By In Baseball, History, Stuff

The Rose Ballot

One of the questions people ask all the time is this: Why won’t the Pete Rose thing just go away? Rose was banned from baseball 27 years ago. Over those 27 years, he has denied betting on baseball … admitted betting on baseball but not on the Reds when he was manager … admitted betting on the Reds as manager but never to lose. He has sold autographed baseballs in Cooperstown when the Hall of Fame ceremonies were going on. He has continued to gamble, even on baseball, and has wondered aloud why this would give baseball pause in considering his reinstatement. He has done all sorts of cheesy things that have not exactly redeemed him in the public’s eye.

In other words: Why is anyone still talking about this?The answer is complicated. I think it has something to do the way Pete Rose played baseball. For a generation of baseball fans, particularly Midwestern fans, Rose represented the very essence of the game. He ran everything out. He crashed into bases head first. He played every position. He cracked line drives from both sides of the plate. He loved winning, but he loved the game even more. “Wow,” he famously said to Carton Fisk in the 11th inning of 1975’s magical Game 6, “this is some kind of game, isn’t it? We’ll tell our grandkids about this game.”

When the games ended, he wanted to talk baseball for as long as he could, and when that ended he would drive around in his car and try to pick up West Coast games on the radio. Rose’s obsession with baseball was overpowering and exhilarating, and people who loved baseball in his time felt intoxicated by him. Mix that intoxication with nostalgia, and, right, a lot of people simply cannot let go of Pete Rose. They want to see the Pete Rose they remember in the Hall of Fame.

The latest person to enter the fray is an accomplished man named Mark Rosenbaum. He grew up in Cincinnati in the time of Pete Rose. He went on to become a prominent civil rights lawyer who argued three cases before the Supreme Court and, among many other things, won billions of dollars for schools in underprivileged neighborhoods.

“Nobody,” he says, “played the game with more passion than Pete Rose.”

Rosenbaum is taking a different approach from most. He is not arguing that Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame. Instead, he sent a long letter on Rose’s behalf to the Baseball Hall of Fame making one and only one case: Pete Rose deserves the chance to be on the Hall of Fame ballot. That’s it. And that’s all we’re talking about here (feel free to write your Pete Rose Hall opinion in the comments, but that’s NOT what this is about).

You probably know that before 1991 — coincidentally (irony font) one year beore Rose went on the ballot — every player, including banned players, were eligible for the Hall of Fame. That year, the Baseball Hall of Fame voted to make all banned players ineligible. It was quite controversial at the time.

As the years have gone on, that controversy has more or less died out as the larger conversation — does Rose BELONG in the Hall of Fame? — raged on. Rosenbaum would like the Hall of Fame to reconsider the ballot issue.

To quote from the letter:

“We are not writing to address whether Pete deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. We are not writing to minimize Pete’s history of gambling, or his history of trying to cover it up. And we are not writing to remind you of his greatness on the field … We are writing to respectfully request that Pete Rose be treated exactly the same way that every Major League Baseball player has been treated from the start of the National Baseball Hall of Fame voting in 1936 to 1991.”

At this point, I must say, Rosenbaum’s plea takes a couple of shaky turns. For instance, he brings up the fact that Shoeless Joe Jackson was eligible to be voted into the Hall of Fame even while was on baseball’s banned list and that he got Hall of Fame votes. This is true.

But Jackson is not a good argument. While he was TECHNICALLY eligible to be voted into the Hall of Fame, he was never considered. He appeared on the very first ballot of 50 players in 1936. Others on that ballot included a .221-hitting catcher named Lou Criger, all-around bad guy  Hal Chase* and a catcher/pool hustler named Johnny Kling. All three of them got more votes than the two given to Joe Jackson.

*Chase was also on the banned list, and Bill James has called him the least admiral superstar of his time or perhaps all time. But Chase actually received 27 votes in two years on the ballot.

Jackson never appeared on another Hall of Fame ballot (though he did get two votes in a 1946 nominating vote). Everyone understood that, technicalities aside, Joe Jackson was no more eligible for the Hall of Fame than Bump Bailey.

Rosenbaum’s letter also brings up Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, who were briefly on the ineligible list for their connections to a casino, though that whole direction seems immaterial to the Rose case.

