Rose's reinstatement may be admission away

Signs are hit leader needs to admit he bet on baseball


January 23, 2003|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

Banished baseball star Pete Rose appears to be nearing reinstatement, though several conditions still have to be met before baseball commissioner Bud Selig lifts the lifetime ban that was imposed on Rose in 1989 for gambling on baseball.

Selig is expected to require Rose to admit that he bet on baseball when he was the manager of the Cincinnati Reds. Rose has steadfastly maintained that he bet only on other sports, though the investigative report commissioned by Major League Baseball in 1989 cited gambling slips and phone records from Rose's office at Riverfront Stadium as proof that he repeatedly violated baseball rules by placing bets with bookies.

Former commissioner Bart Giamatti felt the evidence was conclusive enough to impose the lifetime ban, which prevents Rose from working for any major-league franchise and makes him ineligible for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Giamatti, who died of a heart attack soon after the ruling, left open the possibility Rose could apply for reinstatement, but Selig had shown little inclination to reconsider Rose's status until recently.

Reports surfaced in November that Rose had met with Selig in Milwaukee to discuss his application for reinstatement, which has been pending since 1997. Baseball officials denied that meeting took place, but Selig has since given indications he will attempt to arrange a meeting with the 60 living Hall of Famers in the next few months to discuss the situation.

Neither Selig nor Rose is commenting publicly on the situation, but it appears likely that reinstatement would be contingent - at the very least - on an admission by Rose that he gambled on baseball.

Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith was quoted last week saying it would take that kind of contrition to convince him Rose was worthy of reinstatement and induction at Cooperstown, which could take place in 2004 if Rose were reinstated before the end of this year and gained the required 75 percent vote in the December balloting by voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

"Personally, I think Pete has to step up and take a lot of responsibility before he's going to be allowed to get into the Hall of Fame," said Smith, who recently read the investigative report prepared by John Dowd in 1989. "It's very hard with the documents against him. It's not alleged. They have proof. If he admits what he did, that will go a long way toward helping him get it together."

Rose may be ready to do that, according to a report in Newsday. The Long Island, N.Y., newspaper cited comments by an unidentified friend of Rose's who said baseball's all-time hits leader was ready to come clean, apologize for denying it the past 13 years and serve a probationary period to gain reinstatement.

Though there has been no change in Rose's official status since Giamatti's ruling, Selig has made exceptions to allow him to participate in a couple of major promotions, most recently taking part in the "Greatest Moments" celebration during the 2002 World Series.

Rose received the longest ovation of any of the players introduced during the ceremonies.

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