"Lemme tell you something else: If Michael Jordan were a baseball player, he would be in the same boat as me. Only because of the rules. He admitted to associations with known gamblers. And if you make an illegal bet, you're admitting you associated with known gamblers."
Of course, saying Rose got kicked out of baseball for associating with gamblers is like saying the Titanic sank from associating with icebergs. In those days, Rose was absolutely up to his size-XL chin in suspicious characters of every known scar type. His phone bills to bookies, con men and betting go-betweens—even during the summer, when no other sport but baseball exists—would give the strongest mailman a hernia. So maybe baseball is very glad to have such a rule, indeed.
Not that any of this warms Rose's heart toward the muckamucks who thumb him forever out of the sport. "Both of 'em—both him and [Giamatti's successor, Fay] Vincent—thought they were bigger than the game. So they both took care of the biggest name in the game. I'd like someone to name me one thing them two, Vincent and Giamatti, did that was positive for baseball. One thing! Ask anybody, What's the most screwed-up sport of all right now? They'd say, 'Baseball.' And that's from years of their leadership."
Listening to Rush Limbaugh makes a man mean.
This is what Rose, baseball's living legend, says as he's signing a Pete Rose T-shirt for a lady from Toledo behind the cash register at the Pete Rose Ballpark Cafe: "You want a bag with that?"
The weird thing about going to Rose's restaurant is that you usually find Rose there. Working. Not only does he come for lunch, but he normally does his coast-to-coast radio show from a studio built into the restaurant. And then, when the show is over, he stands behind the counter and signs anything you buy and then bags it for you, which certainly nobody can ever remember Joe DiMaggio doing.
He is still a little raw at all this, though. It's a little like suddenly bringing the piano mover inside to sell the pianos. He wears silk sweat suits to most business meetings. Every now and then he'll finish up a big business meeting by saying, "Well, that pretty much puts the nail in the coffin, eh, boys?" And he agrees to appear at a card-signing show in Coopers-town for the two days before this year's Hall of Fame ceremonies, which makes him look about as classy as a $39 suit, until he finally takes enough grief and cancels.
His radio show isn't exactly Firing Line, either. What you get is a lot of "So, who do you think's going to win the Series?" But he's getting a little better every day, and he studies his 52-year-old gluteus off.
In a lot of ways Rose is still doing his time, piling up the good behavior points. "Every day that passes is good for me." The way he figures it, if he keeps his nose clean and leaves the bookies alone and inches back toward corporate America and gets a friendly commissioner somewhere along the way, he might yet get reinstated. And if he gets reinstated, then the baseball writers can vote for him, and if the writers can vote for him, they might as well start carving the plaque.
"I mean, I just can't imagine I'm not going to get reinstated. Didn't they just reinstate George Steinbrenner? And he associated with a known gambler. Besides, Joe Morgan made the Hall of Fame. Johnny Bench made the Hall of Fame. Sparky [Anderson] is gonna make the Hall of Fame. I gotta make the Hall of Fame. It's not right for the game of baseball."