But Rosenbaum’s basic argument — that Pete Rose absolutely should be included on the Hall of Fame ballot — is a fascinating one because … well, we’ll get into it in a second. Before that, though, let’s get one other thing clear: This effort by Rosenbaum and company is futile.

1. The Hall of Fame will not put him on the ballot now. There’s no chance. The Hall of Fame is a museum dedicated to celebration of baseball, and I can all but guarantee that they will not turn their annual Hall of Fame balloting into a freak show referendum on Pete Rose. It’s a non-starter.

2. Even if by some miracle Rose did get on the ballot, he would not get elected. I don’t think he’d come particularly close to getting elected.

But let’s not talk about the politics of Rose. Let’s not talk about his gambling or whether or not he’s worthy of the Hall of Fame. Let’s not talk about forgiveness or stubbornness or anybody’s personal feelings. Let’s talk about one and only one thing:

Should Pete Rose have been taken off the Hall of Fame ballot?

* * *

Let’s start on August 24, 1989 — after the nastiness, after the back and forth threats, after the Rose lawsuit, after the tax evasion charges first came to light, after all of that. That was the day that baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti announced that Pete Rose had been banned for life. That was the end of a long and ugly chapter.

It’s striking how confusing that whole day was. Here was Giamatti making the announcement that Rose had agreed to his punishment, a permanent ban from baseball. He had agreed to drop all disputes with the commissioner. He had agreed to never challenge him or any future commissioner who would consider his reinstatement case. From Giamatti’s perspective, this was a decisive decision: Rose was permanently banned from the game.

The Rose people saw it very differently — or at least they SPUN it very differently. In their view, Rose had not been banished by the commissioner. Not exactly. Instead, Rose had SETTLED with the commissioner. It was a deal, and the deal was that Rose would be banned for one year, at which point he would reapply for reinstatement and (in his mind) be welcomed back to the game. And as part of the deal, Baseball would end its investigation of him and not rule one way or another on his betting on the game. It was a plea bargain.

“I hope to get back to baseball as soon as I can,” Rose told reporters.

“I guarantee I’ll be back in a year,” he told reporters a bit later.

“Is there a deal? A secret number? No!” Giamatti said when asked about that. “Is there anything automatic? Absolutely not. Will I be challenged by Pete Rose if I decide not to — I can’t be, he signed a document saying I won’t, and neither will any future commissioner.”

Point is, they disagreed about more or less every part of this thing.

But there was one thing EVERYONE agreed on: Rose would be eligible for the Hall of Fame.

“When Pete Rose is eligible,” Giamatti said at that press conference, “Mr. (Jack) Lang will count the ballots, and you will decide whether he belongs in the Hall of Fame.”

Lang was the secretary of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), the group that votes for the Hall.

You really can’t get clearer than that. Giamatti fully anticipated that Rose would be on the ballot and there would be a vote. Now, it’s true that Giamatti did not have authority over the Hall of Fame — they are different institutions — but he had VIRTUAL authority. The Hall of Fame will follow the commissioner’s directive.And sure enough, shortly after Giamatti’s statement, Hall of Fame associate director Bill Guilfoile confirmed the commissioner’s word. “He will be on the ballot,” Guilfoile said

“I believe Pete Rose will be elected to the Hall of Fame,” former commissioner Peter Ueberroth chimed in.

So, everyone was on the same page. Then, a series of things happened, the first being the most important and most shocking: Giamatti died of a heart attack. He died eight days after banning Rose. Those two events would become connected in many people’s minds and hearts — many would theorize that the Rose affair had played a role in Giamatti’s untimely death.

After that, Fay Vincent — a close friend of Giamatti’s — became commissioner. And there was never any doubt of his fury at Rose or his revulsion at the idea of Rose being elected to the Hasll of Fame. In 1990, the whispers began that Rose might be taken off the ballot.

. “That’s been a suggestion made by some writers,” Guilfoile said mysteriously. “Whether that will come up for discussion, I don’t know.”

The BBWAA’s outrage at the very SUGGESTION that Rose (and all other banned players) might be pulled from the ballot was immediate and fierce. The BBWAA had come to believe that THEY were the true guardians of the Hall. In fact, at that very time, they were petitioning the Hall of Fame to change its veteran’s committee rules so that it would stop electing people like Rick Ferrell and start acting more like, well, the BBWAA.

