Frank Deford, who used to be a good writer, makes the inevitable case for Pete Rose to be placed in baseball's Hall of Fame. In doing so, he makes the usual arguments about how the guy with the most career hits isn't in the Hall of Fame, then goes on to reach a really amazing conclusion:
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 Hancock 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.
Like everybody who argues that Pete Rose belongs in Cooperstown, Deford ignores the reason why Rose is persona non grata. He ignores it because if you really face it, you realize that you just can't explain or wish it away. So what he does is try to dismiss it as a nonissue:
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.
There's a damn good reason why baseball is so fanatical about gambling. You may have heard of it, it has to do with the 1919 World Series. Baseball's strictures about gambling are much more strict than the NFL's, which is why a gambler like Paul Hornung is in the NFL Hall of Fame and Pete Rose is not in MLB's. Baseball has One Big Rule: Thou Shalt Not Gamble. Pete Rose broke that rule. Why am I supposed to feel sorry for him?
In the end, Pete Rose signed an agreement in which he agreed to his punishment. Here it is in black and white from the agreement Rose signed:
Peter Edward Rose acknowledges that the Commissioner has a factual basis to impose the penalty provided herein, and hereby accepts the penalty imposed on him by the Commissioner and agrees not to challenge that penalty in court or otherwise. He also agrees he will not institute any legal proceedings of any nature against the Commissioner of any of his representatives, either Major League or any Major League Club.
Which is why he's been the gadfly pain-in-the-ass to baseball ever since. The only avenue he has is to convince dupes like Frank Deford that he got screwed. Maybe if the Frank Defords of the world knew and understood the facts of the case, they wouldn't abet Rose in his quest.Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 04, 2002 to Baseball