ESPN’s documentary series Backstory with Don Van Natta, Jr. continues with a look at the scandals and punishments of Major League Baseball’s Joe Jackson and Pete Rose. “Banned for Life” will air on ESPN on Sunday, January 19 with re-airings scheduled throughout the week.

What’s happening:

  • The next entry into the ESPN documentary series Backstory will examine the legacy of Major League Baseball’s punishments of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Pete Rose.
  • Hosted by Pulitzer Prize winner Don Van Natta, Jr, Backstory takes viewers on a personal, journalistic journey as the lives of the two former baseball stars are connected.
  • “Banned for Life*” premieres Sunday, January 19, at 3 pm ET on ESPN, with a prime time re-air at 9 pm on ESPN.
  • Backstory’s debut episode “Serena vs. The Umpire,” launched the series in August.
  • Subjects and airdates for additional episodes of Backstory will be announced later.


  • “With the Baseball Hall of Fame voting reveal coming up on January 21, and in the wake of the 100th anniversary of the Black Sox scandal in the 1919 World Series that led to Jackson’s lifetime ban, and 30 years after Rose was banned for betting on baseball, Backstory revisits the stories with new reporting and fresh interviews. Van Natta explores what happened then, what has happened since and what some feel should happen now.”

About “Banned for Life”:

  • In a wide-ranging, sometimes combative interview with Van Natta, Rose makes an impassioned, emotional case for reinstatement by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.
  • For this documentary, Van Natta interviewed:
    • Former MLB commissioner Fay Vincent, who led the investigation when Rose was banned in 1989
    • Former MLB special counsel John Dowd, who was involved in a 1989 re-opening of the Jackson case and wrote the 225-page “Dowd Report” during the Rose investigation.
  • Van Natta learned that Rose’s lawyer encouraged him to sign the agreement indicating it was likely Rose would be reinstated after one year. But that wasn’t the case.
  • During his interview with Van Natta, Vincent said, “Later, his lawyer admitted to me… he said to me, ‘Fay, I had to tell Pete some things that I believe were necessary as his friend and his counselor and his lawyer to get him to sign an agreement. I think was a great agreement for him.”
  • As for Joe Jackson’s story, Van Natta’s visited multiple locations including:
    • Jackson’s hometown of Greenville, S.C.
    • Chicago History Museum for a review of its collection of Black Sox documents
    • The Field of Dreams site in Iowa
  • Among others interviewed:
    • Charles Fountain, author of The Betrayal: The 1919 World Series and the Birth of Modern Baseball
    • Arlene Marclay, founder of the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum in Greenville, S.C.
    • Jacob Pomrenke, Director of Editorial Content, Society for American Baseball Research
    • John Sayles, director and writer of the 1988 movie Eight Men Out about the Black Sox scandal

What they’re saying:

  • Pete Rose to Don Van Natta: “Is taking money to throw a World Series game the same as betting on your own team to win? It is very different. I’m the one who’s lost 30 years. Just to take baseball out of my heart penalized me more than you could imagine.”
  • Don Van Natta: “The stories of Jackson and Rose are even more relevant when considering recent choices by Major League Baseball to embrace legalized sports wagering through sponsorships and other strategies. And with the elections to the National Baseball Hall of Fame for 2020 to be announced on January 21st, their ineligibility for election is again in the spotlight.”

Backstory “Banned for Life” Air Schedule (ET)

Date                                                                         Time                                     Network                                        

Sunday, January 19

3 pm, 9 pm


Monday, January 20

1 am, 7 pm, 10 pm


Tuesday, January 21

11 pm


Thursday, January 23

8 pm


Sunday, January 26

7 am, 10 pm