Work in Sports
Editor's Note: This piece was first published in 1999
Part One: Should the ban be lifted?
By Sonja Steptoe, CNN/SI
(CNN/SI) -- For a decade, it has been the great sports debate: Ten years after Pete Rose's banishment from baseball, should the game's all-time leader in hits remain in exile and off the Hall of Fame ballot?
In 1999, outfielder Paul O'Neill of the New York Yankees and pitcher John Franco of the New York Mets battled for a chance to play in the World Series. But a decade ago, O'Neill and Franco were playing for Rose in Cincinnati. They think their old skipper belongs in the Hall of Fame.
"I think that in this world of forgive and forget and giving people second chances, there's no doubt in my mind that Pete Rose should be doing something he's loved his whole life and that's to be around baseball," said O'Neill.
"I think he paid his debt to society," Franco adds. "He was suspended all these years. I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame, also."
But the man who drafted Rose's suspension agreement with baseball doesn't see it that way.
"I think the public, bless the public's heart, hasn't seen the evidence, doesn't know what really took place," says Fay Vincent. "But even more importantly, I don't think the public is thinking about the institution of baseball. They're not worried about the next great ball player who says if Pete got away with it, I can get away with it."
Broadcaster Jim Kaat was Rose's pitching coach in 1985.
"Pete has maintained this tough exterior like, 'I didn't do anything wrong,' and unfortunately, I think the evidence is too strong that he did."
On August 23, 1989, Major League Baseball banned Rose from the sport for life. Then-Commissioner Bart Giamatti believed that he had evidence that proved that Rose had bet on baseball, and on the team he was managing, the Cincinnati Reds, running up enormous debts to bookmakers in the process.
"When you place a bet on your team, you are then putting your financial interest ahead of your team's interest," says John Dowd, the former special counsel to the baseball commissioner.
"One, it's a conflict of interest, and two, it creates enormous debt. In this case, we had the manager of the Cincinnati Reds indebted to organized crime in New York for $500,000 while he was managing the team. The game cannot tolerate such leverage on a player, or a manager, or anybody who participates in the game. It just can't permit it."
Rose's sentence was the mandatory punishment for violating Rule 21(d), which prohibits a player from betting on his own team. While Rose accepted baseball's verdict, he and then-commissioner Bart Giamatti signed a document that stated that Rose was neither admitting nor denying that he had bet on baseball. For 10 years, Rose has cited that clause as proof that baseball never had the goods on him.
Rose continues to deny that he bet on his sport or on his team and insists that, whatever his sins, he's been punished long enough.
"I got tied up with some wrong guys and that was my mistake and I wish I hadn't done it. And I'm sorry that I did it and I'm sorry if I offended anybody. I am very sorry. But I have to say of all the mistakes I made, I didn't hurt you," Rose said to the reporter, "or your producers. It hurt me and my family."
In any case, Rose's supporters say the fact that Rose was never accused of betting against his team should count in his favor.
Another of Rose's supporters is Norm Charlton, who was a relief pitcher under Rose.
"If I'm betting just to win and I'm managing in such a manner that we win, then it's not really jeopardizing the integrity of the game."
But to baseball's establishment, that distinction is irrelevant. Those who marched Rose into exile say that his betting patterns could have been a roadmap for bookmakers who thrive on inside information.
"Don't forget, he didn't bet every day and so when he didn't bet, you think the bookie didn't understand what was going on?" said Vincent.
"I mean, suppose the manager of the Reds says, 'I'm not betting today.' What does that tell you?"
"It doesn't matter whether you influence the game," Dowd argues. "It doesn't matter whether you bet for or against. You have then placed the integrity of the game aside and that's why we almost lost the game of baseball in 1920 when the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series in Cincinnati."
Rose counters by saying those who argue against him are caught in a time warp.
"Regardless of what people think, this is 1999. This is not 1919. This is not 1920. I don't want to hear that I was bad for the integrity of the game. Everybody that plays the game ought to approach the game like I did. Everybody that plays the game ought to play it like I did."