Local radio station at heart of Peter Rose lawsuit

WEST CHESTER >> A little Chester County radio station has found its way into a big national sports story involving a Philadelphia icon — the disgraced baseball player and manager Peter Edward Rose.

On Monday, testimony about a woman’s sexual relationship with Rose was entered into court records as part of ongoing litigation between Rose, Major League Baseball’s all-time hits leader and a former Philadelphia Phillie on the verge of being honored on the team’s Wall of Fame later this month, and a lawyer he claims defamed him.

Attorney John Dowd, dragged “Pete’s name through the mud” in 2015, Rose’s lawyer contends, by saying on a radio program on WCHE-AM, broadcasting from West Chester, that Rose had raped girls age 12 to 14 during spring training. Rose, 76, has acknowledged having a relationship with the woman beginning when she was 16, the age of consent in Ohio.

WCHE broadcasts and streams over the internet a variety of talk shows, and a mix of hits from the 1950s and 1960s, from dawn to dusk daily. Host Bill Werndl interviewed Dowd on his “Sports Chatter” program two years ago in July 2015, when the comments were made. Station owner Jay Shur said Tuesday that the comments came as “a last-minute thing” during the program, and that he did not even hear them. “Bill came down and told me what he said afterwards,” Shur said. “I didn’t even hear it originally.”

Advertisement

Shur said the station had been getting inquires about the matter this week, and had previously turned over a tape of the show to Rose’s attorneys.

Werndl, a veteran radio and television sports commentator, said Tuesday that he had booked Dowd to be on his WCHE show in 2015 to discuss Rose’s appearance at that year’s All Star Game in Cincinnati, Ohio, Rose’s hometown, and where he spent his final days in uniform as a player-manager for the Reds.

“I wanted to get Dowd’s reaction,” since the attorney was the head of the investigation into Rose’s conduct that eventually saw his name placed on the Major League inactive list. “Not knowing he would drop a bombshell on the show.”

When Dowd made his remarks about Rose having sex with underage girls, “It was like somebody hit me in the stomach with a punch,” Werndl said. “I just couldn’t believe it. I was absolutely stunned.”

The host said he had since seen Rose at a charity dinner, but could not remember whether the subject of Dowd’s allegation came up. Werndl said he had not as of yet been subpoenaed to testify, and the station is not named in Rose’s complaint.

Testimony from the woman was presented by the defense as part of a federal lawsuit Rose filed last year in Philadelphia against a lawyer whose investigation led to Rose’s being kicked out of Major League Baseball for gambling.

Ray Genco, Rose’s lawyer, said the woman’s claims were unverified. “At this point, it’s just a big distraction,” Genco said.

Dowd, 76, is an experienced Washington lawyer who is on President Trump’s legal team in the Russia investigation.

Dowd investigated Rose in 1989 for gambling on the Cincinnati Reds while managing the team, a violation of baseball’s rules. Rose accepted a lifetime ban, and the Hall of Fame decided in 1991 that anyone on the permanently ineligible list could not appear on a Hall ballot.

Dowd said during the radio appearance that an associate of Rose’s, Michael Bertolini, told investigators he “ran young girls” to Rose during spring training, which Dowd called “statutory rape every time,” according to Rose’s lawsuit. Bertolini’s lawyers have denied that.

The woman, identified as Jane Doe in Monday’s filing, said that Rose called her in 1973, when she was 14 or 15, and that they began a sexual relationship in Cincinnati that lasted several years. She also alleges that Rose met her in locations outside Ohio for sex.

Rose acknowledged in a statement accompanying Monday’s filing that he had a relationship with the woman but said it started when she was 16. He also states they never had sex outside Ohio.

At the time, Rose was in his mid-30s and was married with two children.

Dowd’s lawyer David Tobin said he could not comment on the latest filing.

Rose, who lives in Las Vegas, had applied for reinstatement to the game in 2015. Not long after, Dowd was asked on WCHE-AM whether he found Rose to be a likable person.

“Michael Bertolini, you know, told us that he not only ran bets but he ran young girls for him down at spring training, ages 12 to 14,” Dowd responded. “Isn’t that lovely? So that’s statutory rape every time you do that.”

Genco said Rose knew what he was getting into when he filed the defamation lawsuit.

“He decided to take a stand against these heinous allegations,” he said. “We filed a winning case, and it’s going to remain like that.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.