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COMMENTARY

A Whiff of This Rose Smells Just as Bad Now

March 16, 2003|Dave Kindred | Sporting News

Wait a minute. Wait one stinkin' minute. Stop this bandwagon before it runs over women, children and domestic animals. Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame? Pete Rose sitting on somebody's bench deciding it's time to change pitchers? No, no, a thousand times no.

This bandwagon thing gives us all fits. Imagine the hair clutching at the Cooperstown executive offices when the panjamdrums consider which cap to put on the miscreant's plaque.

"It's gotta be MasterCard," first panjamdrum says. "If they don't do those 'Greatest' promotions, no one hears fans pour out their affection for a convicted felon thought to have committed baseball's capital crime hundreds if not thousands of times."

"Priceless," second panjamdrum says.

Third chimes in, "Pete says he wants 'Hit King.' "

"It's our choice," fourth says. "I like 'Caesars Palace Sports Book.' "

It's so easy to be mean. Pete Rose has betrayed baseball fans for so long. And now comes Commissioner Bud Selig with a plan to end Rose's lifetime suspension, make him eligible for the Hall of Fame and maybe allow him to work in baseball. It's contingent on extracting from Rose an admission he bet on games -- as if any living soul doesn't already know he did so.

But let's play along. Let's say he confesses. Suddenly, a hand to his chin in deep thought, he says: "Well, yeah, Bud, now that you mention it, now that you've read aloud from the 3,000 exhibits in the Dowd Report, y'know, yeah, it's kinda vague, but it's all coming back to me, like in a dream, we were on the road, I was feeling down, there was that one night ... "

The more important truth then becomes: "Wait a minute. Wait one stinkin' minute. This means he has been lying through his teeth at every opportunity for the last 14 years. So first he gambles hand over fist on games when he knows that's baseball's mortal sin? Then he looks us in the eye and flat lies forever? And now that he coughs up the obvious, we're supposed to honor, glorify and otherwise kiss his fat wallet?"

Include me out.

No Hall of Fame.

No job in baseball.

He blew it, folks. He had it all; he wanted more.

Yes, he has paid dearly for his transgressions. His 13 years out of baseball multiplied by, say, $2 million a year lost from a manager's salary might be thought of as a $26-million fine. Not to mention the shame of it, though only a peculiar form of shame drives a man to set up shop next door to the Hall of Fame and sell autographs on copies of the Dowd Report, baseball's accounting of those transgressions.

At the same time, might not $26 million compensate for only a fraction of the damage Rose has done?

John Dowd's report has Rose making 388 bets for $852,400 in the first half of the 1987 season. He bet $116,600 on the Reds in 52 games. Bad enough, that. Worse, this: That's one half of one season in a career that covered 27 years. Only the most naive of us believe Rose began betting hand over fist only on April 8, 1987.

The most bizarre aspect is that of Bud Selig, the unabashed Midwestern-square traditionalist, devising a plan wherein the admission of gambling is reason enough to end the punishment. Why not just go all the way and create an Office of Gambling Affairs? Then hire Pete to run it.

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