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Phillies cancel Pete Rose celebration in wake of underage-sex allegations

The Phillies will destroy thousands of Pete Rose bobbleheads that were to be given away at the event. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

The Philadelphia Phillies announced Wednesday that they have canceled plans to honor Pete Rose later this month, citing unspecified “recent events.” In a court document made public Monday, an adult woman provided sworn testimony that Rose had sex with her when she was a minor in the mid-1970s.

Rose, who played for Philadelphia from 1979 to 1983 and helped the franchise win the first of its two World Series titles, was set to become a central figure in the Phillies’ alumni weekend events at Citizens Bank Park on Aug. 10-13. He was voted by fans to become the 39th member of the team’s Wall of Fame but will not be attending a ceremony honoring past inductees.

In addition, the team said it will not be distributing bobblehead figurines of Rose and that fans holding tickets to either the Friday or Saturday games that weekend could exchange them for future dates or receive refunds.

“While I am truly honored that the Phillies fans voted for me to be this year’s Wall of Fame inductee, I am concerned that other matters will overshadow the goodwill associated with alumni weekend,” Rose, 76, said in a statement issued by the team, “and I agree with the decision not to participate.”

The woman’s testimony was introduced in a Pennsylvania court as part of defense proceedings in a defamation lawsuit Rose filed last year against John Dowd, a former federal prosecutor whose report on Rose’s gambling had played a major role in the latter’s ban from baseball. In 2015, Dowd told a Pennsylvania radio station that, during Rose’s days with the Cincinnati Reds, an associate of the 17-time all-star had helped him meet girls of “ages 12 to 14,” with whom he committed “statutory rape.”

“Dowd’s statements are false and deeply offensive,” Martin Garbus, a lawyer for Rose said in July 2016 (via NJ.com). “Regardless of what John Dowd thinks of Pete Rose as a person, a ballplayer or even a gambler, none of that justifies Dowd’s ugly accusations of pedophilia.”

The woman, identified in the court filing as Jane Doe, said that Rose had contacted her in 1973, when she was 14 or 15 and a resident of Cincinnati, and that they had a sexual relationship for several years. Rose contends that they began having sex in 1975, when she was 16, meeting Ohio’s age of consent, and he was a 34-year-old married father of two.

“It’s terrible, the woman lied,” Garbus told ESPN. “I think it’s outrageous he [Rose] is being punished in the media by a false statement issued by Dowd, who previously libeled him.”

Dowd, who is now helping President Trump with the Russia investigation, compiled a 1989 report on Rose’s gambling habits at the request of then-MLB commissioner Peter Ueberroth, who soon stepped down and was replaced by Bart Giamatti. Armed with evidence that Rose had been betting on baseball, including on the Reds, whom he was managing at the time, Giamatti issued MLB’s all-time hits leader a lifetime ban, and the Baseball Hall of Fame subsequently decided to keep him off its ballots as long as the ban was in place.

Since 2015, Rose has been working as a baseball analyst for Fox Sports, receiving praise for his humor and candor. Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch reported Wednesday that Fox Sports had declined to comment on the underage-sex claims, and that the network was undecided on Rose’s next appearance.

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