Allan Huber Selig is retiring as baseball commissioner at the end of this season. Naturally, there are those who wonder if Selig’s replacement, Rob Manfred, might take a fresh look at Pete Rose’s lifetime ban from baseball. The timing of Selig’s departure — coinciding with today being the 25th anniversary of Rose’s exile — had led to a boomlet of articles on the issue.

Jerry Crasnick (ESPN) was the beat reporter for the Cincinnati Post in 1989 when Rose was coping with the investigation. His 4,500-word article offers new reporting on that summer and offers his perspective on Rose:

Amid the smiles and signatures, Rose is trapped in a bizarre time warp in which he seeks forgiveness and a trace of a wisp of a presence. But baseball studiously avoids him, and the anniversary of his ban amplifies how little has changed. Giamatti famously told Rose he needed to “reconfigure” his life. Twenty-five years later, Rose is still pleading his case and wondering aloud why he’s the only person in the game who can’t get a second chance. As jerseys, bats and balls go out the door, he’ll always be pitching Pete Rose.

Gregg Doyle (CBS Sports) writes that 25 years is enough and that there is reason to believe that Manfred may not follow Selig on every issue:

But (Selig) is leaving, and in January when baseball has a new commissioner, it will be Rob Manfred’s call.

On the surface, there’s nothing here for a Rose guy — and I am one, at least as far as wishing away his lifetime ban — to be optimistic about. Manfred was Selig’s right-hand man for years. He is Selig’s hand-picked successor. On the surface that would suggest Manfred and Selig see eye-to-eye on most issues.

And they probably do. But on all issues? Is it logical to assume Rob Manfred, a labor lawyer out of the Ivy League, is in intellectual lockstep with Bud Selig — a car-lot owner from the University of Wisconsin — on every single issue? Of course not. That’s not logical. That’s delusional. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was Paul Tagliabue’s right-hand man; does anyone think Goodell is another Tagliabue? Same goes for David Stern when he replaced Larry O’Brien as NBA commissioner. Right-hand men become their own man when they get to sit in the big chair.

Selig could pardon Rose on his way out the door. That would remove a thorny issue from his successor’s agenda. In the waning days of his Presidency, Ronald Reagan essentially recognized the Palestinian Liberation Organization, a distasteful but necessary step. Dan Epstein (Rolling Stone) thinks its possible:

Despite all that, it’s still possible that Selig will pardon Rose; short of donning a thong and doing stripper gyrations on Pesky’s Pole, there would certainly be no bolder way for the commish to cap his own controversial career. The return of baseball’s prodigal son would be big news indeed, and maybe even renew the interest of some old-school fans who drifted away from the game during the steroids era.

Mike Downey (CNN) thinks a life sentence is too harsh.

In my opinion — with utmost respect for all who feel otherwise — a life sentence is unduly harsh. We live on an Earth in which past sins can be forgiven, in which those who commit crimes do their time, pay their debts, then pray for a drop of milk of human kindness. A case could be made that Pete Rose needn’t be crucified for what he did, that it wouldn’t kill the game of baseball to finally let him off the hook.

Ray Slover (Sporting News) has a different take:

Yes, America does lean to the forgiving side. But baseball doesn’t forgive its ultimate transgressors.

Nor should it forgive Rose. If Bud Selig doesn’t do it, and he has been sitting on Rose’s appeal for a decade, it will never happen. No baseball commissioner wants to be the man to open baseball to gambling, any more than Roger Goodell would to the NFL or Adam Silver would to the NBA. Their contemporaries in American sports wouldn’t dare do it. Nor would or should any leader of college sports condone or accept gambling as a part of its athletics atmosphere.

Rose made his deal with the devil when he decided to bet on the game. He will sleep on brimstone for it.

And John Errardi (Enquirer) tamps down speculation that the commissioner transition will lead to Rose being pardoned.

