It was 20 years ago today that Major League Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti banned Pete Rose from baseball for gambling.
There were many great baseball players when I was growing up. I've heard some people argue that Rose was the best of that era, but that's a tough case to make.
Even so, he was a great player. And I assumed, as did many other people, that he eventually would claim his spot in baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Rose initially denied betting on the Cincinnati Reds, the team for which he played for many seasons and later served as manager. But he finally admitted publicly, in his 2004 autobiography, that he gambled on the Reds but never gambled against the team.
That is a distinction that Rose's supporters have latched on as justification for lifting the lifetime ban on Rose and permitting him to be eligible for the Hall of Fame.
I believe it is exactly the opposite.
As manager of the Reds, Rose was in a position to make decisions that could jeopardize the integrity of the game. But, even when he finally admitted gambling on his own team, he did so in a book. He never stood up and spoke the words, never answered questions truthfully in public. He remained defiant, even when admitting his own wrongdoing.
I believe the evidence against Rose — including his own, albeit long delayed, confession — is considerably stronger than the evidence against "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, who was banned from baseball along with his teammates on the 1919 Chicago "Black Sox" for throwing the World Series.
When Giamatti banned Rose, I said I would favor lifting the ban only when Jackson's ban was lifted. In the 1919 World Series, Jackson set a record for hits in a World Series (12) and hit .375. He committed no errors in the field. He did acknowledge receiving $5,000 of a promised $20,000 bribe, but there is no evidence that he ever did anything in a game to help his team lose.
The case against Jackson is not clear cut. The case against Rose is.
Jayson Stark writes, for ESPN.com, that Rose made his reinstatement impossible because he "could never bring himself to do what seemed so obvious."
I agree that it is a sad story. Rose, now 68, "has lived two decades in purgatory," writes Stark. But he brought it on himself.
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