25 years ago, Pete Rose heard the words that he hoped he would not hear. He heard those words from A. Bartlett Giamatti, who was the commissioner of Major League Baseball at the time when George Herbert Walker Bush had just taken office as president in his only term in the White House.
Like a child sent to his room with no dessert after dinner, Peter Edward Rose, who could be considered the greatest hitter to ever play baseball, has not been allowed to be with his MLB friends except without permisson of the powers that be, only making appearances at independent league games, where they are not affected by the hierarchy of MLB. The Hall of Fame has eluded Pete Rose, like Moby Dick getting away from Captain Ahab. While others have gone into Cooperstown, Rose has been in exile, waiting for the all clear from the commissioner.
Bud Selig, who will be stepping down as commmissioner, has not decided if he wants to re-instate Pete Rose and put him back in the good graces of the baseball gods. His term ends in January when Rob Manfred takes over and one of the things that still hangs over Selig's head is Rose, like the sword of Damoclese.
The idea of Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame, enshrined in Cooperstown for eternity brings joys to some and is as repulsive to others, like kyrptonite to Superman. Let's be specific about something. It's the Hall of Fame, it's not the Vatican. There are no secret ballots being burned, there's no white smoke involved and no one's getting nominated for sainthood. It's time for baseball to say, "Pete, you've been punished enough."
While there were Hall of Famers that have been model citizens both while playing the game and away from it, others have had less than colorful relationships with their fans. A prime example of a sinner would be Ty Cobb, the man whose record Rose broke. Cobb was from Georgia, white and as racist as can be. Granted, like Rose, Cobb played the game hard and hustled but tended to play the game a bit on the dirty side, even going so far as to cleat anyone that got in his way, crossed his path or said an unkind word about him. The worst thing Rose ever did, aside from breaking Ray Fosse's shoulder in the 1970 All Star Game? Getting into a fight in the playoffs with Mets shortstop Bud Harrelson.
Yes, Pete Rose bet on baseball. He at least admitted that fact, so he can't be faulted for that. There are people in baseball and in life that have committed worse crimes. Even the 1920 Black Sox could not be faulted for what they did. After all, they lived in an age where players were paid almost slave wages, unlike the millions they make now. They couldn't ask to be free agents because in that time, there was no such thing as free agency. Now there's talk that Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and others in the steroid era that are being considered for Cooperstown and there are those that argue that if they get in, so should Rose. It's only fair and they're not only right, they're spot on.
Bud Selig is going to be commissioner for his final World Series in October and after that, he will ride off into the sunset as one of the greatest commissioners in all sports. While under his tenure, he's managed to save the game from a work stoppage that crippled it in 1994. From 1995 to the present, while other sports have had work stoppages, MLB has been able to stand on its own feet. Aside from presenting the World Series trophy to the winner of the Fall Classic in October and presiding over the Winter Meetings in December, Selig can add one more act to his legacy by lifting the ban that hangs over Rose's head. That ban has stood over him like the cloud that hangs over Eyyore in the "Winnie The Pooh" cartoons.
Peter Edward Rose needs to be set free from his exile now, while he still walks and draws breath on God's Earth, the same Earth he made in 144 hours (6 days), not when he's been laid to rest and fans, friends and family have wept over his grave. He's not dying but it would be nice to tell his grandchildren that he is in the Hall of Fame himself. Bud Selig can right this in his last hurrah. Pete Rose needs to get the phone call that tells him he's in. It's the Hall of Fame, not sainthood, as Atlanta Braves announcer Chip Caray said Sunday. No one is perfect and if that were the case, the world would be pretty boring. After all, the voters look at what one did on the field, not off it.
Bud Selig, baseball's ninth Commissioner and Milwaukee's favorite son, took a Seattle Pilots team and moved them to the land of cheese and bratwurst, where they would become the Brewers. His legacy as commissioner includes interleague play, an extra team in the post-season, replay and MLB Network as well as the World Baseball Classic and drug testing. His legacy hasn't been perfect and there's been some controversy and he has become the butt of many jokes on Letterman and Leno but in the end, he's survived. He can add one more item to his legacy before he steps down and not have the problem hang over Manfred's head.
It won't be an easy task and while some will applaud him, others will want to have him pilloried but putting Pete Rose in Cooperstown will put that issue to rest once and for all. With the All Star game coming to Cincinnati in 2015, it would be fitting that Rose be re-instated and be allowed to join Cobb in Cooperstown. There are going to be some writers that still don't like Rose and wouldn't spit in his direction if he were dying of thirst, while others are willing to be forgving. Let's hope that those that didn't like Rose, for whatever reason, whether he didn't answer a question to their liking or he blew them off, would put those feelings aside.
That would be the greatest Christmas present that Rose could ever get.