The Texas Program in Sports and Media


Kostya Kennedy--Pete Rose: An American Dilemma

April 16, 2014 at 2:00 p.m. in UTC 3.124

Kostya Kennedy is the New York Times bestselling author of 56: Joe DiMaggio and The Last Magic Number in Sports, winner of the 2011 Casey Award and runner-up for the 2012 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing.

Pete Rose is the ultimate enigma—to baseball fans, to historians and journalists, to ballplayers past and present and even to members of his own family. Now in Pete Rose: An American Dilemma, published to coincide with the 25th anniversary of Rose’s banishment from baseball, Kennedy has delivered the definitive work on baseball’s all-time hits leader.

Based on previously untilled material and extensive interviews, including those closest to Rose—his family, former teammates, as well as Rose himself–-this groundbreaking and evocative book considers Rose through the prism and context of today’s post-steroid era. Kennedy, an assistant managing editor at Sports Illustrated and runner-up for the 2012 PEN/ESPN award for Literary Sports Writing, reveals Rose in all his ambiguity: a man revered for his hustle and verve, with great potential and greatness achieved, but also a man with a fatal flaw that precipitated his exile, whose place in baseball’s firmament, and in Cooperstown, remains unsettled.

In fascinating detail Kennedy reveals the lone regret of John Dowd, who headed the investigation into Rose’s gambling that resulted in banishment. Dowd only wished he’d had the chance to spend time privately with Rose to offer what could have been a history-altering deal.  “I’ll always believe that I could have turned him around,” Dowd tells Kennedy. “That I could have made him see the error of his ways, and to see how to make it right . . . if he had done it, had owned up and accepted a punishment, well if you ask me, he could be managing the Cincinnati Reds still today.” 

While a softness has emerged in the eighth decade of his life, baseball’s “Hit King” remains both his jabbering, edgy self—still ardently hawking his signature—and a conundrum. Even now, as Kennedy writes, Rose “adores and reveres baseball…as he adores and reveres nothing else” yet while banned from the game for betting, he still gambles. He has tried to auction off the five-page Dowd report that banished him from the game and annually signs autographs in Cooperstown memorabilia shops, down the street from the Hall of Fame—the place where many, including almost all his former teammates, believe he belongs, while others strongly believe he does not.



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