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Report is just more false hope for Rose

July 28, 2009|Phil Rogers

Poor Pete Rose.

He's 68, as one-dimensional as ever and still paying for mistakes he made in 1987, when his running buddies were Tommy Gioiosa, Paul Janszen and Ron Peters, who wouldn't have survived three episodes on "the Sopranos." The 20-year anniversary of Rose's lifetime ban is approaching, and there's no end in sight, despite moments of false hope.

One of those came Monday.

Rose, now a West Coast guy, awoke to reports in the New York Daily News that Hank Aaron and other unnamed Hall of Fame members had been lobbying Commissioner Bud Selig for a favorable ruling on Rose's application for reinstatement, filed in 1997. But Selig and other Major League Baseball officials had quashed that story before the day was over.

Selig was so angry about the Daily News story, built largely around one quote from Aaron, that sources indicated he was strongly considering authorizing a statement contradicting it.

Reached by the Chicago Tribune in his Milwaukee office, Selig declined to comment, saying only that nothing had changed since he was asked about the Rose case during a group interview in St. Louis on July 14.

"There's nothing new," he said the day of the All-Star game. "We are reviewing it. Since I'm the judge and jury in that case, I don't think I'm going to comment beyond that."

Selig annually uses the Hall of Fame induction weekend to discuss major issues in the game with Hall of Fame members. The Daily News reported that several Hall of Fame members have been trying to persuade Selig into lifting the ban, which was instituted Aug. 24, 1989, but the paper quoted only Aaron.

"I would like to see Pete in," Aaron said during an informal interview Saturday. "He belongs there."

Selig and Aaron speak regularly, and it would be easy to assume that Aaron wouldn't speak in favor of Rose's reinstatement without knowing it was under consideration. But it appears the Daily News read too much into Aaron's comments.

Selig rarely has commented about Rose's status in anything but the most cryptic terms -- aware that the review ultimately falls to him -- but is unlikely to allow him back into uniform or onto the Hall of Fame ballot.

Some observers believe Selig's stance is personal in nature, as some have blamed the agonizing investigation into Rose's gambling for the sudden death of then-commissioner Bart Giamatti. But it goes far beyond that, dealing with Rose's long-held contention that he never bet on baseball and possibly some facts about Rose's later years discovered during the review of his appeal.

Selig met with Rose in 2003 and appeared to be moving toward removing him from the ineligible list when the all-time hits leader released his autobiography, "My Prison Without Bars," in January 2004.

Rose, who defied Giamatti by immediately challenging the findings of MLB's 1989 investigation, had steadfastly maintained that he never bet on baseball. He changed his stance in the book, and at the time he said he hoped his admission would persuade Selig to lift the ban implemented by Giamatti. Instead, communication between his lawyers and MLB reportedly came to a halt.

Selig was angered that Rose came clean only to make a buck and that transcripts from the book were made public on the same day the Hall of Fame released the 2004 vote, overshadowing the election of Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley.

Contrary to the Daily News story, there has been no movement by Rose's peers to have him take a seat among the greats in Cooperstown, N.Y. The Hall of Fame members are hard-liners when it comes to respect for the game, and it's hard to see that they would elect Rose if given the chance.

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progers@tribune.com

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