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The Fifteen-Year Bloom

by Gregory Pratt, BaseballEvolution.com

July 27, 2009

A New York Daily News report this week informs us that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is considering whether or not to reinstate Pete Rose, which would make him eligible for selection to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. Hank Aaron, a close friend of Selig’s, lobbied for Rose’s reinstatement over the weekend, saying “I would like to see Pete in. He belongs there."

Of that, there is no credible question. The baseball Hall of Fame cannot be complete without the all-time hits leader, just like it can not be complete without recognizing players from the steroid era. Nothing is more disrespectful to an institution than to erase its history, and banning controversial figures from Cooperstown is a contemptible offense against the game. A Hall of Fame is not a church, nor is it a proper venue for revisionist history.

That does not mean that Pete Rose should be reinstated any time soon.

Rose is, by most accounts, a scumbag. Buster Olney writes of him as a huckster. Pat Jordan’s classic profile piece on Pete Rose Jr., War of the Roses, shows us a man who is cold as a father and a failure as a husband. A Google search for “Pete Rose is a good man” turns up an article on “The Pete Rose Controversy” that reads, in part, “Pete Rose, the man, well, he lacks character and integrity[.]” No one has ever written that Pete Rose is a good man.

Yet I am a proponent of his eventual induction in the Hall of Fame. The key word is “eventual.”

The original controversy was over whether or not Rose had ever bet on baseball, period. He denied the charge for fifteen years before admitting to it in 2004. Even then, he was attempting to sell his book, My Prison Without Bars, instead of seeking absolution. The controversy over the last several years is over whether or not he has paid his dues to baseball by admitting to gambling. Is that enough to merit his reinstatement into the game and his induction into the Hall? Can anything make up for his crimes?

It should be noted, in all fairness, that some object to his induction on the grounds that he might have bet on or against his own team. Rose has always rejected this allegation. Let’s not pretend that the man deserves the benefit of the doubt on the issue: he probably bet on games he managed. I refuse to believe that someone as money-hungry as Pete Rose never saw the opportunity to make easy money after watching a starter’s bullpen session or knowing that the opposing hitters were hungover. Besides, he is a compulsive gambler. You’d have to love Pete Rose and hate common sense to think there’s a chance he didn’t bet on games he was involved in. I just don’t think it should be a stumbling block to his enshrinement in the Hall. We know he gambled and he admitted it. At this point, what he gambled on is all the same, assuming no evidence that he ever deliberately threw a game emerges.

My simple belief is that Pete Rose should be reinstated by baseball and inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019. I think that my solution to the Pete Rose controversy is logical and fair. Rose lied to the world for fifteen years. He should, therefore, be ineligible for admission to the Hall of Fame until he has lived for the same amount of time with the truth. I know that there are people who believe that he earned his absolution by confessing in 2004, but I do not think that is enough to erase a decade of deceit. Rose did not simply deny betting on baseball. He was adamant that it never happened. Then, he reversed course to sell a book. That was an important first step in his return from exile but Moses had to walk for forty years before he could reach the promised land.

It would be an injustice to keep him out of the Hall of Fame forever but it would be wrong to give him his glory in less time than it took for him to give us the truth. Pete Rose is a rose that will take fifteen years to bloom before justice can be done.



Gregory Pratt is a junior political science and history double-major at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He currently serves as News Editor of the Chicago Flame newspaper. Email him at gregory@baseballevolution.com. He likes email.

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