformation was the result of steroids, which he had started using during 1986. This was one reason Janszen was pleased to get a respite from Gioiosa when Rose invited him and Danita to Florida for spring training. In the third week of February, they accepted Rose's invitation and left to spend six weeks at his Tampa rental house.
Janszen and Danita settled comfortably into the Roses' home. Within several days Rose lost his "celebrity" status for Janszen, and the bodybuilder felt more comfortable than at any previous time. They became constant companions, Rose taking Janszen to the ballpark and introducing him to the Reds' staff and ballplayers as "Paulie, my buddy from Cincinnati." Janszen became a club-house regular. While Janszen was relaxing into the Florida lifestyle, Gioiosa called Rose at the clubhouse several times a day from Cincinnati. Pete refused to take the calls. At the time, Janszen assumed it was because Rose had tired of Gioiosa. Later, both Gioiosa and the bookie, Ron Peters, informed him it was because Rose had left for spring training while still owing Peters $34,000. Peters was pressuring Gioiosa, who in turn was trying to get money from Rose to satisfy the bookie. Finally, Gioiosa reached Rose, who told him to go to his attorney. In mid-March 1987, Tommy Gioiosa was given a $34,000 cashier's check that Gioiosa endorsed for cash. Unknown to Rose or Janszen at the time, Gioiosa took $17,000 to Peters and told him, "Pete said 'Fuck you for the rest. He can't come up with any more.'" According to Janszen, Gioiosa pocketed the remainder of Rose's $17,000.
While Gioiosa was busy distributing Rose's money in Cincinnati, Janszen was discovering more about Rose's memorabilia sales for cash. Rose confided that he had sold his famous jewel-encrusted Hickock Belt, given to him as Sports Player of the Year, to a baseball collector named Dennis Walker. Walker later turned up dead in a Las Vegas hotel, his body badly decomposed. According to Janszen, Rose said Walker paid him $20,000 cash for the belt and bought a lot of other memorabilia. Janszen remembers that Walker also supposedly gave Rose a bank certificate drawn on an offshore South Pacific bank, so it would not be traced as income to Rose. A twist to the Walker story is that much of the baseball memorabilia collected by him over the years, including the Rose items, disappeared after Walker's death. In the summer of 1987, Rose sent Janszen to New York in an aborted attempt to retrieve part of the collection. In 1988, the syndicated television series "Unsolved Mysteries" contacted Janszen to see if Rose would do an interview on the missing memorabilia. Janszen remembers Rose's response: "Hell, I don't want to do that show, Paul. They'll start digging and find out I got paid cash for some of that stuff. That'll bring the IRS on me."
Although Janszen was seeing many new sides to Rose's character, one trait stayed constant during the six weeks in Florida--his love of gambling. While at the horse races at Tampa Bay Downs, Janszen met two of Rose's friends, a jovial, heavyset man near 60 years of age, Howard Bernstein, and his young nephew (mid-thirties) Steve Chevashore. According to Janszen, Rose described the quiet, slightly nervous Chevashore as "one of the guys that would hang out at the track and cash your ticket for you so he could work something out with his own taxes at the end of the year, and it would help the big winners save some money." Within days of their meeting, Rose asked Janszen to place bets through Chevashore, with the understanding that Chevashore was only a middleman and was placing the bets with a bookie, known only as "Val." According to Janszen, Chevashore swore he made no money by helping Rose, did it only as a favor, and was reluctant even to help. Nevertheless, Janszen began placing $2,000-per-game bets for Rose on college and pro basketball. Chevashore's bookie required payment of any losses each Monday. By the first Monday, Rose had already lost $7,000 and refused to pay.
