By John Fay, John Erardi
and Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer
A recent meeting between baseball great Pete Rose and baseball commissioner Bud Selig could lead to Rose being reinstated from his lifetime ban from baseball, imposed in 1989 for gambling. The meeting was confirmed by sources close to the Reds.
The meeting occurred "around Thanksgiving" and was attended by Mike Schmidt, Rose's former teammate with the Philadelphia Phillies, according to a source who asked not to be identified.
Rose applied for reinstatement on 1997. Selig has not acted on the application. He told the Enquirer in August that he didn't plan to revisit the Rose issue.
So what has changed? Why the apparent movement? There are two major factors:
The Reds will open Great American Ball Park next year, and Cincinnati fans would very much like Rose to be part of the opening ceremonies.
Selig has taken a great deal of heat for allowing Rose to participate in a ceremony celebrating the baseball's great moments before Game 4 of the World Series this year. That exception to the ban came only weeks after Rose was not allowed to participate in closing ceremonies at Cinergy Field.
Former Reds second baseman Tommy Helms, a longtime friend of Rose's, said Rose told him at a celebrity-waiter event Nov. 12 in Cincinnati that he was going to have a meeting with Selig.
"I said, `Pete, just tell 'em what they want to hear,'" Helms said. "He said, `Maybe I have some good things going.' I can't say if he bet on baseball - I don't know. But he has paid his dues. The guy deserves to be back (in baseball) and in the Hall of Fame."
Helms said Rose was upbeat and optimistic, although Rose didn't tell Helms what he planned to say to Selig. Helms said he doesn't know what Rose might have said in the meeting.
Early Tuesday, Major League Baseball spokesman Rich Levin denied that negotiations about reinstatement had begun and said Selig and Rose hadn't spoken since Game 4 of the World Series.
Later Tuesday, Levin had no comment, saying that a statement issued by MLB chief operating officer Robert DuPuy would be the only comment from baseball.
DuPuy's statement: "There 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."
Rose declined comment through agent Warren Greene.
"We've gotten a lot of calls," Greene said. "At the present time, we're not taking any questions. We haven't commented since applying in 1997 and we're not going to now."
Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken said he had a conversation Nov. 27 with DuPuy, who was "open and receptive" on the subject of Rose's return to baseball.
"They didn't promise anything. They asked for time," Luken said. He declined to elaborate but said he was encouraged and expects some word within 30 days.
Luken's discussion with baseball officials followed two letters from the mayor to Major League Baseball last month. In them, Luken made his case for Rose:
"As you know, Cincinnati is about to open a new ballpark: The Great American Ball Park. It was paid for by Cincinnati taxpayers. These thousands of fans and taxpayers are joined by millions across America in their desire to have Rose reinstated by Major League Baseball,'' the mayor wrote in a Nov. 13 letter.
" Rose is not perfect. But MLB is no stranger to imperfection. Whatever the crime, time has been served. Whatever agreements were signed years ago are irrelevant today," he wrote.
It is possible that the key to reinstatement would involve Rose admitting he bet in baseball, something he's never said. At the time of his ban, then-commissioner Bart Giamatti made it clear that he believed Rose bet on baseball.
Giamatti died shortly after the ban. Observers since have believed that Selig, a close friend of Giamatti's, would never reinstate Rose.
Giamatti said at the time of the ban that Rose would be considered for reinstatement when he "reconfigured" his life.
In an August interview, Selig was asked if he agreed with Giamatti's statement and what could constitute reconfiguration. He dodged the question.
"It's been a very unfortunate and sad situation. Pete was a great player. And it's one of those situations in life that I inherited that one wishes I hadn't," Selig said. "It's something where I've made all the appropriate public comment that I should. I don't think there's anything I can add to all that's been said."
Cincinnati-area respondents to a SurveyUSA survey commissioned by WCPO-TV overwhelmingly favored Rose's reinstatement:
86 percent of 411 Cincinnati-area baseball fans interviewed say Rose should be reinstated.
74 percent say if he is reinstated, Rose should be allowed to manage a major league team again.
91 percent say even if Rose is not reinstated, he should be allowed to participate in the upcoming ceremonies to open Great American Ball Park.
Survey results had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
There is a possibility that baseball could partially reinstate Rose, making him eligible for the Hall of Fame and able to participate in ceremonies like the opening of the new ballpark, but would forbid for him from taking an on-the-field job.
If Rose is allowed to be put on the Hall of Fame ballot, he is a virtual lock to make Cooperstown on the first ballot. ESPN.com surveyed 21 of the 500 voting members of the Baseball Writers of American Association; all 21 said they would vote for Rose.
Fans interviewed in Price Hill on Tuesday welcomed the idea of reinstatement in some form.
"He should first admit he bet on baseball and apologize," said Lee Morgan, owner of Lee's Barbershop on Guerley Road. "But he is hard-headed," said the long-time Reds fan. Even if Rose were to make such a statement and offer an apology, Morgan said he doesn't believe Major League Baseball should allow the all-time hit leader to rejoin the game beyond being elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame.
"He shouldn't be part of the game as a manager or even a coach. But he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. He was a hell of a player," Morgan said.
Customer Larry Stewart of Delhi also wants Rose to first fess up.
"If I was commissioner I'd have him admit to betting on baseball, apologize about it and be sincere. Then I'd go ahead and reinstate him for election into the Hall of Fame and allow him to return to baseball," said Stewart.
A few doors west on Glenway Avenue in the Price Hill Chili Parlor, 60-year-old regular Vern Chouteau said he'd like to see the former Riverside baseball star and pride of Western Hills High School reinstated, apology or no.
"What he did, he did. As far as I'm concerned ... he has made his apologies as much as he is going to," said Chouteau. "I'd be tickled to death to have him back. There's not a person on the West Side and Cincinnati who isn't."
Michael Clark of the Enquirer contributed to this report.
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