September 28, 1997 in Sports

It’s A Good Bet Rose Will Stay Out Of Baseball

T.R. Sullivan Fort Worth Star-Telegram
 

Pete Rose better have a crack legal team assembled or he’s going to find out the real meaning of the term “long shot.”

He would get better odds betting a trifecta at Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie or the Houston Astros in three against the Atlanta Braves, but of course Rose doesn’t do that stuff anymore. Or so he says.

What Rose wants to do is get back into baseball, mainly because he will not rest until his smiling face is decorating a bronzed plaque in baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Baseball’s most famous alleged gambler officially applied for reinstatement Friday, a move that was greeted by a two-line statement from interim-commissioner-for-life Bud Selig: “Major League Baseball today has received a letter from Pete Rose requesting reinstatement. The matter will be handled in due course.”

Translation: “Since this annoying pest won’t buzz off and leave us alone, we intend to squash him like a bug…when we feel like getting around to it.”

But thanks for staying in touch Pete…how’s the wife and kids?

Rose has been in this situation before, in the 1970 All-Star Game. American League catcher Ray Fosse had the ball and the plate blocked, but Rose simply lowered his head and flattened him. Game over, the Nationals win and the legend of Charlie Hustle is secured forever.

This time it will not be that easy, even if the cut-and-dried legal issue stands in Rose’s favor. One simple out-of-school statement by late commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti has branded Rose for life.

The simple legal fact is baseball did not prove Rose bet on baseball games. The report compiled by baseball’s chief bloodhound, John Dowd, strongly suggests Rose did, and many believe that it is convincing evidence. Others, including baseball historian Bill James, believe that Rose was railroaded.

But there was never a hearing or formal finding. Instead there was a plea bargain for an indefinite suspension and a joint statement that says, “Nothing in this agreement shall be deemed an admission or denial … that he bet on baseball games.”

Giamatti, however, pretty much spit on the agreement the next day in a news conference. Asked if Rose bet on baseball, Giamatti said, “In the absence of a hearing, I am confronted by the factual record of Mr. Dowd. On the basis of that, I have concluded that he bet on baseball.”

That simple but highly damning statement remains baseball’s version of the Scarlet Letter.

Rose’s problem, as it was in 1989, is his fate won’t be determined in a court of law. He will be in the office of the interimcommissioner-for-life.

Selig was a great admirer of Giamatti and helped engineer his rise to power. He called Giamatti “the best friend I ever had in baseball.” There is a strong feeling in baseball that no amount of legal persuasion will induce Selig to overturn the ruling.

In other words, Rose was playing another long shot when he said on his radio show yesterday, “I just hope they approach it with an open mind.”

Another feeling prevalent in baseball is Rose will not be reinstated until he makes a full confession of betting on baseball, something he continues to deny. It’s an illogical suggestion, for a binding legal agreement has already been reached on whatever Rose did wrong.

What baseball really wants is for Rose to undergo a religious transformation: Confess and repent and be baseball’s great ambassador.

In other words, they want him to become the Pete Rose they once thought he was before all his many flaws were laid bare.

It will not happen. Rose was a great baseball player and did much to promote the game. Millions of Americans were right in admiring the way he played. But Rose is also an arrogant, self-centered, self-promoting hustler, and that’s never going to change.

What else can you expect from a guy who said Friday: “I just hope the lords that be in baseball will see how much the people like me.”

Sorry Pete. The man held in great reverence is Giamatti. Maybe not by millions of baseball fans, but by the only person who counts right now.

And Selig won’t budge as easily as Fosse.


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