"Rose said, 'Aw shit, Paul, I only owe the bookie seven grand, you know,'" Janszen recalls. "Just carry it over to next week. Big deal, it's not... what's $7,000?'" But Janszen was beginning to realize that to cash-strapped Rose, $7,000 could be a lot of money. But Rose charmed Chevashore and continued betting, although he missed the first several payment dates. He occasionally paid Chevashore some money, and then fell behind again. "He doesn't like paying people money he owes them, even though he is the first in line if someone owes him," Janszen recalls. On the last day of spring training, Janszen took a check to Chevashore, which erased part of Rose's debt. But the late payments didn't worry Janszen then. "Now I know that should have been a warning sign to me that something was not right."
Upon returning to Cincinnati, Rose and Janszen kept open their newfound Florida connection. Rose wanted no contact with Gioiosa, his old betting middleman. On April 7, Rose again started betting with Chevashore, and this time he bet baseball in earnest. Janszen, who knew that Rose had bet on the baseball playoff games the previous autumn, was not surprised that the manager bet most on the teams in his own sport, including the Reds. "He would only bet on them, never against them," Janszen recalls. "Sometimes when Pete didn't like the way Mario Soto was pitching, then Pete would rather not bet. But aside from Soto, he had his money on them. Pete said betting on the Reds made it more interesting."
At the time, Janszen did not see anything wrong with Rose betting on the Reds. Once, in early May 1987, when a friend of Janszen's, Jimmy Procter, was in his car and overheard Rose place his day's bets over the car's speaker phone, Procter exclaimed to Janszen, "He's bet on the Reds?" Janszen didn't even think twice before answering, "But never against them." Now, through discussions with federal prosecutors and the baseball commissioner's office, Janszen clearly sees the potential for wrongdoing when a manager bets on his own team. The possibility exists that decisions won't be made in the team's best interests, but rather because of the money riding on the game. If a manager bets on a game, he may bring a player off injured reserves sooner than he should in order to win, or he may pitch a reliever without enough rest, not caring that he won't be able to pitch for several extra days. If a betting manager gets in large debt to bookies, he can clear his account by merely revealing inside information about the team. The opportunity for corruption is greatly increased. This is not to suggest that Rose compromised the Reds in any way. The chance that such impropriety could result is the reason for such a strict taboo on betting baseball. Janszen now understands that risk. At the time, however, it did not strike him as outrageous that Rose bet on the Reds.
The betting pattern was simple to follow. When Rose was in Cincinnati, 15 to 20 minutes before Rose took the field each day, Janszen telephoned him, got his picks, and then called the bets to Florida. Sometimes Danita called Rose if Janszen was busy. The girls at the Reds' switchboard recognized both voices and knew they had unrestricted access to Rose. During road trips, Rose called Janszen's house between 6:30 and 7:00 PM. and gave either Janszen or Danita his daily picks. On basketball teams and an occasional hockey game, Rose's bet was always $2,000. Sometimes he picked all the underdogs for a day, or all the home teams. His mood determined how he bet, but it never changed the fact that he did bet almost every day. After several weeks, Janszen suggested that Rose disguise his conversations so it wouldn't be clear on the telephone that he was betting. At first he abbreviated the team names, referring only to starting pitchers. But Danita was afraid she might mix up the bets, and as a result, Rose developed a system whereby a number corresponded to a certain team, and he started placing his bets by selecting one number versus another. According to Janszen, Rose scrupulously maintained a written journal listing all his bets, their outcome, and a running total of his losses.
From the start of his renewed betting with Chevashore, Rose lost, and again missed his first Monday payment. Janszen says that Rose also began double betting baseball games through New York bookies, using Mike Bertolini as a middleman. Bertolini had moved from New York in early 1987 to an apartment adjoining Riverfront Stadium. His booming business with Rose and other Reds' players in memorabilia and card shows had prompted the move. Now, according to Janszen, Rose used him to place more bets: "Pete was continuing to double bet, and the more we went through April and May, the more nervous Mike got, because he just was not getting any money from Pete at all. So basically, I think sometime around May, the New York bookies cut him off. Mikey told me it was up to $500,000. He said he paid $100,000 of his own money just to back 'em off. And they were even threatening to come down and hurt Pete, and Mike said, 'You know what's funny about Pete? You go to Pete to get money that he owes you, and he makes you feel like you're trying to borrow money from him.'"
