By Ronald Blum
The Associated Press
NEW YORK - While fans were chanting his name at Cooperstown and the World Series, Pete Rose was slowly gaining his most valuable ally with Bud Selig: Time.
The negotiations between the commissioner and the career hits leader have been going on for more than a year, according to a high-ranking baseball official. The talks, which had been secret until this week, became public following a meeting between Rose and Selig last month in Milwaukee.
Several baseball officials, all speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the sides appeared to be working their way toward a deal in recent weeks, but no agreement had been reached to end the ban, which Rose agreed to in August 1989 following an investigation of his gambling.
While Selig is willing to allow him back in, Rose has to admit he bet on baseball as part of any agreement. He has been pushed to make the admission by Hall of Famers Joe Morgan and Mike Schmidt, and at the meeting last month, Schmidt was among those in attendance.
Selig had long opposed an end to the ban but allowed talks to start around the time of the 2001 World Series, the high-ranking baseball official said. Asked what triggered the change, the official said it was "just the passage of time."
Reinstatement would make Rose eligible for the Hall of Fame, and that mere possibility angered Hall member Bob Feller, a fellow Ohioan who has been vocal in his opposition to ending the ban.
"It's a publicity stunt by him and his people," Feller said Wednesday. "I'm tired of talking about it. I'm fed up. He's history."
Feller was among a group of Hall of Famers who threatened to walk out of ceremonies at Cooperstown in 2000 if Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman had used his induction speech to campaign for Rose. Brennaman made a brief but impassioned plea on Rose's behalf, but the group of veterans remained.
In addition to becoming eligible for the Hall ballot, an end to the ban would allow the former Reds manager to work for a team.
Rose raised the possibility of managing the Reds again in June when Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune gave him a tour of the Great American Ball Park, which opens next April.
Reds chief operating officer John Allen, who extended manager Bob Boone's contract through 2003, said the team hasn't considered the possibility.
"Bob Boone is our manager," Allen said Wednesday. "We've had no discussions with Pete Rose or major league baseball about what happens if he does get reinstated. It hasn't even showed up on our radar screen. We haven't discussed it internally. We haven't even thought about it."
None of the 14 others previously banned for life by the commissioner's office was ever reinstated. But Rose remains popular with fans.
Baseball allowed him to appear on the field before World Series games in 1999 and this year to participate in ceremonies staged by a sponsor. At both Atlanta's Turner Field and San Francisco's Pacific Bell Park, Rose was given the longest ovation of all the baseball stars introduced.
New York Yankees manager Joe Torre said Wednesday night that Rose should admit his mistakes.
"I certainly hope he can get together with Bud Selig and work this out," Torre said. "He belongs in baseball. He has too much to offer. He's such a great PR person for the game."
Reinstating Rose is only one of the initiatives Selig is considering, according to the baseball officials. He is thinking of having the league that wins the All-Star game gain home-field advantage for that year's World Series, moving one World Series game per year to daytime, and moving the start of the World Series from a Saturday to a Thursday.
Rose, baseball's career hits leader, has maintained that he never bet on baseball. John Dowd, hired to investigate Rose in 1989 for commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti, issued a report that detailed 412 baseball wagers between April 8 and July 5, 1987, including 52 on Cincinnati to win. Evidence included betting slips alleged to be in Rose's handwriting, and telephone and bank records.
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