LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The shadows of Bart Giamatti, the commissioner who banned Pete Rose in 1989 for betting on Reds games, and Fay Vincent, who succeeded Giamatti after he died of a heart attack eight days later, hung over Rose's news conference at the recently opened Pete Rose Sports Bar & Grill on Tuesday, even if no one took note of them.
When Rose's attorney, Mark Rosenbaum, implored the Baseball Hall of Fame to let the 74-year-old Hit King on the ballot before he dies, the reason for the urgency in Rosenbaum's voice was obvious, considering Rose's age. But the attorney had more reason to be concerned that Rose's window for election is closing.
For one thing, the Hall of Fame's plan for a Rose election calls for him to be considered by a veterans committee that only votes every three years.
For another, the Hall of Fame, in a statement to WCPO earlier in the day, appeared to say it's keeping the windows and doors closed.
A day after Commissioner Rob Manfred rejected Rose's petition for reinstatement, Rosenbaum cited a comment by Manfred to make his point that baseball's all-time hit leader should be allowed on the ballot despite his permanent ban.
"The commissioner got it right when he said, 'The considerations that should drive a decision on whether an individual should be allowed to work in Baseball are not the same as those that should drive a decision on Hall of Fame eligibility,'" Rosenbaum said.
"This is a country of second chances," Rosenbaum said. "We implore the committee to give him a first chance."
The Hall of Fame's separate ban of Rose became an issue again after Manfred, who is on the Hall of Fame board, came close to saying he wouldn't be opposed if the Hall of Fame allowed Rose on the ballot.
While refusing to lift Rose's ban, Manfred said his standard for reinstating Rose and the Hall of Fame's standard for making Rose eligible need not be the same.
Hall of Fame vice-president Brad Horn told WCPO about the Rose election plan in August, 2014. If Manfred or his predecessor, Bud Selig, had reinstated Rose, Rose would have been on the ballot considered by the Expansion Era committee next year. But if the committee rejected him - and it probably would - Rose wouldn't be up for election again until 2019.
On Tuesday, Horn politely turned down WCPO's request for an interview with Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson, saying in an email:
"Pete Rose remains ineligible for Hall of Fame consideration, based on the Hall of Fame's bylaws, which preclude any individual on baseball's ineligible list from being considered a candidate for election."
But it wasn't always that way. Horn was referring to what some baseball people call "the Pete Rose Rule," adopted 18 months after Rose was banned.
Baseball's ban originally meant only that Rose could not work in the sport, but that changed after Giamatti suddenly died.
Giamatti had said Rose and his attorneys put the commissioner through his own "private agony" that summer. Rose had refused to meet with Giamatti and went to court to challenge Giamatti's power to punish Rose and even stop the release of the Dowd Report.
Vincent, Giamatti's friend and deputy, blamed Rose for Giamatti's death. As commissioner, Vincent convinced the Hall of Fame board in 1991 to increase Rose's punishment by barring Rose and others on the permanently ineligible list from the Hall. Ten months later, the Hall of Fame ballots were mailed to baseball writers. If not for the ban, they would have had Rose's name on them. It would have been Rose's first year on the ballot.
Now, it would only take a vote of the Hall of Fame board to rescind the "Pete Rose Rule" if board members - including Reds great and Hall of Famer Joe Morgan - were so inclined.
Rose sat silently by Rosenbaum's side as the attorney recited Rose's achievements on the field and made his case for Rose's name to go on the ballot.
Taking questions later, Rose said he held out hope that he could be inducted some day - even if he dies trying.
"If I kick the bucket, my son could come and give the speech," Rose said.
Rosenbaum called Rose "a changed man, a repentant man," and disputed Manfred's contention that Rose had not followed Giamatti's directive to "reconfigure his life" after Giamatti banned Rose 26 years ago.
"I have seen Pete break down when he discusses the impact of his actions on his children," Rosenbaum said, and he described how Rose's son, Petey, took a lot of verbal abuse from fans while playing in the minor leagues after Rose's betting became public. "Pete said, 'In this world, we're supposed to make it better for our children, but I made it worse.'
"He lives an orderly, I would say boring life, but a disciplined life."
Rose spoke briefly but glowingly of Giamatti, referring to him as one of "my three dads," along with his own father and Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson.
"He really helped me when I was a young player and he was president of the National League. We had several meetings about what we could do to make baseball a better game," Rose said. "As you know, he's the one who suspended me back in 1989, but all the time he did that, he was trying to help me. It took some years for me to understand exactly what he meant when he told me to reconfigure my life.
"There was a time in my life when I was out of control gambling ... but I worked hard at it and got it under wraps and I'm in control of my life right now."
Rose acknowledged that he still gambles legally on baseball and other sports - to Manfred's dismay and condemnation.
"I was an out-of-control gambler 30 years ago. Now I'm a recreational gambler," Rose said. "I'm 74 years old and that's the way I get my enjoyment. I'm not a stock market guy ... Everything I do is legal. I'm in control of myself."
Rose said he was disappointed by Manfred's decision to uphold his lifetime ban, adding "I put the commissioner in a tough spot to make a judgment on this situation."
"I'm disappointed, obviously I'm disappointed," Rose said. "But I will continue to be the best baseball fan in the world."
Rose jokingly suggested that he "should actually be the commissioner of baseball," given how much he promotes and watches the sport.
Rosenbaum wouldn't say if Rose would apply for reinstatement again - as fruitless as it would seem. Rose said what he really wants is to make peace with Baseball.
"All I Iook forward to being someday," Rose said, choking up, "is friends of Baseball. I wants Baseball and Pete Rose to be friends so I can say I'm not an outsider looking in.
"I've got grandkids. They want their grandpa to be associated with baseball. That's all."
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