An ‘Easy’ Solution to the Pete Rose Reinstatement Dilemma


As we learned last week, Cincinnati Reds legend and baseball’s all-time hits leader Pete Rose has officially petitioned new Commissioner Rob Manfred for reinstatement into Major League Baseball.  Since that news broke, the old Rose debates have raged on the Internet, abated only by the beginning of the NCAA Tournament.  But, really, we could be debating something just slightly different in regards to Rose, if only baseball and the Hall of Fame would  make one small change: remove the “Pete Rose Rule” from Hall of Fame balloting.  

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What is the Pete Rose Rule, you ask?

Well, to answer that question, we need to look at how balloting for the Hall of Fame operated back in the pre-Rose-scandal days of the 1980s … and the 1970s … and the 1960s … and the 1950s … and the 1940s … and the 1930s.

When Rose’s case is brought up in conversation, the parallel that most folks draw is to “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, who may or may not have conspired to throw the 1919 World Series as arguably the best hitter for the Chicago White Sox/Black Sox.  For the Rose detractors, the case is pretty clear: Joe Jackson is not in the Hall of Fame, so Pete Rose should not be either.

Ah, but did you know that “Shoeless” Joe actually appeared on the first Hall of Fame ballot in 1936, despite being on baseball’s permanently ineligible list?   How can that be?!?!

Well, until 1991, there was no correlation between a player’s eligibility to participate in Major League Baseball and his eligibility to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.   None.  Zippo.

Play your 10 years, flame out through whatever scandal you might have been involved with, wait five years, and voila!, your name was on the ballot.    

That all changed in 1991, when the board of directors called a special meeting in February and declared that any player ineligible for baseball activities would also be ineligible for election to the Hall of Fame.

Care to guess who was on that board, but abstained from the vote?

It was then-commissioner Fay Vincent, who succeeded Bart Giamatti, who drove the Rose investigation before his death.  Think Vincent had any influence on the Hall board?

It will be great for Rose and his supporters if Manfred takes a hard, reasoned look at Pete’s case and decides that reinstatement is in order.  It really should  not matter, though.

There is little chance that Rose will be involved much with MLB if reinstated, aside from a few promotional gigs.  No, his plea is all about the Hall of Fame, where many more people think he belongs than in the game itself.

The simple solution, then, is to just repeal the Pete Rose Rule and then give Charlie Hustle his full 10 years’ worth of eligibility on the Hall of Fame ballot.  At the very least, he should be up for consideration the next time the Veterans’ Committee meets.

The really slick thing is that there is a precedent for changing the Hall of Fame eligibility rules.

After all, they’ve already done it once before, for Pete’s sake!

Next: Hall of Fame Stacked Cards Against Pete Rose


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