Should Pete Rose be reinstated?

Should Pete Rose be reinstated?

CINIGLIO

Tony Ciniglio | PRO

IT’S ABOUT TIME:

Baseball’s career hits leader has credentials that are overwhelming and he isn’t the first to have character flaws.

For all the abuse baseball commissioner Bud Selig takes, his latest proposal makes sense: lifting baseball’s lifetime ban on Pete Rose and reinstating him in America’s past-time, a game Rose helped shape.

The evidence of his gambling is overwhelming, a cardinal sin in baseball. In fact, Rose served five months in federal prison for two counts of filing false income taxes by failing to report the earnings made from gambling.

But to keep Rose out of Cooperstown would be a much graver sin.

His playing credentials are indisputable. In fact, there was never any doubt that “Charlie Hustle” played to win every game and would undoubtedly be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Rose is baseball’s all-time career hits leader with 4,256, surpassing Ty Cobb’s record of 4,191 on Sept. 11, 1985 with the Cincinnati Reds. He was a 17-time All-Star and a .303 lifetime hitter.

He was the 1963 Rookie of the Year with the Reds and was an instrumental part of the Cincinnati Reds’ success in the 1970s, keying the “Big Red Machine” to four National League pennants and two World Series titles.

In 1975, he was named the World Series Most Valuable Player, the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year and the Sporting News Man of the Year.

After Rose signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1978, he helped the Phillies to two National League pennants and the 1980 World Series title.

If Rose is reinstated, not only would he be eligible for the Hall of Fame, he would be able to be a player-consultant for a team, much like Sandy Koufax and Maury Wills are for the Dodgers. In fact, that would be a great way for him to give back to the game by helping develop today’s rising stars.

Fans tend to agree that Rose’s 13-year exile should be lifted.

At a ceremony honoring baseball’s all-century team in Game 2 of the 1999 World Series in Atlanta, Rose was allowed to participate in the ceremonies and received the longest ovation. During the same ceremony came the fallout from reporter Jim Gray’s contentious interview with Rose that was met with venomous wrath by the fans.

At the closing ceremonies for Cinergy Field in Cincinnati, former Reds pitcher Tom Browning spray-painted a red No. 14 on the mound as the stadium chanted, “Pete, Pete.”

During baseball’s Most Memorable Moments promotion during last year’s World Series in San Francisco, Rose received a 70-second ovation from the normally ornery fans, leading to Rose’s secret meetings with Selig.

There are staunch opponents to Rose’s reinstatement, including former commissioner Fay Vincent, who said if Rose is ever elected to the Hall of Fame, the term “banned for gambling” should appear on his ballot.

“I think the Hall of Fame has a character test, and I don’t support his candidacy because he failed a very important test,” Vincent said.

Funny, but there has not been a character test for Hall of Famers in the past. Cap Anson forged the “gentleman’s agreement” that kept minorities from playing for 70 years. Ty Cobb was a nasty player. Babe Ruth was an alcoholic and a womanizer. Mickey Mantle was a terrible drunk. Paul Molitor, a lock for the Hall of Fame, was a cocaine addict. These were some of the greatest players of all-time, and they all had their flaws.

Should baseball ignore the 30-win season by Denny McLain in 1968, baseball’s last 30 game-winner, because McLain later served in jail for racketeering, extortion and drug possession? What about the second, third and eighth chances some players get for abusing baseball’s drug policy? Should Mark McGwire’s 70-homer season be wiped off the books for his use of androstenedione?

Of course not.

If baseball can overlook these character flaws, surely it can find a place for Rose in Cooperstown.

Should Pete Rose be reinstated?

Phil Collin | CON

NO WAY:

He shouldn’t be allowed back into the sport he shamed unless he admits he was wrong _ and bet on baseball.

You’re a cinch to be in the Hall, Pete Rose. In fact, your induction was on Aug. 23, 1989, the day you entered the Hall of Shame.

That was the day you signed the agreement with baseball commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti, who announced the next day that you were banned from the sport because you “bet on baseball.”

While your agreement states that you did not admit guilt, there’s a reason you have not been reinstated. You gambled on baseball, even as manager of the Cincinnati Reds.

No drug suspension, no drunken driving charges, no spousal abuse splotches on a record _ as insidious as all of these are _ can shear the fabric of the game as much as betting on it from the inside. Whether he bet on the Reds to win and rather not to lose is irrelevant.

Let’s say Rose bet on his team to win the first three games of the homestand, then did not bet on the fourth game. That, in effect, is saying he would have bet against the Reds that day. So was he managing that way, too? Just the fact that we have to ask the question means we’ve lost a degree of authenticity to the game.

Rose eyed the integrity of the game and ran through it the way he plowed over unsuspecting catcher Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star Game. Fosse’s career never fully recovered from his fractured shoulder.

Baseball is just as vulnerable when it comes to gambling. Just ask Shoeless Joe Jackson, banned for life despite being acquitted in court during the Chicago Black Sox saga of 1919. Sure, there’s more to that story, but it displays the commitment baseball has traditionally held when it comes to gambling.

Rose’s rehabilitation has come in the form of a public relations campaign _ from himself and on behalf of him by fans with (you guessed it) Rose-colored glasses. It’s been running for 13 years now, chipping away at public opinion. He earned the nickname Charlie Hustle on the field, but perfected the act long after his career was over.

He’s the little kid tugging on your arm so long, you finally let him go to the candy store.

Well, kid, we live in a forgiving society. There is room for you in the candy store, but let there be no more equivocations about that agreement you signed.

It was sealed, so Rose could go on for 13 years denying he bet on baseball. Well, the door is open this way: Either admit your transgression or unseal the documents.

His admission would promptly be met by a heartfelt welcome back by the baseball community. He did his time, they’d say, and by the way, his name sure does look good on that Hall of Fame ballot.

If he plans on just talking his way back without admitting that he gambled, then let’s take a long, hard look at the sealed documents. In fact, before we get that far, it’s worth it to start with The Dowd Report (www.baseball1.com/bb-data/rose/dowd/).

It’s a reminder that gambling is illegal, and some unsavory characters could spoil your whole day. Combine with Giamatti’s sealed records, and you could make a case that Rose should be banned, period, admission or no.

Certainly, no one is more deserving of Hall of Fame induction than Pete Rose. His 4,256 hits is one of those easy numbers to remember, just like 755 and 714. His consistency was phenomenal, no matter the situation.

For instance, 1968 was the ultimate year of the pitcher. Bob Gibson won the National League ERA title with a 1.12 mark, but Rose had 210 hits and batted .335.

But it takes more than numbers for Rose to escape the Hall of Shame. It takes words and deeds, just like it would for anyone of us.

Copyright Copley Press Inc. 2002

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