By Jim Litke
The Associated Press
Commissioner Bud Selig must have been thrilled to pick up the newspaper recently and find out that Pete Rose is still hitting. The casinos, sports books and racetrack, that is.
Rose continues to live the way he played - with reckless abandon. Just about everything Pete has picked up since he put down his bat has turned out to be trouble. Last week's revelations that the Internal Revenue Service has slapped a lien on a home he owns in suburban Los Angeles suggests that nothing has changed.
It turns out Rose owes $151,689 in federal taxes from 1998. It's the kind of thing that can happen to anybody, except that Rose served a five-month prison sentence a decade ago for filing false income tax returns. He admitted not reporting $354,968 in income from autograph appearances, memorabilia sales and gambling from 1984 to 1987. And those who have crossed the taxman once will usually go out of their way to see that it doesn't happen again.
What's more, Rose was reportedly seen gambling at the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas and hanging around the sports book at nearby Caesars Palace.
Two high-ranking officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press last week that baseball's security department began investigating Rose earlier this month. But both revelations apparently caught the commissioner by surprise. What was particularly stunning was the timing - both of them coming when Rose's chances for reinstatement were better than at any time since the late Bart Giamatti, then the commissioner, banished Rose from baseball in August 1989.
The latest effort began with secret negotiations late in 2001, went public last month amid signs that Selig was softening, and had a chance to gain some serious momentum when Selig announced plans to convene the living members of the Hall of Fame at a meeting in Los Angeles and take a poll on how they would feel about Rose joining their ranks. The timetable was for a decision by the commissioner before spring training.
Now, as Rose himself might say, all bets are off.
Passing Pete off as rehabilitated was impossible even before this latest round of setbacks. Giamatti said that Rose would have to "reconfigure" his life before he would be reconsidered for reinstatement, and while there's nothing to suggest he's done anything illegal, recent events have made clear that the only reconfiguring Rose is doing at the moment is calculating the changing odds on a tote board.
In the past, Rose has shrugged off his paid appearances in Sin City by claiming he doesn't play casino games, and other than the ponies, that he no longer even bets on sports.
He's also said that the only reason he's taken up so many questionable outside employment opportunities - as a greeter, shill and spokesman - is because he's banned from making a living inside baseball. Funny how that never kept him away from the same places during his playing career.
In any case, if Selig and his inner circle are fast becoming convinced of anything, it's that Rose isn't likely to change. Like Tonya Harding, another disgraced flimflam artist, he's decided to play the victim and keep asking for do-overs until the end of time. The difference between the two - so far - is that Harding didn't show up on the Home Shopping Network selling souvenirs the same night she got thrown out of her sport.
That memory alone should serve to keep the commissioner from considering any request for reinstatement anytime soon. A member of Selig's inner circle told the New York Daily News that "he's not going to make this decision and end up being embarrassed by it."
The Hall of Fame has so far managed to keep Rose out. His response was to set up shop down the street and hawk his own merchandise during induction ceremonies. If baseball decides to let him in through the front door, it would only be a matter of time before the furniture would start turning up for sale on eBay.
Jim Litke is the national sports columnist for The Associated Press. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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