But by the time Bertolini told Janszen how deeply Rose was in debt to New York bookies, it was too late to save Janszen from falling into his own trap of loaning Rose money to cover his gambling losses. Janszen remembers the first time Rose asked him directly for money: "We were about two or three weeks behind with Stevie, and I said to Pete, 'What do you want to do?' And he said, 'Right now I can't. Make them carry me.' I said, 'They won't do that.' He said, 'Well, right now I'm a little tapped out. Can you just help me for a bit?'"
Janszen consented. He went to his safe-deposit box and sent approximately $10,000 in cash, via Federal Express, to Steve Chevashore. Janszen said it was "a good enough gesture" that the Florida betting connection remained open. Moreover, Chevashore dropped out as middleman, claiming that the payment had calmed the bookies so that they were willing to give out Val's telephone number and allow Janszen to call direct in the future.
As their betting accelerated, Rose took both Danita and Janszen on road trips to more than a half dozen cities, always ordering an extra suite under the ruse that his wife and infant child needed the extra room. When they traveled with the Roses, the betting procedure was easier. According to Janszen, he and Rose sat in the visiting-clubhouse's office, reviewed the games, and then Rose circled his choices in the newspaper. Then Janszen called Florida with the bets.
Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, the Riverfront scoreboard was out of order for 18 games from April 17 through May 28. Although auxiliary scoreboards showed the current game, the out-of-town scores were only occasionally flashed. Janszen adopted a new role. While sitting in Rose's box, slightly behind home plate, he made periodic pay-telephone calls to check scores, then returned to his seat and gave Rose signals showing the status on the day's bets. "Sometimes it would be just a simple thumbs-up or down to let him know how he was doing. Other times l would hold up four or five fingers with a thumbs-up or down and let him know exactly how many he had lost and won. We did not place bets through hand signals, as some press reports said. No way."
But while Janszen and Danita became regulars at Riverfront, Rose fell further into debt with Janszen. Through April, Janszen sent another three to four Federal Express envelopes filled with thousands of dollars. "1 kept telling Pete he was tapping me out. Then sometimes he'd give me $500 or $1,000, but that was it. When I pushed him, he'd say, 'Oh, Paulie, I'II take care of you. Don't worry. I'll get some stew for you.' [Rose often referred to money as 'stew.'] I never doubted him."
Danita was not so sure. By the end of April, she implored Janszen to stop loaning Rose money. " I had a friend who told me that Pete hated to pay off his debts," Danita recalls. "1 thought Paul was making a mistake." But Janszen disagreed. "1 remember what I would tell her, 'Pete Rose is the last person I'd ever have to worry about paying me.'"
By May 15, in just over five weeks, Janszen had sent $42,250 to the Florida bookies on Rose's behalf--his safe-deposit box was empty, his life savings almost completely depleted. He had even borrowed money from one of his brothers, as well as Danita's grandmother. At this point the Florida bookies informed Janszen that they were tired of the constant late payments, and unless the entire debt was settled the following Monday, they would not accept any further bets. Rose was in Montreal when Janszen finally reached him and told him of Val's ultimatum. Rose was unequivocal: "Pete said, Aw, fuck 'em, Paulie. They say the same damn thing all the time. That's how fucking bookies operate. They're all fucking connivers.'" Then Rose gave Janszen his picks for the night. Janszen tried to call them in to Val, who refused to accept them. That night Rose won six of his seven bets. The next day, when he discovered that his picks had not been accepted, he was furious. Janszen remembers the conversation: "He said, 'I've got a balance with them 'of what, $13,000' I said, 'Yeah, $13,970.' He said, 'Well, fuck, I would have won more than that last night and wouldn't owe 'em nothing now. If they're going to treat me like a baby, I ain't going to pay them.'"
