It was a metaphor for all to see on this fall's World Series pre- and postgame shows. An outcast for more than a quarter-century, Pete Rose appeared as a Fox Sports TV analyst -- on a set outside the stadium.
Now Rose, 74, will remain officially on the outs for the foreseeable future, following Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred's denial on Monday of Rose's bid for reinstatement, 26 years after his lifetime ban based on evidence that he had gambled on the sport -- and on his own team -- as manager of the Cincinnati Reds.
Manfred's ruling is the latest consequence of what even some supporters of the Hit King have characterized as Rose's consistent inability to pursue a path to redemption and return since the MLB investigation initiated by commissioner Peter Ueberroth documented his repeated violations of Rule 21. That rule is the prohibition against betting, posted prominently in every big league clubhouse.
Before the Aug. 24, 1989, ban by Ueberroth's successor, Bart Giamatti, Rose and his lawyers chose not to interview any of baseball's 113 witnesses, challenge any of its evidence or participate in a hearing. And they rebuffed the efforts of Giamatti, deputy commissioner Fay Vincent and special counsel John Dowd to craft a plan whereby Rose would acknowledge guilt and have MLB's assistance with overcoming his problems and attempting to earn a chance to return.
Rose instead signed an agreement with no finding on whether he had gambled on baseball -- but he accepted lifetime ineligibility, a penalty only levied against those found to have bet on games involving their own teams. Under MLB rules for such cases, Rose would have the chance to apply for reinstatement after a year, and Rose said on the day he was banned that he expected to be out of baseball for "a very short period of time."
When Giamatti announced the banishment at a packed New York news conference, he said, "The burden to show a redirected, reconfigured, rehabilitated life is entirely Pete Rose's."
Giamatti did not duck the question of whether Rose had gambled on the game. "In the absence of a hearing and therefore in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I am confronted by the factual record of Mr. Dowd [the former federal prosecutor, whose investigation for MLB produced the 225-page "Dowd Report," accompanied by seven volumes of exhibits]. And on the basis of that, yes, I've concluded that he bet on baseball." Giamatti added that he also concluded Rose had bet on the Reds.
At his own news conference in his hometown of Cincinnati, Rose staked out a position that he would maintain in his "Pete Rose: My Story" autobiography later in '89 and over the next 14 years of innumerable denials. "Regardless of what the commissioner said today, I did not bet on baseball. That's all I can say.
"Got too much respect for the game, too much love for the game," he added.
Rose, who in a deposition had admitted to betting on other sports, said at the news conference he would never bet on any kind of team sport again. That night, Rose sold autographed artifacts on a cable TV shopping network and said he didn't think his ban had anything to do with whether he would make the Hall of Fame.
Eight days later, the chain-smoking Giamatti died of a heart attack at age 51. If Giamatti had lived, Rose has maintained, eventually he would have reinstated him -- a hypothesis rejected by people close to Giamatti. The year after Giamatti's death, Rose went to federal prison for a five-month sentence on two felony charges of filing false tax returns.
In 1991, the Baseball Hall of Fame adopted a measure rendering anyone banned from the game ineligible for election. The rule change engendered more sympathy for Rose among fans who revered "Charlie Hustle" for his all-out approach that produced a record 4,256 hits, three World Series championships and more wins than any other player, as well as 17 All-Star Game selections at a record five different positions.
When new Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, Rose's friend and former Phillies teammate, gave his 1995 induction speech, he expressed the hope that "some day very soon, Pete Rose will be standing right here." That thrilled a Cooperstown crowd largely composed of the Philadelphia faithful, but made for uneasiness among baseball's leaders and numerous returning members who opposed having Rose join their ranks.
In 1997, Rose applied to commissioner Bud Selig for reinstatement. Two years later, Selig granted rare permission for Rose to be on the field, when he was honored with fellow members of the All-Century Team at Game 2 of the World Series in Atlanta. Selig met Rose briefly, a fact almost lost in the attention to the ovation Rose received and his contentious TV interview with NBC's Jim Gray. Rose neither apologized nor admitted to the decade-old gambling charges, telling Gray and a national audience, "I'm not going to admit to something that didn't happen."
Selig again permitted Rose to appear at the World Series for Game 4 in 2002 and the ovation in San Francisco was louder and longer than for Hank Aaron and Cal Ripken, as fans chanted "Hall of Fame! Hall of Fame!"
A month later, Selig and Rose, who was accompanied by Schmidt, had a secret meeting in Milwaukee. This time, for the first time, Rose admitted that he had committed the cardinal sin of betting on the game while he was the Reds' manager. Schmidt told "Outside the Lines" in 2009 that he left that '02 meeting confident a plan would be put in place for Rose's eventual reinstatement.
Some surmised that Selig became infuriated when Rose's next stop was an appearance at a Las Vegas sports book, and again when word of the Milwaukee meeting leaked. Selig, now commissioner emeritus, declined an interview request for this report. Rose said in 2006, "All I know is I didn't give him a reason to say no after I left the meeting."
