Monday, January 5, 2004

Perhaps this will be end of sorry episode

Views on Pete Rose: Vincent questions motives if Rose admits gambling

Enquirer news services

Here is a sampling of views on Pete Rose, beginning with former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent.

So word is that Pete Rose finally admits in his new book that he bet on baseball. I guess I am supposed to feel vindicated since he spent the last 14 years calling John Dowd and me names.

Dowd was the baseball lawyer who did the investigation of Rose and prepared a report we're now told was accurate. Next we're likely to have the spectacle of Rose being embraced by Bud Selig, the baseball commissioner, and, like the Prodigal Son, ushered to the front row of baseball's most honored citizens.

Pardon me while I rise to urge some caution. Ever since St. Augustine set the bar pretty high, there has been a certain style to confessional tomes. Now we have a mea culpa by Rose and no saint is he.

Augustine, having lived it up, saw the light and wrote with a sense of guilt and regret. He even anguished over having stolen a pear. Early reports are that Rose confronts his past with very little remorse. Between him and Augustine, there is little doubt whose book will live longer.

Why are we hearing from Rose now? Credit Selig for insisting on the admission of betting before letting Rose in baseball again. It's possible that Rose wants some of the big money being paid top managers like Joe Torre. But I think there is more at work here.

A player has 20 years after he last played to be elected by the baseball writers to the Hall of Fame. After that time has run out, the election can be done only by the living members of the Hall. Thus, Rose, who last played in 1986, is running out of time.

He knows his best shot is with the writers, many of whom share the view that the only conduct that counts is what took place on the field. The Hall of Famers are a cranky lot who last year failed to elect Marvin Miller, who led the players union and whose credentials are solid gold. So Rose, a careful historian of the game, is playing the odds wisely.

Nothing wrong so far.

Now the issue for Selig is what to do. I suggest that if Rose is to be reinstated to full rights in baseball, there should be a two-year period of transition. During this time, I would require Rose to travel the baseball highway to spell out to youngsters and fans why gambling is a threat to the game and why his decisions as manager were corrupted by betting on one game and not another.

The sincerity of his redemption can be tested and he will have done some public service to earn his way back. After all, the issue now is not what is best for Rose, but what is best for baseball.

The two-year delay in reinstatement will give him one shot at being elected by the writers. And then, if he fails that, he may receive the honor via the Hall of Famers themselves. And I can live with that, as I suspect most fans would, though I am not at all certain his election is a sure bet, if I may be excused that term.

I also suggest that Selig pardon all those whose names are still on the ineligible list, including Max Lanier, banned for jumping to the Mexican League to make more money, a Phillies owner who bet on his team and was tossed out and, of course, Shoeless Joe Jackson, whose participation in the Black Sox betting scandal might in today's jurisprudence be excused by his diminished capacity to have known fully what he was doing.

Perhaps this will be the end of the whole sorry Pete Rose case. As the baseball commmissioner at the time, Bart Giamatti, said when he announced that Rose had agreed to banishment, baseball has been hurt, and badly so, by Rose's actions.

Now as we confront his plea for mercy and a second chance, we ought to remind ourselves of Giamatti's wisdom in identifying the pain inflicted by such a great player. I only wish Rose had a better sense of why Augustine's "Confessions" strike such a chord with the rest of us sinners.

Former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent writing for The New York Times

I almost wish Rose would keep fighting and biting, but he won't. I almost believe he would remain a larger historic figure if he never capitulated to the lords of baseball and went into the Baseball Hall of Fame on his own scraggly terms or not at all.

But all signs say that on Thursday, two days after the 2004 Hall of Fame inductees are announced, Rose will grudgingly bow to baseball's wishes and admit that he bet on baseball games while he managed the Cincinnati Reds.

He will do this in a book, My Prison Without Bars, and in a media blitz that will accompany the release. Though Rose's inner gambling demon is hardly news, this is his greatest gamble yet ...

He badly wants into the Hall, and for baseball to end the banishment Bart Giamatti placed on him in 1989 for gambling on sports (but not necessarily on baseball). He wants to manage (incredibly unlikely) or find other employment in the major leagues.

Commissioner Bud Selig, who remembers the roars Rose received at Pacific Bell Park before World Series Game 4 in 2002, knows that a repentant Rose would be a big bonus for his wheezing sport.