“(Ferrell) got five votes in all the years he was on the ballot,” Lang griped. “We think they should have to come reasonably close to the 75 percent requirement.”

But the BBWAA’s anger did not prevent the Hall of Fame from having a vote about banned players and the Hall of Fame ballot. And, as one BBWAA member grumbled, the fix was in. When the vote went down, the two writers on the committee along with Hall of Fame director Edward Stack voted to keep banned players on the ballot. The other seven, including several baseball executives and my old friend Buck O’Neil, voted to get them off the ballot. The deal was done. Rose was off the ballot.

“A sham,” Philadelphia’s Frank Dolson said.

“Disgraceful,” Jack Lang said.

“If you find the slim chance of a candidate winning an election distasteful, you don’t manipulate the system to keep that person off the ballot,” Kansas City’s Joe McGuff wrote. “Not in a Democracy, anyway.”

And so on. Several writers promised to boycott the election (they did not). Several others promised to write Rose in as a write-in candidate (they did). But, in reality, there was nothing they could do. The Hall of Fame makes the rules of eligibility. Taking Rose off the ballot solved many problems for them. It put the Hall in the good graces of Commissioner Vincent. It soothed the Hall of Famers, who were less than excited about Rose’s Hall of Fame credentials (Bob Feller threatened to never come back to the Hall of Fame).

Of course, Hall of Fame cloaked the Rose snub in the blanket of justice.

“We’re cleaning up our rules of election,” Stack said as innocently as he possibly could. “This is probably something that should have been done years ago. … I don’t remember (Pete Rose’s) name being specifically mentioned. Pete Rose was not the subject of our discussion.”

This sounded as ridiculous then as it does now, but none of it really mattered.

And so now the question: Should Pete Rose have been pulled off the ballot? Bill James thinks yes, and he believes it so strongly that he does not have any idea why it was ever an issue. As he wrote in, “The Politics of Glory:”

“The Hall of Fame is absolutely, completely, totally and unarguably right about the banning of Pete Rose … It’s a silly thing to even talk about. The Hall of Fame is baseball’s highest honor. Does it make sense to say that Pete Rose is ineligible to put on a uniform for any reason, or that he’s ineligible to play, or manage, or coach, or broadcast, that he is ineligible to sit in the press box or step on the field, that he may not work in baseball as a batboy, an equipment manager or a men’s room attendant — but that he does remain eligible for baseball’s highest honor? How could anyone even argue such a thing?”

That’s a powerful case — but there is a counterargument, one that Rosenbaum makes with passion: Rose being on the ballot is what Bart Giamatti wanted and expected even after he banned Rose from baseball. He could not have made that more clear. He did not want to ban Rose from the Hall of Fame ballot and did not believe he was doing so. He believed, instead, that the voters should weigh Rose’s career in total, his play and his gambling, his contributions to the team and the harm he caused to baseball, and decide if he belonged in the Hall of Fame.

And even now, many years later, baseball commissioner Rob Manfred followed Giamatti’s lead. Yes, he denied Rose’s petition for reinstatement but he also made clear that the Hall of Fame was a different story.

As mentioned up front, it’s too late now. The Hall of Fame has nothing whatsoever to gain by making Rose eligible. The other Hall of Famers would be outraged. The Rose distraction would deflect attention from other deserving players on the ballot. Nothing would be more infuriating to the Hall of Fame than to have Jeff Bagwell or Tim Raines or Jim Thome elected and have the headlines everywhere be: “Writers Vote No On Rose Again.”

But, if we could go back in time, I think the Giamatti argument is persuasive. He did not intend to ban Rose from the Hall of Fame ballot. I think if he had lived on, Rose would have been on the ballot. And I also beleve the writers would not have voted him in … and we’d be talking about something else.








39 Responses to The Rose Ballot

  1. Ray Barrington says:

    Suggestion… A one time ballot six months after the Hall vote. One time shouldn’t he or should he be on the next ballot, Same voters, or include the committee. I f no, status quo. If yes, regular voting rules at future votes until elected or time runs out.

  2. John Bowman says:

    Wouldn’t Pete Rose fall under the Modern Baseball Veterans Committee’s purview? He’s been out of baseball as a player for 30 years, so he wouldn’t be considered by the BBWAA would he?

