Rose belongs in Hall of Fame, but not on field


Published: Wednesday, January 7, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 6, 2004 at 11:02 p.m.

Pete Rose doesn't need a plaque in Cooperstown, he needs a billboard.

There is no way, assuming that Rose's admission of guilt eventually gets him into the Hall of Fame, that you can condense his story into the typical slab that accompanies each inductee.

You might need an entire wing to tell this story.

PETE ROSE

Nicknamed Charlie Hustle.

All-time hits leader.

As manager of the Cincinnati Reds, he bet repeatedly on baseball games. Lied about it for 14 years. Continued gambling on sports books and race tracks despite warnings that his behavior could thwart any potential reinstatement. Finally admitted to gambling in order to sell a book. Reinstated by Commissioner Bud Selig in an effort to help Selig's popularity.

The whole thing stinks.

I've always held the belief that Rose belongs in the Hall but only when he admitted that he gambled on baseball while managing the Reds, so I'm not going to back off on that now.

But his plaque has to include why it took the all-time hits leader, the greatest singles hitter in the history of the game, to make it to the greatest honor a baseball player can receive.

Otherwise, it's a sham.

I can't help but wonder how all of those fans who were loyal to Rose, who blamed John Dowd and Bart Giamatti and Fay Vincent, who cheered his stubbornness, how do they feel now?

Betrayed? Disillusioned?

Say it ain't so, Pete.

But it is so. At least we think it's so.

Why should we believe him now?

Should we believe him when he says he never bet from the clubhouse? Should we believe him when he says he never bet against the Reds?

He's a liar. He has admitted that and without the slightest hint of an apology.

Just a lot of greed.

He admitted tohis transgressions for two reasons - he has a book to sell, and he has only two years of eligibility left to be elected to the Hall of Fame before his fate goes to the veteran's committee, a group that might never give him the honor.

So he fessed up. Not because it was the right thing to do, but because so many people, including the current commissioner, told him that was the only way he had a chance for reinstatement. And to sell his book.

He called baseball's bluff for 14 years before finally folding. This was one bet that didn't work.

Rose is a sad and pathetic figure, but we're not going to feel sorry for him. In so many words, he called all of those people who have defended him, "Suckers." He vindicated everyone who believed he bet on baseball and staunchly stood in his way.

Pete Rose is one of the best players ever to play the game. His numbers and championships are gaudy. But he is also a crude, deceitful man with the morals of an alley cat.

He committed the ultimate sin, firing off a raspberry at the integrity of the game. There are worse human beings in the Hall of Fame, but none who havehas done anything as debilitating to baseball.

Still, he belongs in Cooperstown, not down the street hawking autographs and crowing about the size of his crowd, once again thumbing his nose at his detractors even when he knew in his heart they were right and he was wrong.

He belongs there, but not in baseball. Certainly, he does not belong managing again. Every move he would make would be scrutinized.

"Rose left that pitcher in way too long. He must have made a bet."

Baseball, a sport rife with steroid controversy, doesn't need that. It needs Rose in the Hall, and then let him go out and continue making money on books and autographs. Just keep him away from the ballparks and certainly out of any dugouts.

To me, this is just another ugly chapter in the Pete Rose timeline. I won't read his book. I won't watch his interview on ABC where he tells Charlie Gibson what we can only assume is the truth. If he does go into the Hall of Fame, I won't feel any sense of relief, just revulsion that it happened this way.

His timing was perfect, perfect for Pete Rose. That's the irony of his life. As a player, he was all about doing whatever it took to help his team win, the guy who would play the game for free. As an ex-player, he has been all about doing whatever is good for him, the guy who wouldn't smile for a camera unless there was a buck involved.

His plea bargain came way too late. And it couldn't have been done in a more sloppy manner. Charlie the Hustler should have slid head-first into this a long time ago.

You can reach sports columnist Pat Dooley by e-mail at dooleyp@gvillesun.com or by calling 374-5053. You can hear Pat weekdays from 4-5 p.m. on WGGG 1230-AM in Gainesville and WMOP 900-AM in Ocala.

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