Those close to Rose professionally didn’t want to talk for the record, but it’s clear that none of them believes Selig on his way out the door will pardon Rose, not even for the limited purpose of clearing the way for him to go on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. The opinion on Manfred is less certain, but nobody believes a pardon would be the first thing on Manfred’s plate, even though it would be a good way for him to show he’s his own man, not a Selig clone.

Here are a few opinions on the topic from Redleg Nation writers:

Doug Gray: I’m sure it won’t go over well, but Doyle is wrong. The rule against gambling held a punishment of a lifetime ban. Pete knew it when he began gambling while he was a player. Pete knew it when he continued gambling as a manager. Yes, the Hall of Fame added the clause that kept him from being eligible to be voted in after the fact, but the ban from baseball was known to Pete and apparently that was a risk that he was willing to take. Then for years and years he lied to baseball, to the Reds and to fans about having gambled on baseball. Then when he finally came clean about it all, he did so in order to sell a book. Pete could have been a great thing for the city of Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Reds franchise and for Major League Baseball. Instead he is a black eye on all three.

Nick Kirby: I never got to watch Pete Rose play in person. Growing up, I always admired Pete Rose’s game from stories my grandfather told, and was always a strong advocate of Pete getting placed in the HOF. As I’ve grown up, I have flipped my view a bit. While Pete’s accomplishments clearly warrant him being in the hall, I don’t think he should be an elected member. Pete Rose did cheat the game of baseball, any way you look at it. Pete cheated the game just like the steroid users did (we can argue all day which is worse, but the fact remains that both cheated). I heard a while back someone say (and I can’t exactly remember who) that while Pete might not have ever bet against his own team, he compromised the integrity of baseball because of the way he managed the games he bet on, compared to the games he did not bet on. For instance, if Pete bet on a game on Monday, and not on Tuesday, he would manage the two games differently. Pete might have unnecessarily used important relievers on Monday to get the win, and then not have them available for Tuesday.

Jason Linden: I am a post-Pete Reds fan. What memories I have of him are as a manager, and even then it was mostly a banished manager. I was ten in 1990, and that was the year that crystalized me as a Reds fan. Being post-Pete, I don’t have the attachment many do. I think he was a great baseball player (though nothing like the greatest). He also broke the rule that may be most important in insuring the games we watch to not approach the authenticity level of the WWE. And then he lied about it basically forever. I guess odds are he’s admitted to all of his lies now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he recanted on something else tomorrow. Still, he has clearly been barred from the love of his life for a very long time. His fate is sad. Pete is a fascinating character. I can simultaneously feel an intense dislike for him and pity him deeply. But his exile is entirely of his own making. In the end, I believe Pete should be in the hall. Plenty just-as-shady characters are. I also think he should be allowed to participate in ceremonial celebrations. But he should never, ever, ever be allowed to hold any kind of job in major league baseball again. It’s possible, in this case, to show mercy, without inviting someone to hurt you again.

John Ring: Pete Rose’s banishment should end. 25 years is long enough. What he did was wrong but there’s 4,256 reasons why he should be in the Hall of Fame. His baseball resume is deeper than just hits; he played big in big games, such as Game 4 of the 1973 NL playoffs against the Mets, was the MVP in the World Series of 1975 and literally “willed” the Reds to wins. If the Lords of Baseball are smart, they could capitalize on returning Rose to the good graces of their sport during All-Star week in Cincinnati next July. Think of the nationwide audience for television the night of the All-Star Game if Rose is allowed to participate in pre-game festivities. It would be good for baseball, good for the Reds and most importantly, good for Pete Rose. Lift the ban. Get the Hit King in the Hall of Fame, where he belongs.

For those of you who like an ironic wager now and again, the odds are 8-1 that Manfred will re-instate Rose and 40-1 that Selig will. Gotta wonder which side Pete has his money.