    Do you know when ballots were actually introduced? Joe McCarthy got a vote after he was inducted. It seems unlikely that he was on any ballot. The number of players receiving votes dropped drastically from 134 in 1960 to 78 in 1962 to 58 in 1964 (The BBWAA voted every other year at that time). It’s been in the 40s and 50s ever since. Bill James didn’t cover that in The Politics of Glory, I don’t think.

    • SDG says:

      It doesn’t matter. The whole issue is going to come to a head in a few years after Bonds, Clemens, and A-Rod fail to get elected by the BBWAA. You can have a hall of fame and MAYBE keep Pete Rose out, a solid candidate but one who even he would agree isn’t inner-circle Willie Mays level. But three people who have legitimate arguments for best players ever? If they aren’t in the room devoted to the best players in baseball, what are we even doing? Just rename the whole thing the Baseball Hall of Guys Who Gave To Charity And Were Nice To Their Mothers and drop any pretense it is where fans go to see the best players. The BBWAA has been able to dodge the issue of what they’re honoring with Rose (and Shoeless, and McGwire) but they won’t be able to for much longer.

      Yes, it would be nice if every player behaved like Tony Gwynn off the field. But that’s what the Lou Gehrig, Branch Rickey and Roberto Clemente awards are for.

      • invitro says:

        “But three people who have legitimate arguments for best players ever?” — No one except Babe has a legitimate argument for best player ever.

        “If they aren’t in the room devoted to the best players in baseball, what are we even doing?” — We’re honoring the most honorable people (not just players of course) in baseball history. Being a great player is a big part of it, but not all.

        • SDG says:

          But we DON’T use that standard. When Ortiz is up for election the arguments are going to be about his stats, the DH, and the steroid rumors. MAYBE “what he means to Boston” or clutchness. Exactly zero attention will be paid to his (extensive) charity work.

          There are plenty of barely-above-replacement scrubs who visit hospitals and donate their money. It’s wonderful and should be encouraged, but it’s not what the Hall is.

          • invitro says:

            I don’t believe the attention will be exactly zero. But I wasn’t aware that Ortiz’s charity was that much greater than other players’ was (as Schilling’s was, for instance). Anyway, the writers clearly use character as a criterion: that’s why Bonds & Clemens et al. aren’t in, why Rose didn’t get in (when he was on the ballot and/or could collect votes), why Dick Allen isn’t in, and probably many more players. (I can’t think right now of a player who got in with character being a significantly positive factor, i.e. that he wouldn’t have been elected for his baseball stats alone. Someone help?)

          • Karyn says:

            I’m not sure we can agree on whether a player was good or bad for baseball overall. In a lot of cases, this would be pretty difficult to decide within five years of their retirement. As mentioned by others, a guy could be a marginal player on the field, but the greatest teammate imaginable and a tireless worker for charity. That doesn’t make him a Hall of Famer.

            I’m willing to consider off-the-field stuff as a sort of tie-breaker, as in Dale Murphy. I don’t think we should hold general obnoxiousness against a player–Curt Schilling should be in the Hall–but I’m not opposed to giving a little extra credit to a player on the cusp.

          • Tampa Mike says:

            @invitro “Rose didn’t get in (when he was on the ballot and/or could collect votes)”

            He has never been on the ballot. That is the whole point of this article.

        • jgtx says:

          Well no, we’re not. “The most honorable people”? Are you reading what you type? No one except Babe?? Are you a real person or some sort of bot designed to troll baseball sites

          • invitro says:


  3. Richard Aronson says:

    After reading this, I have more sympathy towards the Pete Rose should be on the ballot argument. He would never have agreed to any deal if it including never being in the HOF. His entire life shows that all he wanted was fame; if he really cared more about baseball than fame or money, he’d have retired years earlier when he was still an average ball player; from 1982-1986 he accumulated -2.6 WAR (or -0.45 per year, well below a replacement player) in his selfish pursuit of the hit record. I now feel that Giamatti’s sudden death might have effectively screwed Rose, and I have sympathy for him. I’d have more sympathy if he had not ended Ray Fosse’s career (when a slide instead of a collision would have been safer for both of them), if he had retired earlier, or IF HE HAD NOT GAMBLED ON BASEBALL AND LIED TO US ALL ABOUT IT UNTIL HE SAW THE EVIDENCE WAS TOO SOLID FOR US TO BELIEVE THE LIED. I have some sympathy. But not enough to believe he belongs in the HOF, unless they create a Villains Wing someday. Then Rose can go in alongside Bonds and Clemens and all the other evil stars of baseball.

