While we reveled at the election of former Minnesota Twin Paul Molitor to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in this space Wednesday our sympathy is limited for baseball's black sheep, Pete Rose.
When Major League Baseball conducted an exhaustive investigation into Rose's gambling baseball attorney John Dowd concluded the then-manager of the Cincinnati Reds bet on baseball from 1985-87 and detailed 412 baseball wagers between April 8-July 5, 1987, including 52 on Cincinnati to win. It was that investigation that prompted Rose to agree to a lifetime ban from baseball.
The question that comes to mind now is what part of "lifetime ban" did Rose not understand? Four 14 years Rose continued to lie and denied placing bets on baseball. He took every available opportunity to whine about his ban to the media and to discredit the investigation which he now admits was correct when it stated he bet on baseball. Rose's sudden candor came, coincidentally, just days before the release of his latest book. Sparing no hyperbole, Rose titled the book "My Prison Without Bars." One almost expects the book jacket to feature a little tear trickling down "Charlie Hustle's" cheek. On the basis of his actions on the field few would question Rose's credentials for the Hall of Fame. He was an extraordinary athlete. But Rose played fast and loose with the rules and violated the integrity of the game over a period of several years. When he was caught he agreed to a lifetime ban without every admitting guilt and then recanted his own story 14 years later in hopes that a forgetful public would clamor for his selection to the hall. Rose's nickname, "Charlie Hustle," refers to more than his exemplary efforts on the baseball diamond. Rose has always been quick to promote himself and capitalize on his baseball fame whenever he can. He knows the going rate for a two-hour autograph session by a Major League Baseball hall of famer is $10,00. He also knows that December of 2003 is the last date his name can appear on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot. After that, it will be up to a veterans committee made up of living hall of famers to decide Rose's fate. At the very minimum Rose should be asked to wait the equivalent of the 14 years he lied about his gambling before his ban is lifted. Baseball historians can walk through the Hall of Fame and point out several inducted members who were less than saints. It's likely one could find men who drank too much, cheated on their wives or committed other transgressions. While election rules make a player's integrity a factor in his election, the Hall of Fame doesn't pretend its members are 100 percent pure. Gambling on baseball, however, has always been the considered the equivalent of a mortal sin. Funny things happen in baseball. Umpires blow the occasional call, a favorite hitter might inexplicably whiff at the plate or an outfielder might lose a ball in the sun, but the fans have to believe that players and coaches are trying their best, without the influence of ill-gotten money, or organized baseball is just a sham. If Major League Baseball backs down on its ban of Rose, his Cooperstown induction speech could enlighten young people about his attitude toward baseball's gambling rules. He can recount his conversation with Commissioner Bud Selig about his gambling. Why, he was asked by Selig, did he gamble on baseball? "I didn't think I'd get caught," Rose said.
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