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Impossible for Rose to avoid controversy ...

I saw where a 1974 Topps Pete Rose card in a PSA 10 holder sold for $5,900 in an online auction the other day, and it occurred to me once again that there are people who are de facto Hall of Famers even if they don’t actually have a plaque in Cooperstown.

It’s a nice bit of symmetry that the two players who most fit that description are Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Pete’s back in the news these days as the Reds prepare to honor him at a Sept. 12 ceremony at Great American Ballpark that marks the 25th anniversary of the base hit that moved him past Ty Cobb in the all-time hit rankings.

As is pretty much pro forma anymore for Pete, just about anything he does ends up being tinged in controversy, though it doesn’t seem he bears any culpability in the latest business.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, on a bit of a hot streak himself with a bronze statue at Miller Park only recently unveiled, took a bit of criticism from his predecessor, Fay Vincent, for having agreed to the Reds�� request that the ban keeping Rose from being involved in official MLB functions be lifted for a day to accommodate the ceremony.

It sure does seem that the people most intimately involved in Pete’s lifetime ban – 21 years now and counting – seem extraordinarily invested in not budging one teeny weenie bit when it comes to the banned hit king.


And there’s always irony aplenty in Rose’s case, this time because the date in question, Sept. 11, was actually bumped to Sept. 12 because Rose had a previous commitment for the 11th. At a Kentucky casino, which may sound like fodder for his detractors, but obviously was an obligation made well before the surprise invite from the Reds was offered.

I always like Fay Vincent – and still do – because of his unabashed reverence for the game, but I can’t shake the idea that he’s simply too close to this one and can’t shake off the long-standing animus to simply allow for a bit of forgiveness to a once-revered baseball icon.

There ought to be a way for Major League Baseball to show the importance of following the rules along with a similarly vital realization that there almost always ought to be a time for saying, “The individual has been adequately punished for an admittedly significant transgression and perhaps the time has come to allow for a show of compassion.”

Though that sounds farfetched, MLB is someday going to have to confront the jarring contradiction of allowing a couple of dozen players who used performance-enhancing drugs to be eligible for a Hall of Fame honor that is still denied to the man who bet on baseball.

For many years when interviewed, Pete would kind of disingenuously say that it wasn’t the Hall of Fame eligibility that he was worried about. He wanted to return to the game as a manager or coach, to resume making his living at the game that he loved. That ship would seem to have sailed.

I suppose it’s going to be terribly important whatever the charge is given to the next commissioner about Rose’s status. I just can’t see what would be served by continuing to exclude him from a Hall of Fame honor that he earned on the field and apparently forfeited in the dugout.

Side notes: Another of the ramifications from the lifetime ban has been the absence of any MLB-licensed baseball cards of the hit king for the last 21 years. Obviously, that’s pretty small potatoes in the big picture, but a number of creative hobbyists have addressed it anyway, creating the cool, ersatz Rose cards seen here.

I would also point out that in researching this piece, I noted where an ESPN columnist said that Rose was “forbidden from showing up at major league ballparks.”

Unless I misunderstood something, I am pretty sure he’s merely prohibited from taking part in any MLB-sanctioned events and activities; he presumably can buy a ticket to sit in any ballpark he wants.

And a final wee bit of shilling ...

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