It’s been hard to escape the Pete Rose stories this week as we’ve hit the 25th anniversary of his lifetime ban from baseball. Time has caused many to question why he’s not in the Hall of Fame and was his punishment too harsh. And of course there are some people that are grabbing pitchforks simply from reading my headline. In case you need a reminder of why this guy isn’t in, here you go.
1) He bet on baseball. This is the cardinal sin of the game, dating back to the Black Sox scandal. Sure gambling, fixing games, and a lot more was happening before the 1919 World Series, but this threatened to ruin the game. Every major league clubhouse to this day has a sign posted about baseball and gambling. Furthermore, the evidence was irrefutable, despite his denials for many years.
2) He disrespected 2 Hall of Fame Inductees in order to sell a book. Speaking of denials, when Rose finally came clean, it was on the day that Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor were announced as Hall of Fame inductees. After years of denials, he intentionally overshadowed their inductions by releasing My Prison Without Bars. At the time, several key baseball people were trying to broker a deal to get him reinstated. One of those people, Joe Morgan his former teammate, was so disgusted by Rose’s selfish behavior that he wrote 2 days later, “I haven’t seen a genuine apology from Pete yet… Writing a book is the easy way out, plus you profit from it.” Talks to reinstate Rose were abandoned.
3) The death of Bart Giamatti. Giamatti was characterized by Rose and his attorney as a man with a vendetta. In fact, Giamatti inherited the scandal from outgoing Commissioner Peter Ueberroth. Giamatti was handed the worst possible scenario: one of the games greatest heroes had committed the game’s worst sin. Rose and his attorney took MLB’s front office and the baseball fans of the country through a hellish, divisive, and drawn out nightmare. The stress of it caused Giamatti to die of a heart attack just 8 days after the conclusion of the case. He was only 51.
4) Shoeless Joe Jackson. If Shoeless Joe never was reinstated (along with Buck Weaver), it’s hard to make a case for Rose.
And as promised, here is one way he could get in. I’ve long thought that the Hall of Fame voting should not be left to sportswriters. No disrespect to this fine profession, but to me the voting should be done by players, coaches, and GM’s who spent at least 5 years in the Major Leagues. Let the people who know most what it takes to be great at this game decide who deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. If that group were to vote Rose in, then so be it.
However, this idea was put to a group of Hall of Fame players several years ago. One surprising theme from the discussion — a number of players who said that if Rose went in, they would ask for their plaques to be removed. I don’t think it’s because they aren’t capable of forgiving. They just don’t like how Rose has treated everyone since he was first investigated. And in case you’re thinking Rose has changed, last night on an ESPN special about the anniversary of his lifetime ban, he lied about the case again.
Carry on, Citizens!