By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Even after 14-plus years, thoughts were conflicted. For Reds personnel and players from the late 1980s, when Pete Rose fell from grace, the news Monday of his admission was bittersweet.
Though seven such people interviewed Monday by the Enquirer all backed his candidacy for the Hall of Fame, there wasn't unanimous support for his return to managing. Many others didn't return calls, or declined comment on the hot-button topic.
"My initial reaction is, wow," 18-year Reds veteran Barry Larkin said of the news. "I have to digest that. It's kind of a shocker."
The next most prominent sentiment was relief.
"I'm glad there's some closure," former outfielder Dave Parker said.
Said Pittsburgh Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon, who played for Rose in 1987-88, "There's some shock. But at the same time, there's a sense of relief. ... Hopefully he can move on and be at peace."
Surely, Monday wasn't a proud moment. Parker said it was sad Rose had broken Baseball's bylaws against gambling - but just as sad he endured subsequent exile.
"He was the biggest hero in baseball. Right now he's the Shoeless Joe (Jackson) of baseball," Parker said.
Rose himself, in the ABC-TV interview to air Thursday, described his pariah status by saying, "It's like I died."
"I guess that's good that he came out and said what he did," former Reds owner Marge Schott said. "...I don't know if it's disappointing. People will see through it, because Pete is baseball in Cincinnati."
Those interviewed wondered about the timing. Was this about-face done to rush his name onto the Hall of Fame ballot? To try to forge a new managing career?
"You could make a lot of assumptions about whether this admission is part of an overall plan or package," former Reds general manager Murray Cook said.
Rose's means of announcing this are also curious.
"This is so consistent with Pete Rose, because the almighty dollar is important to him," Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman said. "Other people would simply call a news conference and come clean. Pete's admission comes in a book, which he is going to make a lot of money on."
Rose's former players believe election to the Hall of Fame, though, now should be a certainty.
"It's unfortunate that Pete has done these things and taken so long to own up to them, but nobody should forget his accomplishments as a player and that he was just about the fiercest competitor between the white lines I've ever seen," Ken Griffey Sr. said.
The waiting is punishment enough, McClendon said.
"We put our stars on pedestals so high, and maybe it's not fair," he said. "He's a man, just like any other man, and we all make mistakes. Pete made a mistake, and he's paid for that mistake dearly."
Parker, who admitted using drugs while with the Pirates in the 1970s, said he wonders if politics will jeopardize Rose's election.
"I was the best player in the '70s, and I'm not in the Hall," Parker said. "A lot of it goes back to a good old boys' network."
While former players hope Rose returns to baseball, some hesitated to advocate he again manage - especially because of the perception Rose might resume gambling.
"I can't honestly say he should be on the field in charge of a team day to day," McClendon said. "I don't know that the game could stand that. There's always going to be that certain amount of doubt (about not gambling)."
Said Parker: "If he came back to manage, I would be willing to coach for him. I have that kind of respect for him. ... But the rule is such a severe rule. I'd like to see him back. If it goes by the bylaws, though, it'd be tough."
Perhaps there's a middle ground to be reached, Larkin said.
"Pete Rose is baseball," he said. "For him to not be involved in the game is too bad for the game. He is an ambassador for the game, regardless of his gambling habits."
Kevin Kelly and Ryan Ernst contributed to this report.
"Obviously, I made mistakes. But one of my mistakes wasn't betting on baseball. Regardless of what the commissioner (A. Bartlett Giamatti) said today, I did not bet on baseball."
Farewell news conference, Aug. 24, 1989
"I can't stand here and prove I didn't (bet on the Reds) because, honestly, you can't prove a negative. If something didn't happen, how can I prove it did?"
University of Florida speech, Feb. 1, 1990
"The purity of the game ... by that you're interpreting that I bet on baseball. You have to get your facts straight. All you have to do is read the agreement to understand why I was suspended. It drives me absolutely bonkers. It's been 10 years now, and people still don't understand. I mean, don't start talking about suspensions and stuff like that if you don't know why I was suspended or (about) the agreement, because I'm up to speed on all that. And I'm the wrong guy to talk to because I'll set you straight and embarrass you in front of your peers. Get the facts straight before you start talking about the purity of the game. No one knows more about the purity of the game than Pete Rose."
To CNNSI.com reporter, May 1999
NBC Sports reporter Jim Gray: "Pete, let me ask you now. It seems as though that there is an opening. The American public is very forgiving. Are you willing to show contrition, admit that you bet on baseball and make some sort of apology to that effect?"
Rose: "No, no, Jim, not at all. I'm not going to admit to something that didn't happen. I know you get tired of hearing me say that, but I appreciate the ovation. I appreciate the American fans voting me on that All-Century team. I'm just a small part of a big deal tonight."
Before World Series game, October 1999
Kevin Kelly and Ryan Ernst contributed to this report.
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