The Dowd Report

Comments on the Dowd Report
by Sean Lahman

Sean Lahman is a Senior Editor with Total Sports and the co-editor of Total Baseball, the Official Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball. He founded the Baseball Archive and served as its Publisher from 1994 until mid-1999. He can be reached at

I Get Letters

Comic Al Franken wrote a short chapter in one of his books called “I Get Letters.” It's only half a page long, but it says a lot about the kind of society we are in today. Following an appearance on C-SPAN in which Franken mentioned that he was Jewish, he got an incredibly hate-filled letter from someone who assumed that since Franken was Jewish, he obviously was also a "fag," and that he enjoyed having homosexual sex with Barney Frank and Gerry Studds. The punchline, of course, is Al’s amazement that the writer could tell all of this about him from just one brief interview.

Because I have published source material from the Pete Rose case, folks assume that I hate Rose and am running a campaign to keep him out of the game. Nothing could be further from the truth. I grew up in Cincinnati and have been a lifelong Reds fan. I don’t think it’s possible to be that and not also be a huge fan of Pete Rose. I distinctly remember walking into the ballpark with my father, at the first game I’d ever attended and being thrilled at seeing Pete Rose standing on the field, right there in front of me. The thrills he provided in 1978 kept me up late every night, listening to the radio accounts of his 44 game hitting streak. I was crushed when he left the Reds as a free-agent, and overjoyed when he returned in 1984. His banishment in 1989 almost destroyed my interest in baseball. No one would be happier than me if Rose were reinstated.

But I get letters, full of hate and venom, accusing me of bias, ignorance, and all other sorts of things. Just because I've presented the facts. That's all I've tried to do here, in an attempt to help educate folks with an interest in the case. I'm not attempting to sway anybody's opinion, just present the relevant material and let them draw their own conclusions. Too many on both sides of the issue don't know the basic facts of the case; they just regurgitate the opinions of others. All I want to do is facilitate an open dialogue.

I respond to every single piece of mail I get on the subject, and I invite those who disagree with me to point out errors and omissions in our content. Consider this an open invitation for anyone else to do the same. I'd rather provide a balanced report and have everybody disagree with me than to have them on my side because of a slanted presentation.

My Personal Views

I've tried to keep my personal views out of the material posted here, but it's only fair that I disclose them. I think the evidence against Rose is convincing, and I'll tell you why. I grew up in Cincinnati as a Reds fan and a huge Pete Rose fan. I was a staunch Rose supporter in 1989, but the whole affair was ugly and unpleasant, and I didn't want to know think about it anymore. In 1992, I saw Pete Rose interviewed on Bob Costas's NBC show "Later." Costas seem convinced that the case against Rose was ironclad. Rose insisted it wasn't. I decided to see for myself. First I read James Reston's book on the case, then Mike Sokolove's, and then I actually read the Dowd Report. At the end of the process, I was convinced that the evidence showed that Rose bet on baseball. I wish that I wasn't, because Rose was one of my heroes. I still love the guy, personally. Nothing would make me happier than to make the case that would exonerate Pete. I just can't find that conclusion among the facts.

Rose's supporters are right when they say that it's easy to conclude he's guilty when we've only heard one side of the story. But it's been more than ten years, and Pete has never offered a response to the allegations, other than a simple denial. I'll publish anything that Rose or his representatives care to offer.

I'm not going to offer my comments on specific elements of the Dowd Report, except to echo one thing that I wrote in the Pete Rose FAQ. If folks have read one thing about the case, they've probably read the essay by Bill James in his "1990 Baseball Book." James's underlying view that the case is weak and Rose was treated unfairly is reasonable, though I don't necessarily agree. However, James made some factual errors in his essay, and I think he missed the big picture. I've said that publicly, and I've said that privately to Bill. I hope that with this release of the Dowd Report, folks can see for themselves.

Why This is Here

Lots of people are interested in the Pete Rose case, and that interest usually leads to the Dowd Report. It's not widely available, and I have gotten hundreds of requests from people looking for it. John Dowd, who led the investigation, has graciously agreed to let us reprint the report online.

The primary goal of the Baseball Archive has always been to present raw data, not opinions or commentary. Take this report and draw your own conclusions. That's why it's here.

Notes on the Report

What appears here is the 225 summary report, titled "Report to the Commissioner." It has been converted to HTML, and the footnotes have been moved to the end of each section. I made one notation within the text about an error in Section IV-A. The result of the error is an inaccurate descrption of the contents of one of the alleged betting slips. My comment notes that error, and provides a link to the picture of the betting slip so that readers can see for themselves. Otherwise, the report is presented here unaltered from its original form.

The report was accompanied by an eight volume appendix of supplementary materials. That material included transcripts from depositions, bank records, phone records, reports from various experts and analysts, and papers relating to the legal case between Rose and Major League Baseball. None of that material is included here, although a few items from those appendices are available at the Baseball Archive website ( We hope to make more of the content of these eight volumes available on CD-ROM in the year 2000.