    • invitro says:

      “His entire life shows that all he wanted was fame” — Wow, what an ignorant comment. How many Rose or Reds biographies have you read? I’ll guess zero.

      “ended Ray Fosse’s career” — More ignorance. Pro tip: before claiming that an event ended a player’s career, you might want to know something about the player’s career.

      “when a slide instead of a collision would have been safer for both of them” — And this crap again. Why does Rose, or any runner, get the blame for knocking the catcher over when the catcher is blocking the plate? I believe Fosse was indeed blocking the plate, and I’m all for a runner to bowl over the catcher in such circumstances. Why didn’t Fosse get out of the basepath when it was dangerous for both of them for him to be there? (I think a rule or its enforcement has been changed too, to allow the runner his right to the basepath to home plate.)

      • invitro says:

        I apologize for being overly harsh. I’ll try again… from the books on Rose & the Reds (including JoeP’s), I don’t think Rose cared about fame much at all. I think he wanted to play baseball, then to manage baseball, and in general to be a part of baseball history. I also think that if Rose hurt the team by one or two games, that is massively outweighed by the numerous selfless things he did throughout his career to help the team — see his agreement to play third base in 1975 at the drop of a hat.

        And looking at Fosse’s record, and looking at a list of Fosse’s many other injuries, it does not appear that the collision ended his career, or was even much of a factor in shortening it.

        • NevadaMark says:

          For what it’s worth Fosse himself said later that he was never the same player after that collision. But the play itself was certainly clean by baseball standards and NO ONE at the time said anything about it being a dirty play. The stories I remember (admittedly I was 11 at the time) focused on how what a great hustler Rose was. So he was and in more ways than anyone thought.

    • SDG says:

      We can’t look inside Rose’s soul. We will never know if he “played for the right reasons” and honestly, I don’t think it matters if he was motivated by money or fame or a simple childlike love of the game or what. We can just his performance on and off the field but we can’t read his mind. Does it matter that Mariano Rivera used to talk about quitting the game to be a minister? Or that Koufax could have played 5 more years if he really wanted to but didn’t want to play hurt? This isn’t what we judge.

      Personally I can believe that his quote about walking through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball is true, and also that he has a serious gambling problem and an even bigger addiction to attention.

      Besides, he’s getting in eventually anyway. They retired his number and are letting him do all the ceremonial stuff. The HoF ban is looking more and more arbitrary. They might wait until he dies (like they did with Leo Durocher, another easy choice with gambling stuff in his career) to prove a point, but he’s more involved in baseball than plenty of players who are in the Hall as it is.

      • invitro says:

        “Does it matter that Mariano Rivera used to talk about quitting the game to be a minister?” — Who’s saying that it matters? No one here has. I’ve not read anyone saying that it matters. And is this supposed to be a positive or a negative for Rivera’s HoF case? (Since Rivera is a mortal lock for first-year election, he doesn’t need any more positives, of course.)

        • SDG says:

          It’s the entire argument. “If Koufax really loved the game, love baseball rather than fame and money, he would have played until his arm fell off. If Mantle loved the game, he would have rehabbed his leg instead of pissing away his talent drinking and cheating on his wife. If Tony Gwynn cared truly about bringing a ring home to San Diego, he would have eaten the occasional salad.” You can do that forever and it’s completely meaningless. Because some people just play for the money but still work hard and are good teammates and nice guys. Some people truly love baseball and are assholes who cheat or “clubhouse cancers” or whatever. And it doesn’t matter.

          David Wells is one of those guys with a huge memorabilia collection who would do school projects on Babe Ruth. But his image is as a fat, drunk, partying goofball who didn’t respect the holy pinstripes and ruined everything by not being Jeter. How much baseball history does Piazza have to care about before it balances out the steroid rumors, homophobic press conference, and general feuding with everyone? Is there some sort of formula? Or is the entire discussion ridiculous? And what about Schilling? He does a ton of community work including with a charity devoted to a disease named after a baseball player. Does this balance out every comment he’s ever made about politics?

