On Aug. 24, 1989, Pete Rose was banned from Major League Baseball after being accused of betting on games. Now, nearly 20 years later, the all-time hit leader might finally be reinstated.
Several Hall of Famers expressed support for Rose over the weekend's induction ceremony, including ex-teammates Joe Morgan and Frank Robinson. He also received an endorsement from former home run king Hank Aaron, who met with reporters on Saturday.
"I would like to see Pete in [the Hall of Fame]," Aaron said. "He belongs there."
If Rose were reinstated, his Hall of Fame candidacy would go straight to the Veterans Committee ballot — a vote taken by the 65 living members of the Hall of Fame — as his 15 years of eligibility on the baseball writers’ ballot passed during his ban.
"I think a lot of the guys feel that it's been 20 years now for Pete, and would lean toward leniency and time served," an unnamed Hall of Famer told the Daily News. "If he had admitted it in the first place and apologized way back then, he'd probably be in the Hall by now."
Red Sox skipper Terry Francona also voiced his support for Rose on Monday.
"First of all, I feel for Mr. Selig," Francona told projo.com. "He's in an impossible position. Saying that, when people ask me, 'Should Pete Rose be in the Hall of Fame?' I have very little ability to give an unbiased answer. I love the guy. I played for him. I played with him. I respect the position Mr. Selig is in, because it's a no-win or very-little-win situation on his part. But I also hope this guy ends up in the Hall of Fame."
Of course, not everyone sees eye-to-eye on Rose's potential plaque in Cooperstown.
"I know there are still guys who feel strongly against him, and I don't know if that would change even if Selig clears him," another Hall of Famer told the Daily News.
Former commissioner Fay Vincent agreed that Rose was anything but a lock for the Hall of Fame. In fact, he was quoted by ESPN.com as saying that he did not think pardoning Rose would be a prudent decision for Selig.
"It's not about Pete Rose,” Vincent said. “It's about what's best for baseball. The deterrent for gambling is uppermost and it works. Amidst enormous gambling in this country, if you touch the 'gambling third rail' in baseball, you die. Nobody has ever been reinstated. If you change that, you run the risk of a spate of episodes like Tim Donaghy in the NBA. It's not wise and not necessary."
Still, it appears that the movement for Rose to be reinstated is gaining significant steam. With steroids now the most controversial topic in baseball, perhaps people are starting to take a softer stance on Rose's transgressions.
"I know him probably better than most people, and certainly from a different vantage point, being a teammate and playing for him," Francona said. "I know this guy loves the game more than himself. Whatever mistakes were made, I know this guy loves the game. I know he respects the game."
"Believe me, that little session Hank had with [reporters] was anything but impromptu," Reggie Jackson told the Daily News of Hank Aaron's Saturday news meeting — when Aaron also suggested for the first time that steroid users go into the Hall of Fame with asterisks accompanying their statistics. "He wanted to get [his support for Rose] out there. It was time."
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