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Saturday, September 20, 2014
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Published: Thursday, 12/12/2002

A Rose apology would be a hit

It shouldn't be up to Bud Selig.

No, whether Pete Rose returns to major league baseball's family is up to someone else.

Pete Rose.

He has to step up to the microphones, face the cameras and admit he bet on baseball games during the 1980s.

Enough of the lies. Even the most staunch of his supporters must have a belly-full of the self-serving prevarications that have passed from Rose's lips in the many years since his ban from baseball.

Bart Giamatti, the late commissioner, and his top aide and successor, Fay Vincent, were not on a witch hunt. They could have taken no joy in expelling the game's all-time hits leader and one of its most exciting players.

Their investigation turned up evidence of more than 400 bets by Rose on baseball games during just a three-month period in 1987. Of those, 52 wagers were allegedly on games involving the Cincinnati Reds, the team Rose managed at the time.

They didn't make it up. And Rose certainly didn't agree to his ban because they had nothing on him.

Rose was never the sharpest knife in the drawer, but did he believe we were all equally stupid? Did he really think that if he told the same lie over and over we would all ignore what had to be facts and believe him?

So step up to the plate Pete and admit it.

Then, welcome back.

We can never forget what Rose did, especially the 52 bets on games over which he, as the Reds' manager, had influence. That he never bet on his team to lose should erase any notion that he attempted to fix games, which would truly be unforgivable.

The rest, though, is not.

There are armed robbers and rapists who were sentenced in 1989, the same year Rose was banned from baseball, and are out of prison now.

It's time for baseball to parole Rose, providing he is repentant and, for the first time in years, honest.

There is little to fear from reinstating Rose, now 61 years old. Presumably, no club would risk the folly of giving him a job that would place him anywhere near a front office, clubhouse or dugout. Most likely, any agreement with Selig, the current commissioner, would preclude that from happening.

But lifting the ban would make him eligible for the Hall of Fame, and even the harshest of Rose's critics must know deep in his or her gut that Charlie Hustle's bust belongs in Cooperstown.

He was a throwback who played the game as hard as anyone before or since. He was a 17-time All-Star who had more base hits than anyone before or since.

That he shamed the game about as much as anyone or anything since the Black Sox scandal of 1919 should be viewed as a badly-tainted postscript to a tremendous playing career. It is the career, and only the career, that would and should be honored.

Rose is not particularly likeable. In fact, many of his actions since being banned, chief among them being the wholesale peddling of his name and image on home shopping networks or at memorabilia shows, have been pitiable.

But when baseball trotted out some of its living legends before Game4 of last fall's World Series, Rose received the loudest and longest of the ovations.

That he was even there indicated a thaw in the game's long-icy relationship with Rose.

That the fans were willing to forgive and recognize him for the greatness of his playing career, not for the stupidity and embarrassment that followed, indicates that baseball should be equally willing to forgive.

Rose has served his time. Not necessarily with good behavior, but the punishment should fit the crime. He didn't kill anybody, he didn't hold up a liquor store and he didn't snatch a purse off an old lady's wrist.

He gambled on baseball games and he lied about it.

He has to admit to both of those things. Nothing less will suffice.

And when he does, if he asks for our forgiveness, it seems about time for us to give it.



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