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Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame

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Posted: Friday, January 3, 2003 10:00 pm

You can always count on baseball to make the wrong choice. Whether it's on or off the field, Major League Baseball will never surprise you by doing anything intelligent.

Over the last three decades, baseball has given us the designated hitter (one league only), two major strikes and endless threats to have a third, domed stadiums, Astroturf, a cocaine scandal, a steroid scandal, expansion teams that offer diluted quality of play, division play-offs, four hour long late October evening World Series games that end after midnight Eastern time, mutli-million dollar bench-riders, All-Star games without winners and pampered players who either refuse to sign an autograph or want to charge you $100.

Now Pete Rose is back in the baseball news.Joe Guzzardi And Commissioner Bud Selig is off to his usual bad start in dealing with the player once known as "Charlie Hustle." Rose wants his 13-year old suspension from baseball lifted. If and when his ban is removed, Rose will become eligible for the Hall of Fame.

Most baseball fans want to see Rose elected to the Hall. And Selig alone is empowered to decide which way things will go for Rose.

Instead of making a simple yes or no decision, Selig has called a meeting of the 58 living members of the Hall of Fame to hash over Rose's fate. The meeting is tentatively scheduled for mid-January.

Supposedly, some Hall of Fame players fear that Rose's election might dilute the H.O.F. as an institution and therefore their standing as superstars. But many - Steve Carlton, Rod Carew and Duke Snider to name a few - are on record as favoring Rose's induction. All of them can count to 4,264, Rose's number of career hits.

Selig's hedge is more likely tied to the Hall's efforts to create a $50 million endowment. Rumor has it that at least one potential donor will back out if Rose is instated.

One thing is certain - at a meeting where 59 people have a voice, nothing will get done. As Bob Feller, elected to the Hall 40 years ago, said: "I imagine there will be some pros and cons. This is going to be a very interesting affair. It might open a can of worms. I wouldn't miss it. I'll be there."

Even the mighty New York Times has editorialized on whether thumbs should go up or down on Rose. In the Dec. 22 "The Week in Review" section, an editorial titled "Keep the Ban on Pete Rose," the Times wrote, "Nobody should be encouraged to think that he can trifle with a fundamental obligation and escape permanent sanction."

(Note to VDare readers: Illegal aliens, yes! Pete Rose, no! And speaking of "fundamental obligations" how about the obligation the Times should have to write fair and balanced stories about immigration?).

The Times points out that "many people argue that Mr. Rose has already paid his debt, that '13 years is enough.'"

I am one of those people. Rose has indeed paid. For 13 years, Rose has been the target of justifiably critical headline newspaper and magazine stories. Virtually every public appearance Rose makes references the bets he placed between 1984-1986.

Bart Giamatti, then commissioner of Baseball, announced Rose's life time ban on national television.

But since Rose's 1989 ban, we have seen corporate thievery of the highest and most creative kind. States encourage legalized gambling through lotteries. The U.S. Congress excused the most shameful possible behavior by President Bill Clinton.

Individuals convicted of second-degree murder are out of the penitentiary in less than ten years. Child molesters get suspended sentences.

But still "No" on Pete Rose?

You may not want your Little Leaguer to choose Pete Rose as his ultimate role model. But Rose's work ethic was unmatched. He worked tirelessly to hone his average skills. Rose rarely played hurt, rarely missed a game and never complained. Whether his managers need him at first, second or third base or in the outfield, Rose was ready.

Enough is enough.

When Rose was suspended, he was told by Giamatti to "reconfigure his life." He says he has, and that's why he's so baffled about still being in limbo eight years later.

"When you do something and they penalize you, they tell you what to do and you do it, then it's tough for them to turn you down and that's the position I am in," Rose said.

Joe Guzzardi, an instructor at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly opinion column since 1988. He can be reached via e-mail.


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