Rose did his part to draw his due

February 05, 1991|By Dan Shaughnessy | Dan Shaughnessy,Boston Globe

We're supposed to feel insulted, those of us who vote in the annual election for baseball's Hall of Fame. It's clear that the Lords of Baseball don't trust us to do the right thing when it comes to Pete Rose.

Bowie Kuhn, Jim Campbell and another 10 barely breathing members of the Hall's board of directors yesterday unanimously voted to keep all the permanently ineligible players (Rose is the only living member of this Bad Boy Club) off the Hall of Fame ballot.

Baseball writers across the land are up in arms. The Baseball Writers' Association of America hasn't been this upset since they started charging for press room meals at Yankee Stadium.

Seriously, folks, it does seem somewhat anti-American to strike Rose from the ballot before the BBWAA has a chance to vote on the Riverfront Gambler. In truth, if the guys in the smoke-filled rooms are going to screen candidates for admission to the ballot, why should the writers carry on with the heretofore important work of casting votes?

We as a group are shocked, shocked to learn that we don't have total say on who passes through the gates of Hardball Heaven.

I say leave it alone. If not for the Hall of Fame ballot, baseball writers would be taken about as seriously as the Daughters of the American Revolution. If the writers dig in their heels and throw away the vote over this, the BBWAA will become like the Royal Order of Water Buffaloes with Jack Lang and Phil Pepe as Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble.

This voter is a little relieved to be relieved of the weight of the Rose vote. Based on my own humble interpretation of the official Hall election rules, I could never vote for Rose. Never. But it's not easy carrying this kind of baggage.

The burden has been great. State you will not vote for Rose, and you face the industrial-strength backlash of the ill-informed majority.

"How can you not vote for the guy with the most big-league hits?"

"The Hall of Fame is filled with unsavory characters. Why not throw Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth out while you're at it?"

"Ever heard of forgiveness?"

Now it's over. No more will I have to explain why betting on baseball is a more deadly sin than drinking beer during Prohibition or sliding with your spikes high. It's no longer necessary to remember that gambling almost killed baseball in 1919, which is why the rules on it are so inflexible.

The Stuffed Shirts on the Hall's board feared that too few voters would share this opinion. Not now. The vote has been taken out of our hands.

Pete didn't have much to say yesterday. The world-famous kindergarten cop got into his van after school and uttered a few comments about how this was out of his control. His only lucid comment was, "I did my part."

It was sad to watch. I was reminded of spring 1988 when the Boston Globe dedicated its baseball preview section to the Hall of Fame. Rose was the unspectacular manager of the Reds that spring, but he was an obvious candidate for our section and I remember how he delighted in the topic. Pete Rose in the spring of 1988 wasn't too interested in talking about another second-place finish, but the Hall of Fame made his beady eyes twinkle.

I looked it up Monday. Here's Pete talking about the unfairness of making guys wait for Cooperstown.

Rose said, "What I don't like, and I don't know how you change it, is when a guy like Waite Hoyt doesn't get in the Hall until he's 63 years old. He could have been in when he was 39 and walked around enjoying being a Hall of Famer all those years. Sixty-three. How can you do that to a guy?"

Pete Rose is 49 years old and can't walk around enjoying being a Hall of Famer. He can't even think about purgatory anymore. This will be tougher than waiting to get out of federal prison. Yesterday Rose was sentenced to a lifetime in Hardball Hell.

Like the man said -- he did his part.

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