By LES EAST
It has been 20 years since Pete Rose was kicked out of Major League Baseball for betting on it.
Rose got a fair hearing on the allegations that he bet on baseball, and he was rightly found guilty of doing so. But his worthiness for induction into the Hall of Fame has not – and cannot – receive a fair hearing because his punishment for gambling – excommunication from Baseball – prohibits his consideration.
That needs to change.
The ban agreed to by Rose and then-Commissioner Bart Giamatti in 1989 prohibits Rose from being employed in Major League Baseball or from taking part in on-field activities, though a notable exception was made for the honoring of the All-Century Team, to which Rose was chosen, at the 1999 World Series.
Cooperstown has a rule (adopted not coincidentally 20 years ago) that says it will not consider for induction anyone who is permanently banned from the game. So Cooperstown can’t weigh in on this unless current Commissioner Bud Selig lifts the ban. Lift it, Bud.
Let’s get a few things clear:
Rose did a very bad thing by betting on baseball games.
Rose thumbed his nose at the game, its hierarchy, and its fans by stubbornly lying and denying for 15 years that he bet on baseball.
Rose made things even worse by saving his long-awaited confession for a book he wrote, making money off of his long-overdue admission.
Those are some serious blemishes on Rose’s resume, but they don’t change the facts, the most notable of which are:
The most hits ever;
The most games played;
A career .303 batting average;
An average of .300 or better in 15 seasons;
Three World Series titles;
Selection to 17 All-Star Games at a record five different positions.
But those credentials can’t receive the rubber stamp they warrant because Rose is ineligible for consideration.
Rose’s induction into the Hall of Fame would be in no way inconsistent with the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s mission.
Its mission statement says it exists for the “honoring, by enshrinement, those individuals who had exceptional careers.”
In that regard, Rose is a no-brainer as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Sure, his enshrinement would require some sort of acknowledgment of his misdeeds – a scarlet letter on his bust, hanging his bust upside down, displaying his bust next to one of those “Got a gambling problem?” signs, whatever.
This saga has drawn out for so long that Rose is no longer eligible for Hall of Fame consideration by the baseball writers. He would have to be considered by the Veterans Committee, consisting of the 65 living members of the Hall of Fame, and need to receive 75 percent of their votes to be enshrined.
The 65 living Hall of Famers understand, better than anyone else, who belongs among them in Cooperstown.
Let them sit in judgment of whether the most prolific hit-maker in the history of the game belongs in a place created to recognize the most prolific players in the history of the game.