IRS claims Rose owes almost a million

Updated: August 20, 2004, 9:56 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

PLANTATION, Fla. -- Pete Rose owes almost $1 million in back federal taxes, but he is making monthly payments on the debt, his representative said Friday.

The Internal Revenue Service filed a federal tax lien in Broward County on Tuesday alleging that baseball's career hits leader owes $973,693.28 in back taxes from 1997 to 2002.

Pete Rose
Pete Rose

Ross Tannenbaum, president of Dreams Inc., the marketing firm that has handled Rose's business affairs since 2000, said Friday that the lien is against a home Rose owns in California. He said the filing is not an indication that the former Cincinnati Reds star and manager is in danger of returning to prison over his taxes.

Rose, 63, served a five-month sentence in 1990 and 1991 for filing false tax returns by not declaring income he received from signing autographs, memorabilia sales and gambling.

"The IRS is simply protecting its interests" in case Rose should default in the future, Tannenbaum said in an interview at his suburban Fort Lauderdale office.

He said Rose's current income is not being attached by the government nor is Rose under any criminal investigation. Tannenbaum said the income tax returns Rose filed between 1997 and 2002 were accurate and complete, but he fell behind on his payments.

"This happens to [many] Americans; it's just news when it happens to Pete Rose," Tannenbaum said. He said Rose has paid his taxes in full since 2002 and that he is up to date with payments on his prior debt. "I know Mr. Rose makes his payments because we take them over [to the IRS] every month."

He would not say how much the payments are, nor does he believe the debt is related to gambling losses. He said Rose was traveling Friday and was unavailable for comment.

IRS revenue officer Helen Skinner, who signed the lien notice, said Friday she could not comment. She referred calls to spokeswoman Gloria Sutton, who did not return numerous calls.

Rose agreed to a lifetime ban from baseball in 1989 following an investigation that he bet on games. After 14 years of denial, he admitted in his recent book, "My Prison Without Bars," that he bet on games involving the Reds while managing the team in the late 1980s.

Rose has said he hopes to be reinstated by commissioner Bud Selig, become eligible for the Hall of Fame ballot and work in the major leagues again.

Major League Baseball spokesman Rich Levin said the commissioner's office would have no comment, though the New York Daily News cited an informed source who said MLB president and chief operating officer Bob DuPuy "will be looking into this."

Tannenbaum said baseball was informed years ago about the tax debt and that it should have no bearing on Rose's application for reinstatement, which was filled in 1997 but is still pending.

During a 24-year career that included stints with the Reds, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Montreal Expos, Rose had a record 4,256 hits before retiring in 1986.

A fan favorite who was nicknamed "Charlie Hustle" because of his style of play, Rose made the All-Star team 17 times, was the National League's rookie of the year in 1963, MVP in 1973 and MVP of the 1975 World Series. He led the league in hitting three times and played on three World Series champions.

In 1998, Rose owed $151,689 in taxes on a home he owned in Sherman Oaks, Calif. He paid off the debt in July 2003.

Despite speculation that Rose, 63, could be reinstated from his lifetime ban imposed by commissioner Bart Giamatti in 1989 as a result of his gambling, his Hall of Fame chances likely weren't helped by the manner in which he admitted that he did indeed bet on baseball while managing the Reds.

Rose book
Although Rose did tell current commissioner Bud Selig -- after years of denying it -- that he bet on baseball, his public admission, in which he claimed that he never bet against the Reds or made bets from the clubhouse, came out in a book published in January. At the time, many baseball insiders criticized the way he was profiting from his apology to the masses.

The book, "My Prison Without Bars," had a first-run printing of 500,000 copies. After a brisk first couple of weeks on store shelves and a spot on the New York Times bestsellers list, sales of the book have been disappointing. Copies of the book hit the discount sales rack, and the book, which retailed for $24.95 recently, has been discounted to $9.95 on Amazon.com.

If he were to be reinstated, Rose has one more chance to be voted into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Lifting of the ban after would make him eligible to be voted in by the Veterans Committee, a group of living Hall of Famers, many of whom have publicly stated that they would still not vote for Rose if they were given a chance.

Information from Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, and The Associated Press were used in this report.

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