After 14 years of denials, former baseball great Pete Rose has finally come clean about the gambling problem which led to his lifetime ban from major league baseball in August 1989. This was not just any old gambling, but gambling on baseball – specifically on his own team, the Cincinnati Reds. Many sports writers and fans have expressed the opinion that, while gambling on your own team is a very bad thing and he should not be allowed to manage a team, Rose should nonetheless be accepted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, an honor he has heretofore been denied. Much of this stems from a controversial 1991 decision in which the National Baseball Hall of Fame induction committee passed a rule that would deny eligibility to anyone who had been banned from baseball. Pete Rose was not named, but it was generally understood that the ruling was directed toward him.
I couldn’t possibly care less about baseball or any other professional sport, but I still believe that a person should be acknowledged for their accomplishments. During Rose’s 24-year career as a player, he racked up some very impressive statistics. He set the record for career hits in major league baseball (4,256 – a record still unbroken), and ranked number one in games played (3,562), as well as “at bats” (14,053). Clearly this entitles him to induction into the Hall of Fame.
Where I draw the line, however, is at his 14-year refusal to own up to what he did wrong. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig should use this opportunity to make a strong moral statement and maintain the ban on Pete Rose’s activities in major league baseball, an institution that has already suffered with its fans because of the perception of greed created beginning with the 1994 player’s strike.
In light of the fact that Mr. Rose’s autobiography, My Prison Without Bars, is being released this month, the true motivation for his sudden feelings of contrition has become all too clear.
Unfortunately, it goes even deeper than that. If Pete Rose’s name remains off the ballot for induction into the Hall of Fame for 20 years, he becomes ineligible. Pete Rose retired as an active player in 1986, 18 years ago. Is the release of his book this month a coincidence? Gee, I don’t know.
Scott Wacholtz can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.