Subjects we're tired of hearing about, because-nothing-is-ever-going-to-change-anyhow:
1) Does the Second Amendment mean just the militia?
2) Did Shakespeare really write Shakespeare?
3) Yes, but what about the Grassy Knoll?
4) Is Oprah going to marry Stedman?
5) Should Pete Rose go into the Hall of Fame?
It is Hall of Fame induction time again ( Ozzie Smith went in on Sunday), so we ought to at least mention the lunacy of baseball's freezing Charlie Hustle out of Casa Immortality. First of all, it is irrational to deny the man who made the most hits in history a place in Ye Olde Shrine. Second, it is stupid. Third, it is not working: The only person the ban benefits is Pete himself.
Rose sets up shop every August right down from the Hallowed Hall and sells his autograph at handsome prices. I have watched as the line for Pete's John Han- cock wound around, out into the parking lot, while, across the way, all sorts of great Hall of Famers sat pretty much alone, at tables, looking forlorn, like neighborhood kids trying to peddle lemonade to uninterested commuters. Now there is even a permanent Cooperstown store that pays tribute to the Official Pariah of Baseball, Pete Rose Ballpark Collectibles, on Main Street. He is also the star of a whole Pony sporting-goods campaign: "Why isn't Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame?" Billboards. Ads. Rose even went on The Today Show to talk about it.
Doesn't baseball understand? The best thing that ever happened to Pete was to be denied a passport to Cooperstown. If ever he goes in, he goes away. Then he's just another George Kell, another Rod Carew, another Golden Oldie, another bump Down Memory Lane. Yesterday's newspaper.
It is anecdotal, yet instructive, that whenever I give speeches and call for questions, the question I'm most often asked is, Do you think Pete Rose should go into the Hall of Fame? (No. 2: Is it fair that Anna Kournikova gets so much publicity, even though etc., etc.?) And for whatever it's worth, when I say that I believe Pete should be inducted, the audiences always cheer lustily. Fans understand simple illogic. And mean-spiritedness.
But Commissioner Selig swears it's an over-my-dead-body-type thing. Commissioners won't change their minds on Pete Rose for the same reason that popes won't change their minds on women in the priesthood: predecessor courtesy. Reinstate Pete Rose? Ted Williams went to his freezer pleading with baseball to reconsider the case of poor Shoeless Joe Jackson, who, as Williams pointed out, is still serving a lifetime suspension from baseball, even though he's been dead for half a century. But God forbid that we, the living, ever overrule the infallible Judge Landis.
Of course Pete Rose is guilty of betting on baseball. He's as guilty as, well, Paul Hornung, who bet on NFL games while playing in the NFL but is properly plaqued in Canton. He's as guilty as all sorts of putative baseball immortals who stoke up on steroids. But Rose was guilty only when he was a manager. Even if he bet on baseball, even if he disobeyed the infield fly rule or shot Cock Robin, there is not a scintilla of evidence that he did anything untoward when he was playing the game. Even if you fervently believe that Manager Rose soiled the National Pastime, how unfair—how un-American—is it that the glories of his youth should be censored by the sins of male menopause? That's just not right.
Would that we could trust baseball to give the player his fair due. But then, in the matter of Pete Rose, baseball has long had a trust exemption.