          • invitro says:

            But Koufax, Mantle, and Gwynn were elected to the HoF, first ballot I believe. We’re talking about membership in the HoF here — I think you’re talking about something more general, a player’s overall reputation? I can’t tell for sure. Well that’s a much bigger topic, made much more difficult by the fact that a player’s reputation is not a fact, as membership in the HoF is.

            I do note that Koufax is idolized about as much as any baseball player ever. A fellow commented here recently that he had the most stories and articles written about him in the 1960’s. I’ve heard a few people decry him gently for retiring early, but it’s just very casual, and far more people point out that he had every right to an early retirement, due to his arm pain and all the joy he brought Los Angeles and the Dodger fans.

            Now Schilling is another story. He’s a bona fide current candidate, one of the greatest postseason pitchers ever, in Joe P’s Top 100, and I’d put him in the top fifty after including his postseasons. And I guess not many people realize it, but he’s one of the most honored players ever for his humanitarian work — check out his long list of awards for it, listed in his wikipedia article. I think it’s likely that he’s been denied for his right-of-center political views, but it may be for his lack of career wins, or for writers being stupid and totally ignoring postseason work. Maybe Joe will write another Schilling article in December or January before the next balloting, but knowing Joe’s political views, he may be somewhat biased against him as well, though I’m pretty sure Joe’s voted for him since he’s been eligible.

  4. invitro says:

    I don’t know why what Giamatti wanted 27 years ago should matter so much now, let alone outweigh what everyone else wants.

    • Karyn says:

      I think it matters some because of the original intent of the punishment. It’s possible that if the banishment had included ineligibility for the Hall of Fame at the time, Giamatti would have chosen differently. Say, ten years. I do think it’s relevant.

      I also think it’s relevant whether it’s a permanent ban or a lifetime one. I don’t have a particular problem with Rose (or Shoeless Joe, for that matter) being honored posthumously.

      • invitro says:

        I agree that Giamatti’s opinion matters some and is relevant. I just don’t think that using his opinion as the entire argument is defensible. And I think it’s outweighed just by this one thing that Joe mentions: “The other Hall of Famers would be outraged.”

        Are you serious about Shoeless Joe? I hope we can agree that what he did was far worse than anything that Rose did (counting only baseball-related activities of course). I know there are some people that think Shoeless Joe didn’t know what was going on (or something like that), and I also think that intelligent historians say Joe knew exactly what he was doing. I think electing him at any time would be an absurdity, and if the current HoFers would be outraged at Rose’s selection, one wonders if they’d ask the HoF to remove them if Joe was elected.

        • BobDD says:

          From what I’ve heard/read Jackson did not take that escapade all that seriously. He cheated though, and got caught. I thought his penalty was deserved.

          Rose took the kind of precautions that showed he carefully planned his gambling on baseball in ways to circumvent the rules. His subsequent denials seemed to reinforce his intention to make a fool out of baseball. I also thought his penalty was deserved, including being denied the HoF based both on what he did at the time, and how he has lied about it since.

          Your mileage may vary.

          • invitro says:

            “Jackson did not take that escapade all that seriously” — It seems that this might be even worse than a player throwing the Series, knowing it was an evil thing to do, and showing remorse afterwards. I’m just sayin’.

      • duffy01 says:

        I don’t think Giamatti’s intent matters at all. Would it matter if newly discovered evidence showed Rose didn’t bet on baseball, instead of showing that Rose’s involvement with gambling was much greater than previously disclosed? What matters is what Rose did do while he was associated with baseball and to a much lessor degree what he has done since being away from baseball.

    • Stephen says:

      Seconded. That jumped out at me, too.

      Giamatti was not a dictator, nor was he hired to be one. It seems clear that there was not a true consensus on what should have been done with Rose. As commissioner, and as the one mainly in charge of figuring out what to do, it is reasonable that Giamatti’s opinion at the time would carry more weight than that of a random baseball writer or Hall of Fame player–but “more weight” is not “all the weight.” And “I expect he’ll be on the ballot,” said by someone who doesn’t have the technical authority to make that decision, seems less than fully binding.

