x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Hit king Rose still on the outside looking in

We are coming up to the 20th anniversary of when Pete Rose was banned for life from professional baseball for betting on games when he was managing the Cincinnati Reds.

We are coming up to the 20th anniversary of when the all-time hit king, Pete Rose, was banned for life from professional baseball for betting on games when he was managing the Cincinnati Reds. It looked like another year was going to come and go with no update from Major League Baseball Commissioner, Bud Selig, on possible reinstatement for Rose and whether he can finally be on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot.

Rose, in Cooperstown signing autographs over the weekend but not at the Hall of Fame ceremony, admitted in his 2004 autobiography that he had bet on baseball. On Sunday, before the annual Hall of Fame inductions, the great Hank Aaron spoke up about Rose. "I would certainly like to see him in," Aaron said. "He belongs in, really. His career is one that he needs to be right here in the middle of all of this."

This was a huge vote of confidence for Rose from one of the games most beloved and respected former players. And Rose deserved the accolade. The one-time all-star had more base hits than any man in the history of the game, and during more than two decades with the Reds, Philadelphia Phillies and Montreal Expos, he was respected as one of baseball's toughest, hardest-working players. When his playing career was over he moved right over to the dugout as the Reds' manager. It was in this role that Rose got busted for betting daily on baseball. MLB has a rule that if you bet on baseball in any way, you will be banned from the game for life. Rose was banned. He told me once that he only bet for his team and never against, but the rule does not make an exception.

What may have hurt Rose as much as the gambling charge is that for 17 years, he denied that he ever bet on baseball. When he finally admitted it, the damage had been done. Commissioner Selig inherited the Rose situation in 1992 when he took control of the game. Selig has maintained that the Rose reinstatement is under review and that his status hasn't changed. All-Stars such as Mike Schmidt have tried to influence Selig to let Rose back in, but nothing has developed.

Aaron was the all-time home run king and some still consider him so. Aaron broke Babe Ruth's record of 715 homers in 1973. During that time he received racist and threatening letters from fans angry that a black man was about to capture one of the game's most cherished records. Aaron handled himself with class during this trying time and has continued to do so as an ambassador of the game. When Aaron talked about Rose on Sunday, it had a different feel from all the other players who have gone to bat for Rose in the past. It was like a blanket of morality had just wrapped itself around Rose.

But here's the problem. Take a look at the rule that Rose broke: "Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible." If Selig decides to let Rose back in the game, he will in fact be doing away with this longtime rule that is in every baseball clubhouse. How can he keep this rule intact, while letting Rose off?

The Baseball Hall of Fame has gone on record that they will go along with how baseball rules on Rose. They will not put him on the ballot until he is reinstated. So unless more legends like Aaron start lobbying the Hall of Fame to break away from Selig's stance, Rose will continue to spend each July in Cooperstown, but on the outside looking in. ppabst@thenational.ae