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

Join the conversation! 35 Comments

  1. Why does anyone waste time worrying about Pete, he apparently doesn’t. Pete, by his actions and words, continually makes it harder for MLB to rescue him from himself. He has always been completely reckless, which is fun on the field but not so great off it. Can you imagine if they reinstated him and he messed up again, which is not far fetched!

    The recent steroid users exclusion from the Hall will guarantee that Pete will be kept out too. The only real argument Rose had for getting in the Hall was that it was not complete without him. If the HR king is kept out, that argument dissolves. Pete will never be reinstated, and hopefully that will prevent someone in the future from doing something that might destroy the game we all love and is bigger than any one person.

  2. For those of you who say at least Pete did not use steroids, well he did! This was well known around town when Pete came back as player-manager. There were articles about how he looked like the best shape of his life at 43 years old. Just google who were the guys who were involved in the Pete betting debacle, several few convicted of using and steroids right around the same time. That is how Pete knew them! Link below.

  3. To each their own but I have a very hard time understanding how any real Reds fan can be against Pete’s reinstatement or enshrinement.

    • We all wish Pete was a better person, but holding out unrealistic hope is lunacy. Going around the country I am tired of being asked about Pete whenever I reveal that I am a reds fan. Pete is not the only reason the reds are such a great franchise. I also remember when he left Cincy for more money, what do we owe him?

    • At the same time I have a hard time understanding how any Reds fan can be for his reinstatement or enshrinement. He couldn’t follow the one rule baseball has written on the walls, literally, to keep him in the game. Then he lied to everyone about it for 15 years, including Reds fans about 50,000 times. He threw people under the bus along the way. Then when he finally tells you the truth, he does it so you will give him money (via the sale of his book – which is sitting on my book shelf, though I didn’t buy it).

      Was Pete a great player? Absolutely. In the franchises history, he is probably the second best Red behind Bench. But he is also a black eye on the franchise, the city and the sport, all three that I love so much. It’s a real shame how it all played out, but Pete took away so much from all three.

      • For the stats people out there, career WAR list. 84.2 Larkin, 85.4 Bench, 68.5 Rose.

      • The lying thing is irrelevant. He had already been punished and accepted the ban. His near-concurrent denials to the media were as hollow as a drum. He beat that drum incessantly but who listened? They had spates of phone and financial records showing bets with nearly $20k a day on every team, not just his own.

        Name one player who baseball who has immediately come clean of all wrong doing. Palmeiro’s epic steroid denial rocked his career far worse than lying low would have. Remember Sosa’s ‘admission’ that his corked bat was a BP toy that got mixed into his collection? This after being caught red-handed.

        With regard to not being naive and believing that the players on the team for which I cheer

        As for his gambling affecting the outcome of games – that is simply stating the obvious. However, the premise that he only bet to win on the Reds (aside from Pete’s obvious, winning is everything approach, that his teams were fixture at 2nd place in the west and his 426-388 career record make this a more likely scenario) makes the impact minimal. Considering the call to the bookie was as common as the National Anthem in years like ’87 there is no comparison for games with or without money. He managed them all identically – to win. On the whole the impact was a pebble in the ocean compared to Bond’s HGH fueled record book re-write or the usurpation of Maris by Sosa v. McGuire. Yet McGuire is coaching, prominently in fact. Something feels incredibly wrong with Baseball’s sense of justice.

        Pete broke a rule and the rule’s punishment was lifetime ban. It’s inarguable, but, at this juncture of MLB, it’s also unjust.

    • I will never understand the sentiment that, if someone wears the uniform, you have to be for them. I’m not a child. I can have complex feelings. A jerk is a jerk, I don’t care what color his shirt is.

      • Well that is kind of the nature of being a fan, as FDR was supposed to have said, “He may be a ________ but he is our ________.”

        If you talking about supporting that player as a person or off the field – then I see where you are coming from. Regardless, discounting the bad and acknowledging the good of Pete’s baseball career is again, the nature of being a fan.

        I haven’t seen a single instance of anyone deifying Pete on this thread so I’m not sure how the sentiment applies.