      Moreover, it’s quite common for new people coming into positions of authority to disagree with earlier decisions, and to overturn them–happens all the time in politics. We could argue that this is actually a good thing. To be shackled to a particular course of action simply because the previous guy wanted it that way seems less than ideal in terms of an organization’s ability to respond to new information and new conditions.

      Not to mention the possibility that given new information and new conditions, it’s conceivable that Giamatti would have changed his mind on this issue, had he lived. People do that, too.

      “We’re doing it this way now because someone who died many years ago wanted it that way” is not, in my opinion, a healthy way to run things.

    • SDG says:

      Does it matter if Mickey Mantle was better than Willie Mays? Not really. The fun of the argument IS the argument. We talk about this, as fans, because we like talking about baseball players and how they played and which team or era was better. The whole Pete Rose HoF issue is just an excuse to gossip and nerd out.

      Besides, “what everyone else wants” isn’t a good metric for anything. If we’re going to HAVE a Hall, and imbue it with such meaning and take it so seriously, it’s worth it to have a discussion about what it means, which goes back to the Hall’s very founding when Landis insisted character and sportsmanship should be central requirements, then they picked Ty Cobb for the inaugural class and no one said anything. We should have clear, logical requirements, whatever they are and then stick with them.

      • invitro says:

        I agree that we should have discussions about the HoF and what it means. If anything, I think character and sportsmanship should be much more important. I think a HoFer should (ideally) be a hero to baseball, and a hero in general, and that somebody like Dale Murphy should be a shoo-in, first ballot pick. Now that’s how I’d personally vote… I don’t claim that anyone else should vote this way, even though I’d like it.

        I don’t think I take the HoF all *that* seriously. As an example, I don’t have a strong opinion on whether Rose should be in or out, and I think (just another example) the use of replays to clean up and standardize umpiring is a lot more important than who’s in the HoF.

        My current requirement — I reserve the right to change it 🙂 — is that a HoFer should be someone who was good for baseball. He or she got people excited about baseball, watching, following or playing it, left them feeling good about baseball as a sport and a hobby worth following. My innermost HoF circle is the same as a lot of people’s: Ruth, Jackie, and one of the founders, Hulbert or the Knickerbockers’ founder or somebody like that (I’m still learning old baseball history). Was Rose good for baseball? Before (say) 1986, of course, he’d probably be in my next group of ten inner circle HoFers. After 1986, nope. I believe that if a person does tons of good, then even a ton of bad can be cancelled out, but I’m not sure how that works out for Rose. More examples: was Barry Bonds good for baseball? I don’t know… maybe, maybe not. Dale Murphy? Of course; Dale was tremendously good for baseball, as a hero to (at least) millions of people in the southeast. Dick Allen? Hell, no, he was mostly awful for baseball. Ty Cobb? Sure, I think so, though I’m relying on Bill James saying his racism is overstated. Yawkey? I don’t know enough about him. Steinbrenner? He had a positive effect on Yankee fans, but was so awful to his employees that I’d probably say no way.

        Oh, I think “what everyone else wants” is a great metric for deciding something that is totally a matter of opinion. How else should you decide such matters? I don’t know if membership in the HoF is totally a matter of opinion, but a big part of it is.

        • Karyn says:

          re: Cobb’s racism–my impression is that Cobb’s racism, such as it was, was not any more than the standard level of a white Southern man of the time, and may have been less. It looks pretty bad to us nowadays, but in context wasn’t out of line.

          I’ve seen arguments that others (Cap Anson, I think?) were both more virulent racists and had a larger effect on establishing and keeping the color barrier–and thus were worse for baseball in the long run than Cobb was in that area.

          • SDG says:

            Yeah – a new bio on Cobb showed he was a normal amount of racist for the era. He got super, super mad when someone called hom black (a common taunt in those days) but so did Babe Ruth. He had a serious anger problem and no one liked him, but there’s no evidence he went out of his way to harm black people. He supported integration after Jackie was signed, and praised Campanella and Mays (and he hated most modern ballplayers).

            Anson is widely credited with establishing the color line when he refused to play if the Toledo Bluestockings fielded a black player. It’s unfair to put all the blame on Anson as it probably would have happened anyway and persisted 20 years after his death, but Anson was a massive racist and might be the biggest asshole in baseball.

