|Cooperstown for Pete - Another View of the Pete Rose Issue||| Print ||
Written by Laura K. Nist (Contact & Archive) on May 26, 2003
I must also confess to having mixed emotions about the issue. Should he be honored for his accomplishments? Absolutely. Did he gamble on baseball? More than likely. However, he has never admitted to it and the investigation conducted by the commissioner’s office was never officially concluded – meaning that there was never a ruling as to whether or not he bet on baseball.
One question that puzzles many people is – if Rose did not bet on baseball why did he sign the settlement agreeing to being placed on the permanently ineligible list? Pete’s explanation is that he accepted the agreement because he knew that some punishment would be sanctioned upon him (he did admit to illegal gambling on NBA and NFL games and horseracing and the deputy commissioner, Fay Vincent, argued that this alone was basis for a permanent suspension). Continuing to fight in court might have lasted longer than a year so by signing the agreement he could apply for reinstatement in exactly one year.
Rose has applied for reinstatement and while MLB has not formally notified him of any decision, Bud Selig had said repeatedly that no new evidence has surfaced to make him overturn the ban. Last winter Selig and Rose met secretly – presumably to discuss Pete’s reinstatement but as of today there still has been nothing settled.
Many people feel that if Pete confesses that he gambled on baseball and apologizes, he should be reinstated, therefore making him eligible to be admitted into the Hall. Forgive me Father for I have sinned? How does admitting his guilt change the fact that he supposedly gambled on baseball, the cardinal sin of the game? The rule is posted in every locker room of every clubhouse in the majors and minors as well as spring training. So Pete would have seen it posted thousands of times. Besides surely he would have heard the story of Shoeless Joe – after all, when the Chicago White Sox deliberately lost the World Series their opponent was none other than the Cincinnati Reds.
I have even heard people say that since he has been ‘banned for life’ that he should get into the Hall of Fame – posthumously – so that his achievements can be honored but he will not personally receive any glory. The problem with that line of thinking however is that technically, it isn't a lifetime ban; he was placed on the permanently ineligible list which lasts forever - unless the player is reinstated.
This is MLB Rule 21(d):
BETTING ON BALL GAMES. Any player, umpire, or club official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform shall be declared ineligible for one year.
Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.
So, why does being banned from the game have to equate to being ineligible for HOF consideration? Don’t get me wrong; I am not in favor of letting Pete Rose back into baseball where he can have an opportunity to wrongly influence the game – or where he can be accused of it again, that is. (I am not convinced that he ever did wrongly influence the outcome of any game that he played or managed anyway) In any case, is there a reason that he can’t be banned from active participation while being honored by a plaque in Cooperstown? I, and many others, believe that after all he did for the game, that he at least deserves recognition.
Sadly, the reason he can’t be voted into the Hall of Fame is this: in 1990 a clause was added to the eligibility rules stating that players who were on MLB's ineligible list could not be considered as candidates. Some argue that this change was made specifically keep him out of the Hall, while others claim that this was just a formal clarification to acknowledge an unwritten rule that had been in force since it was founded.
Rules are often made based upon what is happening in society. When the United States Constitution was written there was no rule banning alcohol. Something happened and an amendment was made to prohibit alcohol. Then years later it was repealed. So, if a Constitutional Amendment can be changed why can’t the rules of MLB be changed?
All of that aside, Pete deserves to be in the Hall of Fame because of his contributions to the game. His on the field achievements are unparalleled; he may very well hold the major league record for most records held by a major league player. In addition to having the most hits of all time he holds numerous other Major and National League records: most singles (3,215), at-bats (14,053) and games played (3,562). He collected at least 100 hits in his first 23 seasons, another record. He had more than 200 hits in a season 10 times, also a record, led the league in hits in seven seasons, and is the most prolific switch-hitter in history. He is the only player to play 500 games at five different positions. He was also an integral part of the Red’s domination in the 1970’s. And Pete truly loves the game. He played every game like it was the seventh game of the World Series. Because of his seemingly boundless enthusiasm, he was nicknamed "Charlie Hustle”, and his all-out hustle is what endeared him to fans more than anything else.
And those fans have been the most vocal about allowing Pete into the Hall of Fame. As a matter of fact, even though Pete is banned from baseball, it hasn’t stopped MLB (read Bud Selig) from allowing him to participate in events that are sponsored by large companies that bring money to the league. Remember game 4 of the 2002 World Series when he was honored for being on the list of the 10 most-memorable baseball moments? The crowd went wild. He also stole the show in Atlanta in 1999 – when he was named to the all-century team, garnering a larger, longer and louder applause than former Brave, Hank Aaron.
At any rate, at this point the only way for Pete to be admitted to the Hall is if he is reinstated. And what if he is reinstated? There are concerns that we could never trust him; some factions are vehemently opposed to Pete claiming his rightful place in the Hall because of his lack of integrity and character flaws. But if integrity and character makes a Hall of Famer then aren’t there others in the Hall that also shouldn’t really be there? Ironically the decision maker in the whole process is Bud Selig who, in my opinion, has more integrity issues than Pete Rose does.
Then again, what if Pete Rose is never reinstated and the rules are never changed - will that really be a bad thing? How many of the players that are enshrined in the Hall of Fame can you name anyway? I mean, once you get past Ruth, Cobb, Williams, Mays, Gehrig, Mantle, Maris, and Aaron it starts getting more difficult. (Oh wait Roger Maris isn’t even in the Hall of Fame.) So, by keeping Pete out, he will be remembered forever because the controversy will always be there. Maybe that is a more fitting tribute to him after all.