Pete Rose was in town Monday, signing autographs at an auto repair shop.
It’s the heart of summer, and rosters for next week’s Major League All-Star Game are being finalized — both fitting reminders of what’s best about baseball, which Rose represented throughout his playing career, which included 16 All-Star Game appearances.
It’s also a reminder of how Rose stained his otherwise brilliant résumé — and the game he loved — resulting in his ongoing presence on baseball’s ineligible list and absence from the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Rose accepted the permanent ban from then-commissioner Bart Giamatti for betting on the team he played for and managed — the Cincinnati Reds — which violates one of the most fundamental rules of baseball. Though Rose steadfastly refused to publicly admit his guilt for years, it was pretty obvious he was guilty.
When Rose finally came clean eight years ago in his autobiography, it was obviously a cynical attempt to sway current Commissioner Bud Selig to reinstate him. Selig didn’t, and there’s no indication he’ll consider doing so.
In recent years, some have suggested that Rose be reinstated, which would make him eligible for consideration to Cooperstown, as a show of leniency for time served or for his admission and subsequent apology.
But that misses the point. Rose’s time served, admission and apology should have no more bearing on his status than his denials, lying or arrogance should.
The only thing that matters, the only thing that ever should have mattered, is Rose’s baseball career — the good and the bad.
The only thing preventing Rose from being voted on for Cooperstown is his inclusion on the ineligible list. Absence from that list is the only criteria the Hall lists for eligibility other than the requisite number of years played and number of years since retirement.
The Hall says it “is home to the greatest stars and the history of the game.”
Neither is complete without Pete Rose.
Rose has played in more Major League Baseball games than anyone else, ever. He has the most hits of anyone who has ever played, ever.
He was the heart and soul of the “Big Red Machine,” the only National League team to win consecutive World Series in the past 89 years (1975-1976).
He is unquestionably one of “the greatest stars” just as he is a major part of “the history of the game.”
His statistics and other playing accomplishments tell the greatest stars part of the Rose story. The history of the game part of the Rose story must be balanced by the betting chapter.
Go ahead, Cooperstown. Put a scarlet letter on a bust of Rose, hang it upside down, put his display in a distant corner surrounded by prison bars, if you must.
But just as the Rose story is incomplete without his inclusion in Cooperstown, so too is the history of the game incomplete without his story — good and bad.