Baseball is a sport that never ceases to entertain viewers and fans. The game itself is a classic and enjoyable experience for people of all ages. However, the game is not always as innocent as it seems. For decades, Major League Baseball (MLB) players have been engaging in a little bit of gambling from time to time, either on or off the field. Although many professional athletes have used their sports fame to fleece and cheat the trusting public, there have been many instances where players have gotten in trouble for their involvement in illegal activity. Here are some of the most famous cases of MLB players getting in trouble for betting and what happened to them.
Babe Ruth was one of the most successful and popular baseball players of all time. Besides being famous for his batting average of over.300, his mastery of the home run, and his lifetime.913 fielding percentage, Ruth made a lifelong name for himself with the New York Yankees. He is also responsible for popularizing the first-pitch strike, which he coined as a means of preventing excessive no-hitters. However, for all his on-field prowess, Ruth was actually a pretty shady character off the field as well. It has been alleged that he would often bet on baseball games, especially when the underdogs were being paid. Because of this, Ruth became well acquainted with the American criminal justice system. In 1921, the Milwaukee Brewers complained to the baseball commissioner about Ruth’s wagering activities. A few days later, Ruth was named in a grand jury indictment for having allegedly operated a betting parlor in his home during the 1918 and 1919 seasons. There is no mention of him denying or admitting guilt, so we may never know for certain what happened with this case. However, it was never substantiated that Ruth ran a numbers operation or that he was guilty of anything. In any event, Ruth was not charged, and the case was ultimately dropped when he agreed to testify against his alleged accomplices. It is quite possible that Ruth was just being a good citizen and wanted to bring down the people around him who were involved in crime. In the end, Ruth never actually admitted to being a gambler. Instead, he said he was just “a guy who liked to bet on baseball.”
Another memorable and popular baseball player who is mostly remembered for hitting a lot of home runs was Joe Dimaggio. He had a very distinctive uniform and game played, which helped make him famous. However, behind the scenes, Dimaggio was also a fairly notorious gambler. While playing for the New York Yankees in the 1930s, Dimaggio would often bet on baseball games. During one infamous incident, he allegedly staked a man named Al Weiner on a World Series game. When the bet didn’t pay off, Dimaggio felt so bad about it that he gave him his jersey for good. According to Weiner, Dimaggio offered to pay him the $6,000 he lost if he kept quiet about the incident. Dimaggio was also known to tip off gamblers in exchange for reduced gambling charges. When asked about the allegations, Dimaggio repeatedly denied them and said that he was framed by the Yankees. After his career ended, Dimaggio moved to Florida and was involved in the horse racing industry for the rest of his life. He died in 1996 and was buried in an unmarked grave at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.
Finally, we arrive at the most famous and controversial case of all time, that of Pete Rose. Not only was Rose one of the best hitters in baseball history, he was also a genuinely nice guy who never hurt anyone on or off the field. However, Rose had a dark side as well, which came to light in the 1980s when he was investigated and eventually banned for life from baseball for betting on games. This ban stands to this day. The fact that he is banned may mean that Rose was guilty as charged, but without any real evidence, it is all but impossible to prove. What we do know is that in his later years, Rose was a frequent and prolific user of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. Whether or not he used these substances while playing is a matter of speculation, but it is quite certain that his on-field achievements were in part due to them. In any event, it is safe to say that Rose never admitted to, nor did he deny, the allegations against him. In fact, he has repeatedly said that he is not guilty of any crime. He was just a nice guy who liked to bet on baseball, and that was enough for the baseball commissioner at the time, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, to ban him from the game.
As we can see, baseball players have been implicated in a wide array of illegal activities over the years. However, not all of these allegations stand up to scrutiny. Many of the cases were simply a way for prosecutors to make headlines and create a splash. Still, it is safe to say that many of the most iconic baseball players of all time were quite probably involved in some sort of illegal activity, whether it was on or off the field. It is quite possible that these players simply felt that gambling was a part of life in the big leagues and that they did their part to keep things interesting for audiences and themselves. It is quite another thing to bet on baseball, but as long as it is legal and done in an honorable manner, who cares right? Anyway, it is a fascinating subject, and it is quite possible that some day someone will unearth definitive proof of some or all of these allegations. For now, we will have to live with the speculation and the intrigue. It is always a fun conversation piece when someone brings up baseball and lets everyone indulge in a little bit of gossip.