Now Chevashore again entered the picture and called Janszen daily, asking for the outstanding money. Janszen changed his phone number. But Chevashore tracked down his parents and called again. As the pressure built, Rose returned to Cincinnati, and Danita and Janszen went to his house. While Janszen and Rose were in the den watching television, Carol came in and announced that Chevashore was on the phone. Janszen describes what happened next. "So Pete gets on the phone and he says, 'Hell, Stevie, I stopped betting with you guys when we left New York on the road trip. The last couple of weeks, I guess Paulie just kept betting and using my name. You know, he's a crazy guy, Stevie. I wouldn't fuck with him if I was you. I'd just let it go.' And they talked for another minute, and then that was it. Well, Pete gets off the phone and he's laughing, and he gives me a high five and says, 'I knew he wouldn't fuck with you, Paul. I knew he'd be scared of you. You can handle Stevie.' And I just said, 'Oh, hell, yeah, I can handle him, Pete. Don't worry about it.'"
Later Carol told Danita that Paul should take care of his bets so bookies wouldn't bother her husband. Yet even the fact that Rose was in debt to him for nearly $50,000--and was lying about him to bookies--did not affect Janszen's tie to the ex-ballplayer. He was still willing to be his friend. He still wanted Pete Rose to like and respect him. "1 still had no doubt at this time that I was going to get my money back. I was still Pete's buddy, we were still hanging out together, we were still close. I was his protector in a way. I was looking after him to cover his bets, and making sure when he did bet that he did it in a quiet way. I was looking after him when he would go to the ballpark so that nobody would hound him. I was keeping Pete in check. I liked Pete thinking I was the Terminator, that I could take care of anything for him." But the friendship was also starting to wear on Janszen: "Sometimes when I got home late, I would say to Danita, 'What are we doing? What are we becoming?'" But Janszen shoved aside any doubts and plunged ahead with his Rose friendship.
Meanwhile, Rose trusted only Janszen to handle his betting and became more dependent on the bodybuilder. The New York and Florida bookies refused to take Rose's bets. He did not want to deal with Gioiosa. By late May, Rose suggested Janszen call Ron Peter s directly in Franklin, Ohio, thereby bypassing Gioiosa. Janszen and Peters met at Peters's pub-bar in late May 1987. Peters was happy to have Rose's business again, the only wrinkle being the outstanding $17,000 Rose owed from his previous betting spree. It was the first indication to Janszen that Gioiosa had not paid the entire $34,000 that Rose's attorney had given him in the spring. Janszen told Peters that he was present in Florida when Rose approved a $34,000 payment, and Peters agreed that if Rose had proof that he had tried to satisfy his earlier debt, then he would accept Rose's new bets.
When Janszen told Rose of Gioiosa's trickery, Rose was furious. Janszen remembers his reaction: "Why, I can't believe that son of a bitch that I brought back from Boston, almost raised as my own kid, would do this to me." Rose obtained a copy of the check and provided it to Peters. Peters was satisfied, and Rose had a new bookie.
When Janszen confronted Gioiosa about the missing funds, he received a quick answer: "Tommy said, 'Listen, Paul, I've been running these bets for Pete for two years, and I've got bookies calling me up a hundred times a week, bothering me, and making me feel sick to my stomach. I'm always driving up to Franklin, going out of my mind with Pete always being out of money, and I'm loaning him money. I think he owes me that. That's the money for my aggravation.' "According to Janszen, Gioiosa also claimed he had signed balls and bats with Pete's name, and they were sold as authentic Rose memorabilia. Rose supposedly promised him $2 per signature. Later Janszen told Rose about Gioiosa's rationale, but Rose did not want to pursue the missing money. He just wanted to cut Gioiosa from his life, and this he did successfully. By year's end in 1987, Gioiosa sold his Cincinnati house and moved to California.
