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December 06, 2001

A tale of two Roses
By Dan Patrick

There has been a lot of fallout from last weekend's Baseball Hall of Fame ceremonies, all of it stemming from Pete Rose's icy, outsider status with the Hall and with Major League Baseball itself. The latest flap involves Johnny Bench feuding with Hall of Famer and longtime Reds announcer Marty Brennaman over Brennaman's public support of Rose in Cooperstown on Sunday.

 Pete Rose
Dan Patrick poll results: 80 percent of the voters responded favorably to Marty Brennaman mentioning Rose in his HOF induction speech.

To me, the whole Pete Rose/Hall of Fame issue is very easy to figure out. You simply separate Pete Rose the player from Pete Rose the manager. As a player, Rose had few peers. Aside from being the all-time hits leader, Pete Rose participated in more team wins than any other player in baseball history. He was not throwing games. He played to win. You can't erase that and pretend he never played and built such an outstanding career. Pete Rose, the player, should be in the Hall of Fame.

Rose the manager is another story. There is an abundance of proof that Rose bet on major league baseball games, including Reds' games that he managed. Rose essentially acknowledged this when he signed an agreement to accept a lifetime ban from the game from commissioner Bart Giamatti in 1989 that was based on the evidence that he gambled. Nothing has changed since then, other than Rose's attitude, to make a good case for that ban to be lifted. Rose should not hold a job in the game because of his gambling activities as a manager.

But we can't separate Pete Rose into two people, one we praise and honor for his career and one we send into permanent exile for his mistakes as a manager. He is just one man, but baseball should be able to handle the contradictions contained in this one man.. But as it stands now, for baseball to not allow him to attend team reunions or attend various official functions is a shame. Refusing to let him participate in these tributes makes him a sympathetic figure, which he plays to the hilt by venturing up to Cooperstown on induction weekend to write his name for money, a sideshow pining to be the main attraction.

But Pete Rose is not a sympathetic figure. He embarrassed the Reds and the city of Cincinnati. He's a gambler whose problem cost him a job in the game he loves. His fall is of his own doing. Still, Rose the player should be able to accept accolades in the autumn of his life. But he also should not be able to accept an MLB paycheck. Ban him from earning a living in the game but let him in the Hall. Acknowledge his past while controlling his future participation in baseball.

My guess is that Rose will be inducted into the Hall of Fame posthumously. Some of the qualities that made him a great player -- determination, refusal to back down, pride -- will prevent him from doing what he needs to do. He should admit what he did and apologize for it. We love to give second chances in this country but I don't think Pete will do that. He's in denial.

Still, apologizing might not ensure his election anyway. The baseball writers may not be able to separate the player from the manager. They may still just see the man. But if he came clean on his gambling -- a big "if" -- I think he would be making the first step toward Cooperstown. And only he can do that.

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