            And yet he deserves to be in the Hall based on his stats and (non-racist) contributions to the game like being one of the creators of the NL, and popularizing spring training. And to bring this back on topic, we enshrine a guy who was not only a bad person, but refused to take the field unless he had veto power over the other team’s players, which is the least sportsmanlike thing I can think of. What Pete Rose did did not affect the outcome of games even slightly as much.

  5. Carl says:

    I agree. Rose should not be in the hall of fame. And neither should any memorabilia from his career. Return it all to Mr. Rose and adjust the record books accordingly.

  6. BAM says:

    “One of the questions people ask all the time is this: Why won’t the Pete Rose thing just go away?”

    Because YOU keep on writing about him. I used to be a big Joe Pos fan. But this and the Joe Pa obsession has soured me on Joe Pos.

    Rose broke rule #1 of baseball and Paterno broke rule #1 of humanity, yet Pos continues to defend them.

    Tells me all I need to know about Joe.

    • Karyn says:

      I’ve missed it, when did Poz last defend Paterno?

      And Pete Rose gets written about by a lot of people, not just Poz.

  7. roger martinie says:

    Perhaps he’s changed his tune since, but Johnny Bench once responded to the question, “when should Pete Rose go into the hall?”, with “when he’s innocent.” Nuf said.

  8. John Z says:

    How about if they did a special ballot, just for Rose, that did not effect anyone else. Not Raines or Bagwell or Thome or anyone. Maybe hold the special ballot on September 11th, the date of his his historic hit. It could be an online ballot so fans could track the voting, but voting would only be open to BBWAA members in good standing with the HOF. At least it would surppress those fans and lawyers that want to see how Rose would fair at the writers hand, and if for some chance he received considerable support (75%+) then induct him already and lets be done with this. After all it is a museum and a museum is there to represent the history, and this museum in particular the history of MLB, and this includes Shoeless Joe, Pete Rose and all the steroid users, like it or not, all those stories are the history of our great past time…

  9. MikeN says:

    One word per line makes reading comments on this site impossible.

    Pete Rose has now been off for 25 years, vs 56 years of being eligible.

    Just because Bart Giamatti said they would vote on Rose, doesn’t mean that he supported it. Perhaps he never gave serious consideration to banning him from the ballot.

  10. Craig W says:

    I have no problem with Rose not being on the ballot. Maybe there are some arguments over what authority the BBWAA and the Commissioner have over the Hall, but I think it really comes down to Rose gambling on baseball. He broke a rule that is widely known and the consequences were laid out with Joe Jackson and his White Sox teammates. Banned for life. There isn’t much grey area here, unlike the situation with PEDs.

    Bonds and Clemens did not break any MLB rules. There wasn’t even a suspension for PEDs until 2003 and the anonymous tests that led to the rule change can’t be considered. Nobody had the opportunity to refute those tests or find out what substances they found with or if they were mixed up with others. Was there an A/B sample follow up?

    Where it might get murkier, is a player like ARod. Upper echelon HoFer, who tested positive and served a suspension. Hasn’t he paid his dues if he accepted the suspension and was allowed to rejoin the game? I think yes he has and if MLB wants to exclude players for breaking rules, then say so with the punishment, just as they do with gambling on the game.

  11. Tampa Mike says:

    I’m of the opinion that Rose should be on the Hall of Fame ballot, but remain banned from baseball. To me they don’t go together. The main difference between Rose and Shoeless Joe is that their is no evidence that Rose ever threw a game, and honestly I think he was too competitive to do it anyways. Shoeless Joe threw the World Series. That’s just my opinion, but I would like to see him in the Hall.

    • invitro says:

      Has anyone suggested that Rose threw a game? If so, that’s news to me.

      • Karyn says:

        I don’t think so. But there are a lot of ways in which he could have altered games based on his bets–I have no idea whether he ever did, but someone on his position could have.

        Such as, “I got a grand on this game, I’m going to pull the starter a soon as he’s tired,” when an impartial manager might leave his starter in another inning, to preserve the bullpen for tomorrow’s game, or whatever.

        Or another possibility: the bookies watch his betting patterns–$500 Tuesday, $500 Wednesday, no bet Thursday–why no bet? What does he know?

        (These are general thoughts, and not really directed to you, invitro.)

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