      • I don’t see what him being a jerk has to do with anything. It’s how be played and managed that matters- both to win.

  4. Pete lied to us for 20 years while using us as a vocal advocacy. I have no more sympathy for him.

  5. Let me ask a question of those who don’t want Pete reinstated- Let’s say that tomorrow you found out that a Hall of Fame player who went on to be a manager, e.g. Frank Robinson or Ted WIlliams, had gambled on baseball while he was a manager. Would you call for his immediate expulsion from the Hall of Fame?

      • Well then you better start looking at pulling Ruth, Cobb, and even Cy Young off of the list. There is plenty of evidence out there that makes many of the “all time greats” unworthy of the hall of fame.

      • If your going to be wrong, better to be consistently wrong.

        I kid. You may have that conviction but baseball doesn’t. The post 1994 players strike era of baseball is very different. Baseball now plays a distant second fiddle to football as America’s sport and its fan base is increasingly older compared to other major sports. They enjoyed the steroid era while it lasted becuase of the spectacle even when lifelong fans were crying foul. That baseball has ‘shifted’ it’s sense of justice demands that they too be consistent and commute Rose’s ban.

  6. I’ve been a lifelong Reds fan, but I’m in the same boat as Kirby and Gray here. There’s no debate that Pete’s body of work as a player warrants HOF enshrinement. However, I believe the punishment fits the crime with gambling, Pete made his bed and now he must lie in it.

    I think the national media too often leads the charge for suspensions to be reduced or removed (see Jonathan Vilma, LeGarrette Blount, Ben Roethlisberger, and even recent calls for a Penn State penalty reduction). This is especially true when there is something to be gained like TV ratings or having a star player in the lineup for a big game. People have an inherent need to forgive others after time has passed. In sports, most rules and penalties exist for a reason and forgiveness doesn’t mean compromising the justice/legal system put in place.

    All that being said, I believe Pete may somehow make it to Cooperstown posthumously. His lifetime ban will expire when he no longer walks this earth.

    • The public easily forgives, if you show contrition. Pete never has!

      Does anyone think that Pete as manager would not have tried to lose if it won him a bet? Am I the only one who remembers in 1986 when he turned in the wrong lineup card. After we scored 2 runs, the other manager got those runs erased. Google it.

      • Nope. Not even for a second. Pete plays to win, gambles to win. His whole life is built on competing and winning. You are spouting some real ‘grassy knoll’ stuff on here. At this point it sounds like a personal vendetta more than a simple argument about whether the hit king should be reinstated.

  7. This is painful for me. By far my favorite player growing up was Pete Rose.

    But Rose broke the one rule a participant in MLB cannot break. No, his contrition wasn’t very convincing either, but who cares? It’s supposed to be a lifetime ban, regardless of Rose’s conduct after his banishment. I believe that is why Giamatti had no problem with the rule allowing Rose to apply for reinstatement after a year or two. Or 20. It wasn’t going to happen.

    If a commissioner feels moved to bring Rose back, great. Second chances are an uplifting thing. But any expectation that “it’s time” for this to happen, or even that this is “overdue” is devaluing the offense. MLB has every right to leave things as they are.

  8. Good grief. The holier than thou pontificating is becoming nauseating. I love this website but your average fan doesn’t care about this “he is not above the game,” “Knew what he was doing,” “Do the crime…” These are probably some of the attitudes that are helping baseball into its irrelevancy coffin. Apparently, baseball has forgiven Bud Selig for looking the other way all those years on steroid use. Our society has forgiven kinds of characters and the Hall of Fame, without Pete, is a shell.

    • I have to agree with Truman48 that the sermonizing over Pete’s character is a bit much. While we’re talking about character & crimes, let us not forget that Emperor Selig himself was involved in the owners’ collusion of the mid-80’s. In other words, he knew the players’ agreement & he broke it. And what of the almost ubiquitous presence of “gaming” institutions in ballpark advertisements & sponsorships over the past 15 years? The whole situation is so schizophrenic as to be (almost) comical.