Can Rose pull this off with candor but without bitterness? Will the hard-liners, including former commissioner Fay Vincent, accept his contrition? In a New York Times guest column, Vincent suggested that Rose get a two-year probation.

Then, in 2006, Rose would have one year to be voted in by the writers. (Players have a 20-year initial window of election eligibility; Rose last played in 1986.)

But the past 14 years have been a probation for the all-time hits leader. Rose isn't Cal Ripken Jr. He has rough edges. He fought his ban, he fought Giamatti, he fought every day on the baseball field.

Most baseball fans want him back. They want him in the Hall, want him around the sport.

Most baseball fans want him back ... I almost wish Rose would keep fighting and biting. But if he calls a truce, baseball should accept it and take him back.

Tim Kawakami, Knight Ridder

Let's see, it must have been in his last autobiography, "Pete Rose: My Story," which came out just after he was banned from baseball in 1989, when the game's all-time hits leader presented his case to anyone willing to spend the 20 bucks that, no matter what then-commissioner Bart Giamatti insisted, he never bet on the game.

For almost 15 years, that's the script Rose stuck to, whether you approached him on the subject while he was waiting in line at a race track betting window or hosting his own radio talk show or parked behind a table at a collectibles convention scribbling his name - for a nominal fee - on anything thrust under his nose.

But this week, Rose's story changes. And that'll be another $25, thank you.

In this bounded testimonial called "My Prison Without Bars," a victimized Rose now confesses to gambling on games, including his own team, while he was manager of the Cincinnati Reds. That's according to several sources who, despite heavy security around the book's contents, have leaked this tidbit of information to a couple of newspapers in the past few days.

The book's release Thursday will coincide with TV appearances on three ABC shows, including a heavily promoted primetime interview and a debate later on "Nightline." And reporters who get an advanced copy Wednesday must sign a confidentiality agreement promising not to write about its contents until the next day.

So, are you buying it? Any of it?

Kids, there's no hidden agenda here for the living legend who now resides much of the time in Sherman Oaks with his newest family that includes a daughter who attends Notre Dame High. It all couldn't be a more public agenda to collect the sympathy needed to secure a permanent place for the Prodigal Son in a little brick building in Upstate New York.

For years, he's been asked - begged - to just come clean, told that everyone would forgive him if he was patient enough. Even Jim Gray put what little reputation he had on the line and badgered Rose before Game 2 of the 1999 World Series in Atlanta to tell the nation what those who saw as damning evidence believed was true.

Time after time, this prickly Rose refused, which made his act, to borrow a line from the movie "Kingpin," about as fresh as a Foghat concert.

Now, there's a simple, dire scheme in place, and with it, a "Get Out of Jail" card from his "prison" that will even, believe it or not, put a positive spin on Bud Selig's tenure as commish when he sees fit to lift the lifetime ban (and who knows, maybe even reinstate Shoeless Joe Jackson).

Although the people at Rodale Press insist it's purely coincidental that the book's release comes the same week as the Hall of Fame's announcement of its class of 2004, the truth is that time is running out fast on Rose's attempt to go barreling headfirst into Cooperstown.

Since he retired in 1986, he has only two years left to be voted in by the Baseball Writers Association of America members, who will no doubt do so based on his playing achievements. If that window of opportunity is missed, the only way he can be elected for 2006 or beyond is by members of the grouchy old Veteran's Committee - some of whom are his former teammates, but more of whom are dead set against his inclusion into their private club because of his conduct and have threatened to boycott his enshrinement and forever turn their backs on the hallowed grounds if he's issued a Hall pass.

So what's a desperate man with an orange flat top to do?

He could pull a Charles Barkley and claim he was simply misquoted in his last autobiography (which was written with renowned baseball scribe Roger Kahn). Or he could hire a rewrite man, who this time is Los Angeles-area author Rick Hill.

And he could have his agent, Warren Greene, encourage all kinds of speculation related to the book until the cartons are officially opened and the in-store signing tour launches with stops planned for every city in which sympathy can be summoned (with the help of the local media, of course).

"We like it because it creates excitement around the book," Greene told the Cincinnati Post last week about those leaking information. "I wouldn't assume anything."

