Deadspin reports that one of the bats Pete Rose used in his pursuit of Ty Cobb’s all-time hits record was corked, and others probably were, too. A sloppily painted “14” on the head of one of Rose’s black PR4192 bats concealed a rough patch of wood; an X-ray of the bat revealed a large drilled-out cavity. Partly thanks to Pete Rose’s willingness to sell anything he could to fund his gambling habit, the bat has a clear provenance and chain of custody, establishing that it was used in actual games and that the tampering happened before it left Rose’s possession.
The news is the latest blot on Rose’s all-time hit record, a feat of stat-padding that was only made possible in the first place by the Cincinnati Reds installing the washed-up hitter as their player-manager. In 1985 and 1986 , as he slowly overtook and passed Ty Cobb, Rose gave himself 642 at-bats as a first baseman—the only position where he could hide his immobility and lack of range—pushing more productive hitters such as Nick Esasky and the young Eric Davis out of position or onto the bench. With Rose supplying a grand total of 2 home runs from a slugger’s position, the Reds finished in second place both years.
Meanwhile, Rose was gambling on baseball, including on Reds games. He claimed he never bet against his own team; he also claimed he never corked his bat.
Though corking bats is illegal in baseball, whether it is an effective form of cheating is in dispute. According to some research , Rose’s decision to use a corked bat could have made him a worse hitter and even more of a drain on his team.