      • I’ve never understood the whole “don’t gamble on baseball” thing, but baseball allows Casino’s to advertise in the ballpark, on the commercials for the games and well, anywhere else they can figure out how to get their money. It’s a very, very confusing thing.

    • So I should only give an opinion that the average fan cares about? Or I should change my opinion to fit that of the average fan?

      The average fan thinks Brandon Phillips is a better hitter than Joey Votto. They are incredibly wrong.

      • You can think whatever you want. The vast majority of baseball fans think Pete has paid enough. And the average fan does NOT think Phillips is a better hitter than Votto. Come on.

        I read someone state that the steroid guys will not get in the Hall, just as Pete shouldn’t. I predict the steroid guys will make it one day. What do you do with Pete, then?

  9. If this argument was occurring in circa 1990’s the vast majority of fans would be cheering for Pete. Forgiveness is a part of America. We forgive child molesters. Goodness we even forgive murderers in this country.
    Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.
    I am guessing that everyone on this list has done something wrong in their lives. I am also guessing you were either forgiven or are begging for the forgiveness to come your way.
    Every single baseball player that plays fantasy baseball, every single owner that signs a player to a 200 million dollar contract, every single fan that shows up to a ball game to watch their team win, every single vendor that shows up with their vegetables to sell at the farmers market…. they all are also gamblers. Gambling is also a fundamental part of the american landscape. Some choose to see it as a heinous crime, while others make a pretty darn good living gambling.

    Let us assume the worst of Pete. Let us say he did bet on games. Let us assume that he played players or didn’t play players. Lets say he didn’t bet on games he was pretty sure the Reds would lose. I say so what? How is that any different than what managers do now a days. When a manager announces his roster for the next game isn’t that also tipping your hat to the opponent? Disparity is also a part of the baseball landscape. Just compare how favoritism is given to the New York Yankees at every single opportunity. Let us also look at the favoritism that Mr. Selig has given to the Brewers. Again I say so what? It is also part of the game.

    Let an old man have his glory before he dies. Who is it hurting? Does anyone serious believe allowing Pete Rose back into baseball will hurt the franchising in a negative way? He was the best ambassador before he was “busted”. Do you think that he would impact the league sales in a negative way? He is good for baseball. Let us just leave it at that.

  10. I grew up in the ’60’s playing Knothole Baseball. Every player on every team ran to 1st base when they got a walk. All of the coaches drummed into us that you play the game the right way. The way Pete Rose plays the game.

    I admire Rose for the way he played and for his accomplishment of getting the most hits in the game. I still appreciate him to this day.

    I’m not part of the group who feels slighted by his lying about it for all of those years. He was caught and was trying to cover it up to save his own butt in the court of public opinion.

    Rose broke the number rule of baseball, one that is posted in every clubhouse in the game. One that has precedence for the punishment meted out if you break it. In fact one of those players banned in the Black Sox scandal years ago did not participate in throwing the games. Buck Weaver was banned because he knew what others were up to and didn’t report them. And yet Rose bet on the game.

    Because of my admiration for him, it won’t bother me if the ban is lifted and he makes into the HOF. But I agree with vegastypo’s comment above:
    “…any expectation that “it’s time” for this to happen, or even that this is “overdue” is devaluing the offense. MLB has every right to leave things as they are.”

  11. I’m not commenting as Pete Rose apologist, nor do I condone what he did.
    It is easy to be unempathetic to deseases of addiction when you personally have no problem with it. It seems unreasonable that a person just can’t stop the behavior. We are talking true addiction here, not someone who occasionally might overindulge from time to time. It seems most here don’t believe he has a gambling addiction, and that is everyone’s right to an opinion. My years of schooling and training, and also having met Pete, I strongly disagree.
    As a Phychologist, I probably have a little more empathy for Pete because I understand the seriousness of the sickness and addiction of gambling. It is real, much like alcohol and drug addiction. Numerous studies support that and show the mental correlation associated with these. Denial is always in play with any addiction. The physiology of the human brain is complex and confusing, but always comes into play with addiction issues. The phychology of human behavior is baffling, yet fascinating.

