Sunday, January 18, 2004

Brock: Famers protective of Hall

Says Hit King must be sincere in his apology

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

While it's true that the Baseball Hall of Fame isn't for saints - judging by the number of sinners in there - take the word of one whose plaque has hung there since 1985 and who has not missed an induction ceremony since 1990.

There is more to this than just baseball.

"The Baseball Hall of Fame has been publicly ranked by Americans as second only to former presidents of the United States in terms of dearness to people's hearts," said Hall of Famer Lou Brock, who conducted a clinic Saturday at Champions Baseball Academy in Sharonville.

"What that tells me is baseball is still part of America's fabric. It is still background music to America's daily life, starting in March and ending in October. It is very humbling to be a Hall of Famer."

Brock believes that the 55 surviving Hall of Famers (all but seven or eight return to Cooperstown for a weekend every summer to honor that year's incoming class) have all been humbled by their enshrinement and the incredibly high esteem in which they are held.

"I want that for Pete Rose," Brock said. "I remember when I was inducted, I looked at that seat behind me with my name on it. What that seat means is 'Welcome home.' In effect, Pete's chair is there, too. He just needs to say he's sorry and mean it, so he can be welcomed home."

Brock said Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda, the former Los Angeles Dodgers manager, is right in what he told The Enquirer last month: that although several Hall of Famers have spoken out in favor of Rose, if a secret ballot were taken, Rose would not get even a bare majority, let alone the 75 percent minimum he needs for election. And this was before he admitted two weeks ago that he had bet on the Reds in 1987 and 1988 as Reds manager.

"The general consensus among the players (who are in the Hall of Fame) is that Pete started (betting on baseball) long before 1987 and 1988," Brock said. "There is this huge group of moderates who just want to hear the words, 'I'm sorry,' and believe that he means it. I'm among those moderates. I want to forgive him. But it's hard to forgive somebody when they're up in your face."

Moderates Henry Aaron, Joe Morgan and Ferguson Jenkins have all spoken out against Rose in recent days. Before the book came out, they were all for him, provided he made a real apology, Brock said. Rose has been up in the Hall of Famers' face every induction weekend in Cooperstown signing autographs, Brock said. No matter that he clears out the actual day of the induction ceremony. And, now, Rose is up in everyone's face, hawking a book, said the former St. Louis Cardinals great.

Brock said the Hall of Famers do not want or need to hear privately from Rose. "We just need to hear from him the way the rest of the public does," Brock said.

"There is a line in scripture that says, 'Be repentant, and therefore be converted.' Pete's book offers some form of repentance, but the book and Pete say nothing at all about conversion.

"The book had a chance to right everything if Pete would have spoken from his heart to the public. They want his heart; that's all they want, that's all we want. Pete found a way to win on the baseball field. He needs to find a way to become a greater winner off the field. It's in him, but he needs to dig deeper."

And if Rose were to make what appeared to be sincere apology, would he have enough support from the Hall of Famers who -- when combined with the persons in the writers' and broadcasters' wings of the Hall -- can make somebody a Hall of Famer with a 75 percent mandate?

"I don't know, but it's his best shot," Brock said.

The veterans' committee first gets Rose on their ballot in 2009 -- if the baseball writers haven't already enshrined him in the summers of 2005 or 2006.

"I believe that when it becomes painfully urgent for Pete to truly speak from his heart, he will," Brock said. "If Commissioner (Bud) Selig reinstates Rose after this season and gives him a one year's probation and that means the writers get one shot at electing him in December of '05 with induction in the summer of '06, that'd be OK by me. It's going by the rules. But, right now, what I'm hearing from the writers sounds like what I'm hearing from the Hall of Famers. Pete doesn't have their 75 percent. He's lost votes."

Rose book signings

Pete Rose will sign copies of his new book My Prison Without Bars from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, 2692 Madison Rd., Norwood, and from 12-2 p.m. Thursday at Media Play, 6174 Glenway Ave., Western Hills. All the spots in both lines are sold out.

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