Pete Rose Sues John Dowd, the Man Who Got Him Banned from Baseball

The gloves are off.
Left: Pete Rose in 2015. Right: John Dowd at a 1989 hearing about his investigation into Rose. (Photos via AP)

L: Pete Rose in 2015. R: John Dowd at a 1989 hearing about his investigation into Rose. | Photos via AP

We think it’s fair to say that Pete Rose isn’t a big fan of John Dowd. In addition to his work as a defense lawyer, where he represented an Army official in the Iran-Contra hearings and Sen. John McCain when he was accused of improprieties, Dowd was also the guy who investigated betting allegations against Rose in the 1980s, an investigation that led directly to Rose’s lifetime ban from Major League Baseball in 1989. Twenty-seven years later, the former Phillies great is taking Dowd to court.

Rose’s lawsuit, filed on Wednesday morning in Philadelphia’s federal courthouse, focuses not on that investigation, but on comments that Dowd made on the radio in 2015. Why on earth would Dowd be talking about Rose nearly three decades after his investigation had concluded? Good question.

Rose tried unsuccessfully in 2015 to get the Major League Baseball commissioner to reconsider Rose’s punishment and allow him back into the fold, and Dowd popped up to oppose Rose’s reinstatement. There’s even a website, The Dowd Report, which purports to be from Dowd and publishes all of those investigative documents from the 1980s for all the world to see.

With Rose’s banishment back in the news in the summer of last year, Dowd took to the airwaves to oppose Rose’s application for reinstatement. According to the lawsuit, Dowd went on at least three radio shows in June and July of 2015 and alluded to a man named Michael Bertolini who allegedly told Dowd that he “ran young girls” for Rose in Florida when Rose was there for spring training. Dowd said the girls were 12 to 14 years old.

“Isn’t that lovely,” Dowd said on a Philadelphia-area AM broadcast, according to the suit. “So that’s statutory rape every time you do that.”

Naturally, Dowd’s comments were picked up by news outlets and blogs all over the country, and Rose quickly issued a categorical denial of the accusations. Bertolini also issued his own statement:

Mike categorically denies the allegation. He never did any such thing, nor did Pete Rose, nor did Mike say anything to Dowd about the subject. The story is libelous to him and Rose and should be retracted immediately.

According to the suit, the subject of the girls came up during a meeting that Rose and his lawyer had with Major League Baseball in September 2015, prior to the organization’s rejection of Rose’s application. The lawsuit also claims that Rose lost lucrative endorsement deals with Skechers and a pharmaceutical company after Dowd made his statements on the radio.

The suit accuses Dowd of defamation and seeks unspecified damages, including the lost wages from those nixed endorsement contracts.

Neither Dowd nor Rose’s attorney could immediately be reached for comment.

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