Assume that even more people will whip out their credit cards at the local Barnes and Noble to possess one more piece of Pete Rose memorabilia. The publisher has ordered a huge first-printing of 500,000 copies.

There's no over/under line on how many will be sold, or odds posted on if this will be Rose's final autobiography. Our only sure bet is that this won't be the last time we'll be hustled by "Charlie Hustle," who, even when he's admitting guilt, has found a way to profit.

Los Angeles Daily News

For the past 14 years we have looked at Pete Rose, a dead man hustling, and wondered what essential element he was lacking to keep him from a full accounting of the unvarnished truth. Now we know: the right literary agent.

Rose has a good one now. Sure enough, come Thursday the truth will come rolling off the presses - 500,000 copies of it, at $24.95 a pop.

Rose's new book, "My Prison Without Bars," will be released Thursday, two days after the announcement of the Hall of Fame's class of 2004. Rodale Press, which is publishing the book, has cloaked the project in secrecy. There have been no advance excerpts, no interviews, no nothing.

All we have is the Philadelphia Inquirer reporting that Rose admits in the book that he bet on baseball while managing the Cincinnati Reds during the 1980s. It is presumed the book's release will be followed by a parade of follow-up interviews in which we see a gentler, more contrite Charlie Hustle.

If next week plays out as anticipated, it will mark a striking departure from the snarling denials Rose has issued since being banned from the game in 1989 by then-Commissioner Bart Giamatti for violating baseball's sacrosanct rule against gambling. Despite damning evidence in the investigation conducted by John Dowd, Rose has maintained his innocence. Beyond that, he has crafted the convenient (and ironic) persona of the Teflon anti-hero - a fallen giant unfairly persecuted, unjustly banished from the game he once personified.

The fundamental agenda here is pathetically disguised. Rose wants an end to his lifetime ban from baseball, the one he signed willingly 14 years ago. He has been advised - poorly, it says here - that the way to make this happen is to confirm the obvious after a 14-year campaign of unpalatable denial.

We've discussed this before. Even if you assign Rose a certain altruism in this endeavor, you're left with a self-defeating premise. In addition to being a compulsive gambler, Rose outs himself as a committed liar. This is the recipe for reinstatement? Imagine an embezzler being led out of the courtroom after the guilty verdict has been read and saying, "But wait! I hijack cars, too!" Where's the redemption there?

But here's the thing: There is no altruism at work here. Rose isn't doing the right thing. He's doing the expedient thing. He's coming clean for a price. And he's doing it at the expense of the former players whose election to the Hall of Fame will be announced on Tuesday.

Those players will be less than 48 hours into their lives as newly minted immortals of the game when the Rose publicity blitzkrieg rolls into town. This is the biggest irony of all where Rose is concerned, that he now mocks the game he once embodied.

So basically, nothing has changed. Within hours of his banishment from the game, Rose was hawking autographed merchandise on cable TV. Now he orchestrates a make-good effort to rejoin the establishment by upstaging Hall of Famers who never taunted the game as he has done.

Dennis Eckersley, for example. The former A's closer would appear to be a lock for the Hall in his first year of eligibility. He and Rose were fellow All-Stars in 1977 and 1982. Eckersley never was accused of betting on baseball. He never undermined induction ceremonies in Cooperstown by conducting unauthorized autograph sessions on Main Street during Hall of Fame weekend.

Yet Rose would seek to steal the thunder from Eckersley, and/or any other player fortunate enough to be voted into the Hall this year.

For a guy who was touted as the ultimate team player, Rose sure has been a selfish git the past decade and a half. From the Hit King hats, to the autograph hucksterism, to the self-serving appearances in Cooperstown, the man has been all about himself and his half-baked assertions of guilt in the face of blistering evidence to the contrary.

Now he seeks to offer an insincere truth, and to charge the public $24.95 a head in the process. The final judgment? We've discussed this before as well. Rose ought to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame for what he accomplished on the field-namely, his record 4,256 career hits. His plaque should include information about his playing career, plus the reason for his banishment from the game.

But he never should be allowed to work a baseball job again. For having indicated he could not be trusted 14 years ago, he is now, by all accounts, poised to confirm the fact beyond all doubt.

Gary Peterson, Knight Ridder

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