Sunday, December 05, 1999


Rose belongs in the Hall

Borgman cartoon
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        You never thought you'd read it here, but here goes:

        Maybe it's time to thank Jim Gray.

        The NBC reporter who ambushed Pete Rose at the World Series started a ruckus that may bring the issue of the Hit King's baseball status to a resolution.

        Bob DuPuy, an executive vice president of Major League Baseball, said last week he will meet with Mr. Rose's attorney next month to discuss the lifetime ban MLB imposed against the Reds great in 1989 over gambling charges.

        The cynical — and realistic — view is that this is merely a p.r. move to mute the public outcry and dull Mr. Rose's “aggrieved victim” luster.

        Still, a process that hashes out the facts once and for all could bring a welcome end to a controversy that has given Baseball a nagging turf toe for a decade.

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Join the discussion on our Reds forum
        Mr. Rose claims he has handwriting and fingerprint evidence proving that baseball's oft-rumored evidence against him is shaky.

        Baseball quietly claims it has dead-solid proof, and fervently wishes Mr. Rose and his complaints would just slink away. But the arrogant and rude refusal even to respond to Mr. Rose since he applied for reinstatement in 1997 doesn't do any good for Baseball.

        With apologies to Gertrude Stein, there probably is some there there — perhaps more than enough to continue a ban against Mr. Rose's participation in MLB. Baseball does have a right to safeguard its integrity against persons with a penchant for questionable dealings — especially betting on baseball games.

        But there actually are two issues here: Mr. Rose's reinstatement into baseball, and his eligibility for the Hall of Fame. Regarding the Hall, MLB stands on very shaky ground.

        The latest opinion survey shows that 74 percent of the public believes Mr. Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame — exactly what we've been saying for a decade.

        Most Americans also believe Mr. Rose bet on baseball, but they perceive that Mr. Rose's Hall of Fame exploits took place before the particular circumstances that precipitated his banishment.

        Baseball petulantly refuses to see it that way. In 1991, it maneuvered to change the Baseball Hall of Fame's long-standing rules, excluding from the ballot anyone under suspension from the game.

        This ex post facto rule was specifically engineered to punish Mr. Rose retroactively. It never had been applied to anyone else.

        Now, if it chooses, Baseball can rectify this crass hypocrisy, even while affirming the accuracy of its original punishment.

        It could gradually phase out — or even continue indefinitely — Mr. Rose's ban from any substantive link with MLB, while changing the rules back to make him eligible for Hall of Fame balloting as a player. If Hall voters fail to induct him in due course, so be it.

        Mr. Rose also could be allowed to participate in Baseball's ceremonial functions — such as October's All-Century Team festivities — on a closely defined or case-by-case basis.

        If that seems like making up the rules as you go along — well, Baseball has already shown it has no qualms about doing that.

        There may be no good reason to bring Pete Rose back into Baseball.

        But it's easy to think of at least 4,192 reasons why he should be in the Hall of Fame.

        Sexton hopes versatility will earn Reds spot