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BANISHED TO A LIFETIME OF OPPORTUNITY.
August 10, 2001

by Bill Hogan

 

 
 

It's the time of the year when baseball's greatest are inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. So, it must also be the time of the year when Pete Rose steps back into the limelight for his annual fifteen minutes.

The saga of Pete Rose - like a bad soap opera, like sands through the hourglass - continues. The latest episode includes new allegations, old allegations and variations of the old allegations. Everything except the biggest staple of the modern daytime drama - sex.

 
 


If Rose is going to really cash in on this latest round of "publicity", he needs sex. Sex sells. Sex even sells autographed bats and bobble head dolls. Weren't there any interns running around the Cincinnati Reds front office while Rose was managing? Even just a hint of impropriety will spawn two or three good weeks of public innuendo.

The key is publicity. Good, bad or indifferent, there is no substitute for publicity. Rose needs to keep his name in the papers. He has a business to run. The Pete Rose business. It is no accident that he can be found lurking around Cooperstown, eyeing the Hall like a kid looking through a candy store window. It's where baseball fans flock this time of year.

It's Hall of Fame time. So, by extension, it's Pete Rose time. Time to renew the controversy over baseball's all-time hit leader being excluded from the game's most elite club. There are fans for and fans against - just as long as there are fans talking about it.

I read through the list of living Hall of Famers (that will now have input into whom gets to join their club). I thought half of them were dead! I haven't heard anything about most of the men on the list for years. That kind of obscurity is bad for business. Bad for the Pete Rose business.

When you get paid by the letter to scribble your name on a baseball, or tee shirt or cocktail napkin, people better know you're alive and kicking.

* * * * *

What if "Shoeless" Joe Jackson had not been involved in the 1919 "Black Sox" scandal? What if he had been elected to the Hall of Fame inaugural class of 1936 with the likes of Cobb, Ruth, Wagner, Mathewson and Johnson (or the class of '37 or '38)?

Here's what if: No books, no movies, no legend or "tragic" mystique. And no baseball bats going for a half-million dollars at auction. No corny field of dreams complimented with rolling revenue streams. He'd have been just another great player honored for his accomplishments with a bust next to 253 other busts.

What if Rose was given a slap on the wrist by then Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti in 1989 instead of a lifetime ban for betting on baseball games? A penalty he most likely could have avoided had he not taken the Bart Simpson "I didn't do it" approach (also known as the "you can't prove that" approach).

(The NFL suspended Detroit Lion lineman Alex Karras and Green Bay Packer running back Paul Hornung in 1963 for betting on football games - both are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Pete could have taken a lesson from them. Take your medicine and get back in the game.)

Any punishment short of a lifetime banishment would have landed Pete in the HOF long ago. But then what? A prominent member of the Hall would have to find a more appropriate way to make a living. Travelling the country with a trunk full of memorabilia and a pocket protector filled with pens probably wouldn't do. And without the controversy, there would certainly be a shortage of "free publicity".

The Hall isn't for everyone. And it can be a real obstacle for those ballplayers looking to use their celebrity to further other interests.

I bet that Bob Uecker never would have went after a coveted leading role on "Mr. Belevedere" had he been (rightfully) considered for nomination into the HOF.

Marv Thronberry's career in light beer commercials would have fell under heavy scrutiny had he been chosen to join baseball's finest.

The legend of Pete Rose - love him or hate him - grows stronger with each passing year. Each year that he is denied the ultimate validation of a great career.

Talk about him around the office water cooler. Read about him in the sports section. But don't pity Pete Rose.

There will be books. And movies. And auctions where the socks he wore to the stadium on the night he broke Ty Cobb's hit record are sold to the highest bidder.

No. Pete Rose, Inc. is far more profitable with Pete Rose, all-time hits leader, banished from the baseball world.

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