A former Montreal Expos groundskeeper has accused Pete Rose of using corked bats in his lone season with the team in 1984, adding that “Rose had been corking his bat for 20 years.”
Joe Jammer, in an interview with the Montreal Gazette, said MLB’s hits king would regularly get his bats corked in the visitors’ clubhouse.
“Pete was too smart to deal with Expos equipment manager John Silverman (to cork his bats in the Expos’ clubhouse)” Jammer told the Gazette. “So Bryan Greenberg, who worked in the visitors’ clubhouse, did it. He took me into a room, a door to the left, and underneath tarps there was this machine.”
Jammer recalled asking Greenberg what the machine was for, with the latter saying it was meant for “corking Pete Rose’s bats.”
“(Greenberg) was saying Rose had been corking his bat for 20 years,” Jammer said. “The guy said that nobody checks him because he’s a singles hitter.”
Another anonymous source corroborated Jammer’s claims:
“Yeah, Bryan Greenberg did it for (Rose),” the source said. “He only did it a few times a year. I didn’t know it was in the visitors’ clubhouse. I thought it was on (Greenberg’s) lathe in his garage.”
Greenberg declined comment to the Gazette in regard to Jammer’s allegations, saying, “I really can’t talk about it.”
Corking a bat, of course, is illegal per league rules. From MLB Rule 6.03 (a)(5):
(a) A batter is out for illegal action when:
(5) He uses or attempts to use a bat that, in the umpire’s judgment, has been altered or tampered with in such a way to improve the distance factor or cause an unusual reaction on the baseball. This includes bats that are filled, flat-surfaced, nailed, hollowed, grooved or covered with a substance such as paraffin, wax, etc.
Perceived advantages of corked bats are quicker swings, better timing and further hit distance. Such allegations would certainly change the optics of Rose’s 4,256 hits, if not remove him as MLB’s official hits leader. Rose compiled that career number over 24 seasons (he played 95 games for Montreal in 1984, his 21st MLB season).
That said, It’s unlikely MLB will conduct any investigation into Jammer’s claims, which come 36 years after the fact. In that sense, Rose — who was banned from baseball for life in 1989 by then-commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti for betting on games as a player and manager — will likely retain MLB’s hits record.
Whether Jammer’s claims tarnish that mark — or further tarnish Rose’s reputation — remains to be seen.