The Hit King Compromise
Pete Rose Jr.'s Sept. 1 major league debut has, not surprisingly, led us back to his father. Big Pete was cheered wildly when he showed up to watch his son play third for the Reds at Cincinnati's Cinergy Field that day, and he basked in the adoration while yukking things up with team owner Marge Schott. Afterward, Cincinnati general manager Jim Bowden acknowledged that he would consider Rose as a managerial candidate were baseball's ban of Rose ever lifted. In recent weeks Rose's lawyer, Gary Spicer, has met behind closed doors with Robert DuPuy, a lawyer for acting commissioner Bud Selig.
But if Rose thinks he has a chance for reinstatement by baseball, he's wrong. Partly out of respect for Bart Giamatti—the commissioner who imposed the ban on Gamblin' Rose in 1989—and partly because he feels sure that Rose bet on baseball, Selig will not let Rose back in. No one on baseball's executive council objects to Selig's stance.
Indeed, Rose should never be allowed to manage the Reds or any other team. Evidence that he bet on baseball—and on the Reds—while he was managing in Cincinnati is overwhelming; there's little reason to believe the cocksure Rose, who still gambles legally though he denies ever betting on baseball, wouldn't wager on ball games this time around. Rose, however, should be in the Hall of Fame, and his eligibility is unfortunately dependent on his being reinstated.
In 1991 the Hall of Fame board of directors passed election regulation 6e, which says, "Any person on Baseball's ineligible list shall not be an eligible candidate." The committee claimed the rule was not designed specifically for Rose. "I like the rule," says Hall of Fame chairman Ed Stack. "We would need some kind of appeal to consider amending it."
Here's that appeal. While no one should feel comfortable with Rose managing or otherwise being directly involved in the game, neither should anyone feel comfortable that Rose is not in the Hall. Visitors to Cooperstown deserve to see him there. Rose holds more than a dozen career records and, with his hell-bent, love-of-the-game style, had a positive impact on fans and players throughout his 24-year career. Rose's Hall plaque could state that after his playing career he was banned from the game on suspicion of gambling while he was a manager.
Selig also sits on the Hall of Fame board of directors, and by helping to change the admission requirements while blocking Rose's reinstatement, he could honor Giamatti's ban, protect baseball from a known gambler and give Rose's playing career the appreciation it deserves.
Although the NFL's ban on drafting college players before their class graduates was lifted by commissioner Paul Tagliabue in 1990—with the result that a number of non-seniors now sign each year—the league, in contrast to the NBA, the NHL and Major League Baseball, has maintained a stance against athletic cradle-robbing. "Our position," says NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, "is that we prefer for players to stay in school, complete their eligibility and get their degrees."
That's very noble, and it also makes a Sept. 5 NFL press release headlined GOOD YOUNG QUARTERBACKS all the more jarring. It not only lists the league's top-ranked quarterbacks who are under 30 but also raves about Washington State junior Ryan Leaf and Kentucky sophomore Tim Couch—before going on to list five high school seniors as top prospects.