Lift part of the ban on Pete Rose. Lift his ineligibility for the Hall of Fame. Put his name on the ballot, and let the Veterans Committee decide if his on-field accomplishments trump his sordid associations and gambling on baseball.
Rose has been dead to baseball for 20 years now. He has been a nonentity ever since the late Bart Giamatti imposed a lifetime ban on him eight days before passing away.
Rose denied he bet on baseball then; denied he ever did anything wrong; then denied, denied and denied some more.
He lied, is what he did - lied a lot. He made a post-baseball career out of lying to anyone with an outlet that could shape public opinion on some level. Rose could not beat the Dowd Report. What he could do is garner public sympathy. What he could do is point out how baseball was inclined to give second and third and fourth chances to the druggies in the game but not him.
Not only that, he would say, but he also was a victim of the Dowd Report. He could spin falsehoods into facts. And he could talk. If he had been paid by the word, he could have made zillions, and all his money troubles would have been resolved. No more card shows for him. No more scratching out his name everywhere.
That was his story, and he clung to it until it came time to market his autobiography, “My Prison Without Bars,” in January 2004. That concluded 14 years’ worth of lies and insults. His motive for coming clean was hardly altruistic. He always has had a lot of hustler in him. He had a book to push and a reinstatement agenda to meet.
It was his contention that if he just came clean, all would be forgiven and he would be allowed to return to the game. That didn’t happen, of course. He didn’t respect the game that had given him so much. And he didn’t respect those in authority.
He always has been his worst enemy in this way. If only he had thrown himself at the mercy of Giamatti in 1989 and conceded the obvious and worked to make amends, his saga would have played out so much differently.
Pity would have been the natural response in time. Forgiveness, too.
Hank Aaron feels it anyway.
“I would like to see Pete in [the Hall of Fame],” Aaron said last weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y. “He belongs there.”
He is the game’s all-time hits leader. That is all that needs to be noted for his inclusion.
Is he a bad guy? Yes. A disreputable person? Yes. A narcissist who is incorrigible? Yes.
And that could apply to any number of celebrated players whose busts are in Cooperstown.
If Cooperstown was the Hall of High Character, baseball would need several blocks of moving vans to cart away all the materials related to those found lacking in their personal lives.