It's a Shame
Pete Rose could have been elected to the Hall of Fame this week, but he won't be. And he shouldn't be.
This is the week that Pete Rose would have been voted into baseball's Hall of Fame. Since a player must be retired for at least five years before his election, Rose, whose last at bat came on Aug. 17, 1986, would have gotten the call from Jack Lang, longtime executive secretary of the Baseball Writers Association of America, on Tuesday of this week. But in August 1989, Rose was banned for life by commissioner Bart Giamatti for gambling, and last February the Hall of Fame board of directors voted to make anyone banned from baseball ineligible for election.
There figured to be a fair number of symbolic write-in votes for Rose this week among the real votes for Tom Seaver, Rollie Fingers and Tony Perez. Some of the writers voting for Rose will have done so in protest over the high-handed way Giamatti's successor, Fay Vincent, influenced the Hall board to eliminate Rose from consideration. Indeed, what baseball did was wrong, especially after entrusting the BBWAA with Hall of Fame elections for more than 50 years.
Still others will have voted for Rose because they believe his credentials—alltime leader in base hits (4,256), 16 All-Star Game selections, six World Series—outweigh his crime, which was betting on baseball games. Though Rose denies he placed wagers on baseball, Giamatti believed he did, and the evidence pointing to that conclusion is overwhelming. Vincent told The New York Times last week, "What Pete Rose did was to commit the capital crime in baseball. He not only bet on baseball, he bet on his own team."
The punishment for betting on baseball must be severe, lest the credibility of the game be destroyed. If that punishment means that a great player like Rose is denied induction into the Hall of Fame, so be it.
Still, we hope that someday baseball will see fit to reinstate a contrite and rehabilitated Rose. When and if Rose is elected, perhaps his plaque should contain a small cautionary note, like the one on the "plaque" above, making it clear that there is no place for gambling, in or on the game.
Slings and Arrows
And now from Barcelona, the latest on the Games
The arrival of the new year meant there were only 206 days until the beginning of the Summer Olympics. At the moment, the biggest worries in Barcelona are the not-so-secret opening ceremonies, flaming arrows and a stuffed man.
The man is known as El Negro de Banyoles, and he has been on display in the Banyoles Natural Sciences Museum since 1918. It was recently revealed that El Negro was stolen from his burial site in 1888, but the town of Banyoles, the site of the Olympic rowing competition, refuses to remove him from display, much less return him to his place of origin in Botswana. Dr. Alfonso Arcelin, a Haitian-born physician who is leading a crusade to remove El Negro from the museum, has written to IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch and Magic Johnson asking for their support, but he has yet to get a response. Could this lead to a boycott of the Olympics by African nations? "I wanted to be diplomatic about this," says Arcelin, "but it seems events are gaining a momentum of their own. I can no longer be sure I control what will happen."
The Barcelona Olympic Organizing Committee (COOB) and Ovideo Bassat Sport, the company hired to stage the opening and closing ceremonies, held their first rehearsal last week, a walk-through of the opening that was supposed to be hush-hush. However, police refused to seal off the Olympic stadium, and hundreds of tourists, many with video cameras, happened upon the three-hour performance. That night, all seven TV networks ran "exclusive" footage of the event. There will be flip cards, of course, as well as a fireworks dragon and 12 castells, the 50-foot human pyramids that are a part of Catalonian culture.