Schmidt said of the meeting's ultimate failure: "I probably would be back in baseball now and in the Hall of Fame -- because I would have been a tremendously remorseful individual and I would have felt the burden of that for the rest of my life, in everything I did.
"My lifestyle would have changed. I would have felt an obligation to change and to become someone that the baseball world would once again learn to love after forgiving me. I would have been that guy. And I don't think Pete has been."
Rose's next momentous move seemed to destroy any hope that Selig would reinstate him. To make his historic public admission that he had bet on baseball, Rose released a new autobiography, "My Prison Without Bars," for which he received a reported $1 million advance. On top of being criticized as a money grab, Rose's January 2004 book launch -- and a national TV interview with ABC's Charles Gibson -- came as the Hall of Fame was about to introduce its newest inductees. The infamously ineligible Rose effectively stole the spotlight from newly announced Hall members Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor -- Rose has said ever since that the timing was not his intention or fault.
Rose does, however, make annual visits to Cooperstown that are timed for its lucrative induction weekends, when he signs and sells memorabilia at a store down the street from the Hall of Fame. It's no secret that this has rankled baseball officials, as has his autographing copies of the Dowd Report. He's also taken up residence in Las Vegas, where he spends much of his time pitching signed items in a shop adjacent to a casino. And he's admittedly no stranger to legal betting on sports in Vegas.
In 2014 interviews with ESPN, Rose said he had reconfigured his life -- per Giamatti's directive, he was not doing any illegal betting or betting on baseball and he did not consider himself a gambling addict. And as he has stated many times over the years, he said if baseball were to give him a second chance, he wouldn't need a third.
After Selig being mostly silent on the Rose matter during his two decades as commissioner, Manfred, a lawyer, took office in January, pledging to take a fresh look and render a public decision. He also gave Rose permission to participate in the All-Star Game festivities in Cincinnati as an honored member of the Reds' "Franchise Four." According to a source close to Manfred, the commissioner was taken aback at inferences that his actions -- and Rose's hiring by Fox, which holds the rights to MLB TV, as a studio commentator -- signaled a predisposition toward reinstatement.
An MLB spokesman said Fox contacted Manfred "as a courtesy" when it was close to hiring Rose, but the commissioner was not asked his opinion and did not weigh in.
Whether in 1989, 2004, 2015 or any other year, Rose has been unwavering in denying he ever bet on baseball before he stopped playing in 1986. He told ABC's Gibson in their 2004 interview, "I bet on baseball in 1987 and 1988." He also said, "That was my mistake, not coming clean a lot earlier."
But has Rose ever really come clean? The Dowd Report included the sworn testimony of a bookmaker who said Rose bet on games while he was still playing. Rose's denials fed the argument that he should be eligible for Cooperstown enshrinement as a player, since his transgressions were strictly after he had stopped playing.
Then in June, "Outside the Lines" obtained copies of 1986 betting records contained in a notebook seized by postal service inspectors in a 1989 raid on the home of former Rose associate Michael Bertolini, showing the first written corroboration that Rose had gambled on games as Cincinnati's player-manager. The notebook itself was under seal at the National Archives.
Neither Rose nor Bertolini would comment on the evidence in the notebook pages. Dowd, who years earlier unsuccessfully tried to obtain the material, called it "the final piece of the puzzle."
In the months after the report on Rose's gambling as a player, he took his bows at the All-Star Game, was honored by the Reds with a bobble head day during which he was also awarded the key to the city, and he met privately with Manfred in New York on Sept. 24.
Dowd and Vincent, who succeeded Giamatti as commissioner, said at the time of the Manfred-Rose meeting that any lessening of the Rose punishment would diminish the gambling deterrent that protects the game's integrity. And that anyone who allows Rose back in the game would essentially "own" any disrepute he might bring in the future -- either from new actions or new revelations about the past.
Schmidt, while acknowledging Rose has compounded his own problems, said in June he favored "parole" for him; that Rose's punishment is inconsistent with baseball allowing performance-enhancing drug offenders to be in the game and eligible for the Hall of Fame.
"I just think we're talking 25, 30 years for the crime that he committed against his sport, this is not against society," Schmidt said. "This is not murder one."
A popular endorser and public speaker, Rose told an audience in Pennsylvania in November what he has said many times -- "If I ever got a second chance, I'll be the happiest guy in the world."
He added that even in exile, he's having fun. "I just opened up a restaurant in Las Vegas and work at the Mandalay Place," said Rose, who also makes light of his pariah status in a national television commercial. "I have a pretty girlfriend. I drive a Bentley. I'm doing OK."
Although Manfred has ruled, he hasn't put to bed a debate that has gone on longer than Rose's 24-year playing career did. That debate could well outlive Rose.
Schmidt posed the question, "Who knows how much longer he's going to be with us and be able to enjoy something like reinstatement into baseball?"
Said Dowd: "He had terrific chances to turn it around, he just blew it."