Meanwhile, Janszen and Rose remained close friends, with Janszen becoming an almost permanent fixture in the Reds' clubhouse. Danita also became better friends with Carol Rose. From evening dinners to road trips and holiday celebrations like the Fourth of July, the Roses, Janszen, and Danita spent ever-increasing time together. Meanwhile, Rose, who was betting four to eight baseball games a night, started to do something unprecedented with his bets with Peters--he began winning. Rose won $22,000 the first week, and Janszen was ahead by $3,000. Peters paid Janszen in cash at the end of the first week, and Janszen gave $22,000 to Rose, who placed it in a thick roll near his kitchen cabinet. He never offered any money to Janszen to offset the $42,250 debt. "I still didn't question anything," Janszen recalls. "Hey, we were still buddies, we were still traveling together. And why would I feel he wouldn't pay me back?"
By the third week, Peters informed Janszen that he was unable to pay Rose his winnings, using the excuse that he was cash-short. Initially, Rose wasn't concerned when he heard of the delay, convinced that Peters was good for the money. From the third week of betting until the July 14 All-Star break, Rose and Janszen continued to win. By the mid-summer baseball classic, Peters owed them $54,800, and Rose was owed $48,000 of that amount.
By this time, Rose was anxious about the money and asked Janszen about it constantly. Rose made the All-Star bet his last with Janszen and Peters, telling the bodybuilder, "I'm going to continue to bet until I've lost it all back to the guy."
Janszen claims that while Rose subsequently bet both football and baseball through another betting operation, he doesn't know who acted as Rose's new middleman. Janszen was no longer Rose's betting connection. And although he did not recognize it at the time, he now believes that Rose felt he was even with Janszen as far as any debt was concerned. Janszen explains: "Hell, for Pete, he owed me $42,250, and Peters owed him around the same amount, so Pete felt I should collect my money from Peters. It wasn't like the Peters money was cash money he was missing, since if he got it, he would have to turn it over to me. That's how Pete saw it.
Janszen called Peters "up to 30 times a week" trying to get the money for himself and Rose. "I never considered that if Peters didn't pay us, Pete would stiff me. I mean, Pete Rose makes a million dollars a year, and that money was my life savings." Janszen and Danita continued spending a lot of time with the Roses throughout 1987. On trips to card shows, Rose occasionally paid Janszen $500 or $1,000 to work the shows. During one road trip, Rose called Janszen in Cincinnati and asked him to pay for a refrigerator being delivered to his house. Janszen paid $2,000 for a Sub-Zero refrigerator, and when Rose returned, the ex-ballplayer told him, "Hey, Paulie, just add it to the bill." Janszen remembers, "All during '87, I would see stacks of cash lying around Pete's house, and do you think he'd ever say, 'Hey, Paulie here's $5,000, take it off the bill'? Never. Never."
By late summer 1987, though aggravated by Rose's failure to repay any money, Janszen still felt loyal to the ex-ballplayer. Janszen and Danita were still regulars at Rose's house at least five times a week, so he did not force the issue with Rose. Instead, Janszen formed his own baseball-memorabilia company, Premier Sports. Rose began signing balls and bats, and Janszen started selling them at shows. "1 was getting nervous that I might not see the money, and I figured I better get something while I knew Pete. This was the one way I knew." Rose even authorized Janszen to get Louisville slugger bats direct from the factory, as an agent for the former ballplayer.
But by the fall of '87, Janszen and Danita felt uneasy with the Roses. "I felt we were being taken advantage of--they never even thanked us once for everything we used to do for them or all the work around the house," Janszen recalls. "We just started to feel used." But on the surface, their relationship appeared the same. In addition to card shows, they went to horse races at Churchill Downs and once again spent the Christmas holidays at Rose's house.
Then suddenly, in February 1988, Carol Rose came between Janszen and her husband. Following a Cleveland card show, Carol said she was convinced that Janszen was covering for some of her husband's questionable activities. She put her foot down--since Janszen had lost her trust, Rose had to stay away from him. And Rose, uneasy about the money he owed Janszen, seemed pleased to use his wife as the excuse to distance himself. Janszen's visits to Rose's house virtually stopped.
