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A Rose By Any Other Name...

December 11, 2002

Over 24 consecutive years, he played 3,562 major league games, hit 3,315 singles, had 4,256 career hits in 14,053 career games - all major league baseball records - yet, he's a modern-day pariah. Why isn't this man in the Baseball Hall of Fame?

In the last 13 years, that question has been posed thousands of times, and the answers have varied. Sportswriters, in the cynical way that only sportswriters possess, have condemned Pete Rose as a has-been, a story only to be commented on when it's a slow news day.

Pete Rose

Baseball's elite, also known as Commisar (er, Commissioner) of Major League Baseball, Bud Selig, basically said Rose will be enshrined in Cooperstown when Hell opens a ski lodge. But fans across the country have protested, voted in polls, started petitions, organized websites, you name it - to see one of America's sports legends finally given the recognition he deserves.

In 1999, during the World Series, the Baseball's All-Century team was introduced. Among the players who either walked, or were wheeled on the field, strode Charlie Hustle himself. He was greeted by a thundering fan ovation which lasted longer than any other player's. It was a moment in time not to be forgotten. Rose also appeared during the 2002 World Series for the game's most memorable moments. His breaking of Ty Cobb's all-time career hits record in 1985 was ranked number six, voted on by fans of the game.

After his playing days, Rose came under investigation in February 1989 while manager of the Reds. A report was submitted to Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti that detailed 412 baseball wagers between April 8 and July 5, 1987, including 52 on Cincinnati. The report cited evidence that included betting slips alleged to be in Rose's handwriting, with telephone and bank records. A legal challenge ensued, and an agreement between baseball and Rose was reached: a lifetime ban for conduct detrimental to baseball. While the agreement contained no formal finding of guilt, Giamatti was quoted as saying ''in the absence of a hearing and in absence of evidence to the contrary ... yes, I have concluded that he bet on baseball.''

What's not widely known is that in this agreement, there is a provision which allows the lifetime ban to be lifted. Just days after Rose's expulsion, Giamatti passed away, making deputy Commissioner Fay Vincent the head of Major League Baseball. Vincent never reviewed the provision, leaving Rose to twist in the wind.

Over the last two years, quiet negotiations have been taking place to reinstate Rose to baseball. Former Hall of Fame players have interceded on Rose's behalf with Selig. Two weeks ago, Rose and Selig met. Rose's comments on the meeting were short and to the point: "There are a lot bigger people I'm obligated to answer to first, so my official comment is 'no comment.' " Bob DuPuy, Selig's top aide, released a brief statement saying, "[T]here have been a number of stories reporting alleged conversations or meetings between Commissioner Selig and Pete Rose. Pete Rose applied for reinstatement to Commissioner Selig several years ago and that application has been pending since that time. Given the pendency of the application for reinstatement, neither the commissioner or anyone in our office will comment on the Pete Rose matter further."

Fay Vincent was a little more forthcoming, and his comments may shed light on just what it will take to get Rose recognized - but at what price? Vincent said,
"My opinion is completely predicated on if he admits wrongdoing." Okay Pete, just say you did it, even though we didn't really prove it because of the total lack of evidence, whether you did or didn't. Just say you did, and we'll get back to you. Don't call us, we'll call you.

Whether or not Pete Rose bet on baseball is becoming irrelevant. Only Rose truly knows what he did, and to this day, maintains his innocence. Major League Baseball says he did. The circumstantial evidence, unsupported by facts, alleges he did. What about the handwriting experts who say it's not Pete's writing on these documents? What about the perjured testimony from Rose's former associate?

Commissioner Selig - he of the All Star Tie Game - has shown little, if any true respect for the game. Rose stated in a recent interview that baseball considered him "dead" unless they needed him for a specific reason. "In 1999, when I made the All-Century team, they needed me," Rose said. "They won't call on me until they need me. They're hypocrites."

Yes, they are Pete. And how's that program for testing players for steroid use going, Mr. Commissioner? Conduct detrimental to baseball, indeed.


© 2002 Lori Cutshall

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