By Tom Groeschen
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Despite on-and-off speculation otherwise, Opening Day finds Pete Rose still banned from Major League Baseball. And while the great majority of Cincinnati fans support his reinstatement, the number is down just slightly.
The latest Enquirer/WCPO TV news poll, conducted by SurveyUSA, found 82 percent of major league baseball fans in Cincinnati say Rose should be reinstated. That number is down slightly from 85 percent in a poll taken Dec. 10, 2002, shortly after news broke of a meeting between Rose and baseball Commissioner Bud Selig concerning Rose's reinstatement.
The December news stirred speculation Rose might be reinstated by Opening Day 2003, but then came revelations that the IRS had filed a $153,000 tax lien on Rose's California home and that Rose had been spotted at the gaming tables in Las Vegas. Rose was Reds manager from 1984-89 before being banned from baseball for his involvement with gamblers.
Jeff Ruby, a prominent Cincinnati restaurateur and friend of Rose, said Rose is trying to keep a low profile. Rose turned down an invitation to be grand marshal of the Findlay Market Parade today.
Ruby and other Rose associates believe Rose wants to manage a major league team again. Baseball officials have said Rose must admit he bet on baseball if he is to gain reinstatement. And while Rose holds the major league record with 4,256 hits, his lifetime ban makes him ineligible for the Hall of Fame ballot.
The latest Enquirer/WCPO poll also showed 54 percent of respondents saying Rose should be allowed to manage the Reds again.
Also, 53 percent said they believe Rose gambled on baseball games while working as the Reds manager. That number has risen from December, when 42 percent say Rose gambled as a team manager.
Selig, speaking at spring training in Arizona in early March, said he was in no hurry to decide whether to reinstate Rose.
"We're very deliberate, very cautious," Selig said. "I'm waiting for the results of the various investigations that are going on."
A baseball official close to the Rose case told the Enquirer earlier this month that Rose could be reinstated before the All-Star break in July, should a deal be worked out. Speculation has included a probationary period for Rose as part of his reinstatement.
Lance McAllister, sports talk show host on WCKY-AM (1360-HOMER), said the slight drop in Enquirer/WCPO poll support for Rose is understandable. The poll was a phone survey of 393 Greater Cincinnati adults, with a plus/minus error margin of 4.4 percent.
"I think the drop stems partially from people just getting tired of the whole process," McAllister said. "I think people got teased and thought he'd be reinstated, and now it's dragging out."
Ennis Jim, owner of Jim and Jack's restaurant/nightclub on River Road, is among Rose's unabashed supporters.
"They should let him back in," Jim said. "I'm not condoning whatever Pete did, but I think he deserves to be back in after all this time."
At Koch's Sporting Goods store downtown, customer David Ranz of Pleasant Ridge said Rose should not be reinstated until he has shown evidence of recovery from his gambling problems.
"I do think there should be a way to distinguish his admission to the Hall of Fame from the reinstatement issue," the 46-year-old Ranz said.
MORE ROSE: Johnny Bench is one of the players who spoke to Selig on Rose's behalf.
Bench says Rose's case for re-instatement rests with the slugger. He thinks that will require a full admission that Rose bet on baseball.
"Absolutely," he said. "No question."
Bench also said Rose, banned in for betting, must cease to all gambling.
"It's an addiction," Bench said.
1 Do you think Pete Rose should be reinstated to Major League Baseball?
Yes: 82 percent No: 13 percent Not sure: 5 percent
2 If Rose does admit to gambling on games, do you think he should be allowed to manage the Cincinnati Reds baseball team?
Yes: 54 percent No: 41 percent Not sure: 4 percent
3 Do you think Pete Rose gambled on baseball games while he was working as a team manager?
Yes: 53 percent No: 21 percent Not sure: 26 percent
Source: SurveyUSA poll of 393 adult MLB fans from Cincinnati. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
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