- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2004

The Weasel Hall of Fame? Pete Rose is easily a first-ballot inductee.

The Mercenary Hall of Fame? Charlie Hustle has a wing all to himself.

The Liars Hall of Fame? Mr. Rose, they have been keeping your place warm for 14 years now.

But the National Baseball Hall of Fame? No way should the man who had more hits than anyone in the history of baseball be inducted into Cooperstown — not with the sins he has committed.

Fourteen years after he was banned from baseball for gambling, Rose finally has come clean: He bet on baseball, and he bet on his own team, the Cincinnati Reds, while he managed the club. He makes this admission in his soon-to-be-released autobiography and in an interview on ABC News’ “Primetime Thursday.”

“It’s time to clean the slate,” Rose says in the interview. “I’m 14 years late.”

Then again, he is right on time for the release of his book, scheduled to come out on Thursday with a remarkable first printing of 500,000 copies. Nothing like a long-awaited admission to sell a few books. Maybe Rose even will read this one. He professed not to read the first book written about him, even though he was listed as the co-author.

The decision on Rose’s fate may represent a last stand against this American phenomenon of wiping the slate clean with an apology. Admitting to your deeds and saying you are sorry — however insincere and manipulative that apology may be — doesn’t make up for your sins.

I’d like to think that as a society we are still humanly flawed and haven’t yet achieved that sort of sanctified state where confession absolves you of everything.

Then again, I also would like to believe that even though players of questionable character like Ty Cobb are in the Hall of Fame that doesn’t mean we can’t now have a higher standard for honoring the game.

That is what the Hall of Fame is supposed to be, after all — an honor. The rule has been if you bet on baseball, you are banned. Now there is no doubt that Rose committed the worst crime in the game — particularly in his role as manager of the Reds.

A manager who needs his team to win for his pocketbook might put a player at risk of injury. He might use a pitcher longer than he ordinarily would in an effort to win or he might use him without enough rest between appearances.

The opportunities for damage to the game are limitless. After all, questions of gambling nearly destroyed the game in the 1919 Black Sox scandal, when a group of Chicago White Sox players were in on a fix in the World Series.

Rose’s admission he blatantly lied about betting on baseball — he reportedly confessed to baseball commissioner Cadillac Bud Selig in a November 2002 meeting that he bet on baseball four or five times a week — puts a lot of people on the spot.

For years, people would say all Rose had to do was to admit he bet on baseball. Once he did, many baseball observers said the ban on Rose should be lifted and he should be eligible for the Hall of Fame.

Well, he fessed up. It will be interesting to see if those who called for an admission of guilt will be able to live with themselves if the door is opened for Charlie Hustle, who hopes to hustle the American public out of a few bucks with his new book.

Many of the sordid details about Rose’s betting can be found online in the Dowd Report, the investigation conducted by former federal prosecutor John Dowd.

Will there be an apology for John Dowd in all of this? For Bart Giamatti, the commissioner who banned Rose? And for Jim Gray for having the nerve to ask Rose to fess up before Game 2 of the 1999 World Series as part of the All-Century team ceremony?

Why didn’t Rose make his admission and apologize then? Because he couldn’t make a buck off it.

His peers know Rose.

They know how mercenary and deceitful he can be. There was a meeting of Hall of Fame players scheduled by Cadillac Bud to gauge the level of forgiveness for Rose among them. Why do you think the meeting was abruptly canceled without explanation?

At the time, former Baltimore Orioles pitcher and Hall of Famer Jim Palmer told me, “Nothing has changed in 13 years. He hasn’t seemed to change his life or done anything different.”

I doubt Rose’s opportunistic admission will change that perception.

In fact, one of the reasons Rose came clean now is because he has just two years left before his Hall of Fame candidacy goes from a decision by baseball writers to a decision by the Veterans Committee of Hall of Fame players.

He knows his colleagues will be far less forgiving.

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