    Most of the commenters were probably too young to see Pete Rose play, or any of the Big Red Machine for that matter. I did. My favorite player was Johnny Bench, but I remember how amazing it was to watch Pete play. As a youngster i was always fascinated with how he would watch a pitch all the way into the catcher’s mitt. There were few players that played with more passion, tenacity and determination than Pete Rose. I was lucky enough to be in the stands the night he broke Ty Cobb’s record, in vintage Rose style, batting left handed going the other way with a single. He understood the true art of hitting. What an electric and emotional night. I’m not sure the youngsters here can truly appreciate the magnitude of that record, and the all time hit king not in the HOF. As a baseball fan it is incredibly sad.
    Again….I am in no way minimizing or condoning his actions, I want to make that clear before any backlash my opinions and comments may undoubtedly create. For 25 years he has paid for his actions. But I find it ironic and sickening that Mr Selig has been so pious and pompous any time discussing this manner, when he clearly knew and turned a blind eye to the rampant steroid use and all those who cheated the game with the use, and those ones are still on HOF ballets and hold sacred baseball records, like Bond’s breaking Aaron’s record.

    This will always be a hotbed of controversy, with those condemning him to eternal banishment, and those who are ready to forgive and move on.
    Either way I’m glad I got to see him play, and witness history in 1985 as the new hit king, whether the HOF recognizes it or not…….

    • Thank you!!! A gambling ADDICTION comes from the same place in the brain as a drug or porn addiction. It’s downright comical that Pete hasn’t been reinstated given what we know today about disorders like this. The rule against gambling was written 90 years ago for chrissakes, back when baseball thought it was OK to deny blacks as well. The issue is the outdated rule, not the guy who broke it.

  12. A lot of good comments here, both for and against reinstatement.

    Let’s forget about MLB reinstating him for a moment. What if the HOF were to lift their ban on players on the Permanently Ineligible List? I doubt it would happen but that would allow Rose into the Hall without lifting the punishment put against him for his gambling transgressions.

    I am in the same boat as some others here. I think I would personally feel good if Rose was reinstated, especially if it was in a very limited capacity, allowing him to be put in the Hall of Fame. I would also certainly understand if MLB decided that Rose should never be reinstated.

    Of course as was mentioned above, most everyone even suspected of steroid use has been left off. Barry Bonds broke Aaron’s all-time HR record and he isn’t in the HOF. Even if Rose was reinstated in some capacity, would he even be elected?

  13. Baseball. We’re talking baseball….not a capital crime. The guy has more hits, by a longshot, than anyone else in the game. His crime is betting on games AS A MANAGER, not a player. His career is HOF worthy for what he did on the field, not off of it. Off of it several player’s through history were known SOB’s.

    Charlie Hustle should be reinstated…bad enough he’ll never get votes to get to Cooperstown but 3 wrongs don’t make a right.

  14. I was not a big Red’s or Pete Rose fan as a kid and really was bothered watching Rose play because he seemed to be able to be better then any player or any team. Now, I say he has played his dues and needs to see himself in the Hall of Fame while he still breathes. Look at today’s Professional athletics and what trouble they get in. I think over 20 NFL players have been arrested since the end of last season alone. At my age 59 I would like to see Mr. Rose get his sues because not many if any in the Hall of Fame were a better player. The Hall is about the best who played the game — PERIOD! I hope Pete sees this post and knows there are those of us who say you fine is paid and it is way past time to get coming to you what you more than earned. What happened to everyone should get a second chance ???????

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About Steve Mancuso

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky's Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve's thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.