The timing of Rose and Janszen's falling-out was critical, because in early March 1988, a tall muscular man and an attractive young woman knocked on Paul Janszen's door one early morning. They were Steve Barnett and Jayme Gentile, F.B.I. agents, and Janszen learned he was the target of a federal investigation stemming from his former dealings with Stenger, Fry, and Gioiosa. That afternoon, not knowing where to turn, he telephoned Pete Rose's lawyer, Reuven Katz, with whom he and Danita met. Janszen told Katz everything, from his earlier involvement in steroids to his middleman role on Stenger's cocaine deals to a general description of his betting work for Katz's client, including Rose's $42,250 debt. "I need at least $30,000 from Pete now," Janszen told Katz, assuming he needed money to retain a lawyer. At the end of Janszen's long monologue, Katz said, "Paul, I've got to ask you one thing. Did Pete bet baseball?" Janszen nodded yes. Katz said, "Dammit, it's over." (Katz states that Janszen's statements regarding him contain "substantial inaccuracies," but he "declined to participate in [Janszen's] article." The attorneys for Rose also declined to isolate any particular point that they considered substantially inaccurate. Most of the parties involved in questionable conduct were contacted either directly or through their attorneys and refused to comment on the representations made about them.)
According to Janszen, Katz promised that he would arrange for Rose to pay up to $30,000 and make it look "like a loan between friends." Katz left for spring training to try to settle the dispute between the former friends. Meanwhile, Janszen retained Merlyn Shiverdecker, an ex-prosecutor and prominent Cincinnati defense counsel.
In March, Janszen met with the F.B.I. agents, who questioned him about Rose. He bluntly told them everything was up for discussion "except No. 14 [Rose's old playing number]--even if I knew anything, I wouldn't tell you." The next day, Katz called from Florida and told him to go to Rose's accountant's office, where a check was waiting. He proceeded to pick up a check for $10,000 with the word loan scribbled in ink in the lower-left corner. There was no promissory note or re-payment schedule or pledge of any collateral for a purported loan. Janszen felt abandoned. He expected at least $30,000. He called Katz and was informed that Rose felt he was even. There would be no more money. The next day Janszen again met with the F.B.I., and with I.R.S. Special Agent Leo Rolfes. He described his feelings: "I told my attorney, 'Pete's left me out in the cold. He couldn't care less what happens to me. He didn't even call after Reuven told him I had problems. I'm not going to lie for Pete anymore.'"
That was the point when Pete Rose's hidden life as an obsessive gambler began to unravel before federal authorities. The testimony Janszen provided during the subsequent months, and the cooperation he gave in the investigation of Ron Peters, resulted in a single charge against the bodybuilder. He eventually pleaded guilty to income-tax evasion on the sale of steroids and was sentenced to six months in a Cincinnati halfway house. (Janszen was freed on June 16, 1989.) Meanwhile, the baseball commissioner's office had commenced its own investigation, and a grand jury was convened.
It does not seem like a mere four years since Rose achieved that crowning moment of glory, breaking Cobb's record. It seems much longer. Maybe the dark clouds swirling around him have so damaged his reputation that fans can no longer just remember the clean image of Charlie Hustle.
"I've had a lot of time to think about it," says Janszen. "While I was in the halfway house, I thought a lot about what made Pete do something that could put him into such trouble with baseball. Maybe when he was playing, the excitement was enough for him . But now that he was managing--something he felt at times was like baby-sitting a bunch of overpaid, immature brats--it was like the game was passing him by. He needed something to fulfill this high feeling. I think betting did it. Betting had replaced baseball as his No. 1 love."
The way that Janszen will remember Rose is as he was during a 1987 trip they made together to Churchill Downs. "We were leaving Churchill in a private helicopter," Janszen recalls, "and Rose turned to Danita and me, and said, 'Paulie, what would there be in life without gambling? What would people do for fun?'"
Pete Rose discovered the answer to that question too late. If somebody had helped him with his gambling problem years earlier, he might still be on his way to the Hall of Fame in 1992. But now the image may be too tarnished, the good memories too distant. All that is left is the image of a defiant, fallen idol.
Copyright 1989 Gerald Posner