|Wednesday, October 23
Updated: October 25, 12:54 AM ET
Ever-popular Rose really needs to 'apologize'
By Jim Caple
SAN FRANCISCO -- On the other hand, the night Pete Rose bet $17,000 on baseball did not crack the game's top 10 most memorable moments.
So, the friendly folks at Mastercard gave baseball another priceless moment before Game 4 of the World Series when it announced the results of its "Memorable Moments'' promotion. Just as was the case with its 1999 All-Century team (which somehow did not include Barry Bonds), Pete Rose was among the finalists and once again given a temporary corporate exemption to his lifetime baseball ban (an exemption he did not receive for the final game at old Riverfront Stadium, but then again, there was no multi-million dollar sponsorship deal that day). And once again, there was an awkward moment during an otherwise touching salute to everything that is right about the game.
But first things first. Any list of baseball's most memorable moments that does not include Bobby Thomson's home run is as suspect as the interest rates for a bank's credit cards. Thomson's home run would have been my pick for the No. 1 moment. The thing to remember though, is that the entire promotion was skewed toward events of the television era because that's all most of us know. After all, it's hard to poll dead people outside of Cook County.
So if today's fans say Cal Ripken's big night is their most memorable moment, then there's nothing wrong with that, as long as you realize it isn't a definitive list, that it is only a fan vote sponsored by a credit card company. In fact, I saw exactly half the list's 30 moments either in person or on live TV, and for me, Ripken's record-breaking game was the most memorable and the most emotional.
What is more important is the reaction of the 41,000-some fans who gave Rose the ceremony's loudest and longest ovation. Louder than Hank Aaron for his 715th home run and longer than Ripken for his playing streak. When Rose took the field, fans stood and applauded, then chanted "Hall of Fame! Hall of Fame!'' so long that they still were chanting it when Billy Crystal announced the next moment.
Now, remember. Pete gambled on baseball. He bet on his team. He served time for cheating on his income tax. He's loud, arrogant and completely unrepentant. He's virtually everything we despise in the modern athlete.
And yet, fans still love the guy. Why? Because he always hustled and because baseball turned him into a martyr by banning him from the Hall of Fame. After 13 years, the fans feel baseball is persecuting Rose.
The fans are wrong. Baseball is only enforcing a cardinal rule as it should and as it must. The one unpardonable sin in baseball is gambling on the sport. It's the one rule posted in every clubhouse. When players gamble, fans begin wondering whether everything is on the up and up. And if that happens, the game becomes nothing more than pro wrestling.
Rose has suffered a lot in the past 13 years. His reputation is trashed. He can't be connected with the game he loves. He's been reduced to appearing as a clown in pro wrestling matches, where he recently had his face rubbed against the buttocks of a giant Samoan wrestler wearing a thong
No one wants that. Not Rose. Not the fans. And not the folks who run the game, either.
Baseball wants to solve the Rose problem. Baseball is willing to solve the Rose problem. But it takes two sides working together on this and so far Rose hasn't done the single most important thing he can to get himself back in baseball: Apologize.
If Rose wants back in the game, if he wants into the Hall of Fame, he knows what to do. Finally admit that he bet on baseball, that it was wrong and that he's sorry. Until he does that, baseball can't even consider the issue, no matter how unpopular such a stand is.
That's why fans chanted the wrong thing when Rose took the field. Instead of chanting "Hall of Fame'' for a man who bet on baseball and disgraced the sport, they should have been shouting "Apologize.''
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.