By Joe Mahoney The Daily Star
---- — A new biography on baseball legend Pete Rose — now getting a major push by the sports magazine with the largest circulation in the nation — questions the decision by the board of directors for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum to keep him from being considered for enshrinement in the national pastime’s pantheon.
The book, “Pete Rose: An American Dilemma” by Kostya Kennedy, suggests it is time for the Hall to rethink its banishment of the game’s all-time hits leader in light of the fact the baseball writers get to vote on players who used performance-enhancing drugs.
Kennedy’s book is slated to be released Tuesday by Sports Illustrated, the publishing house that also publishes the magazine of the same name. The book is the magazine’s cover story this week, and includes a lengthy excerpt.
Reached by The Daily Star on Thursday, Kennedy said he disagrees with the Hall’s rule freezing Rose out from consideration after the 17-time All Star was implicated in betting on baseball games while working as a manager.
“I think it was wrong to shut him out,” Kennedy said. “He deserves his day of judgement.”
An assistant managing editor for Sports Illustrated, Kennedy said he does not use the book to make the case that Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. Rather, he said, he chronicles the “multi-layered story” of Rose’s life and career as player who still has most hits in major league history, and his subsequent years as a manager. The book also includes extensive interviews with Rose’s son, Pete Jr., now a minor league coach after playing briefly in the majors.
Brad Horn, a spokesman for the Hall of Fame, acknowledged that the 15-member board of directors is empowered to “revoke, alter or amend the rules at any time.”
While Major League Baseball strictly prohibits its players from gambling, Kennedy’s book points out that, today, several major league teams have ties to the gaming industry.
“At a time that baseball has over the past decade adopted an increasingly strong stance against performance-enhancing drugs, its resistance to its teams having an affiliation with gambling interests has softened,” he wrote.
Kennedy notes that the Yankees installed the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar at their new stadium, while the Detroit Tigers invite guests to their MotorCity Casino Hotel. Meanwhile, he points out, the Cincinnati Reds display ads at their park for the Horseshoe Casino, and the gaming firm Harrah’s became a “signature partner” of the New York Mets when the team opened Citi Field in 2009.
Horn declined to comment on Kennedy’s book.
“We don’t typically comment on books,” he said.
Horn did say the museum calls attention to Rose’s achievements in its timeline exhibit, in its library and in the records exhibit.
“The only area of the building he is not a part of is the Hall of Fame,” he said.
The rule affecting Rose was passed, he said, because Major League Baseball had put the all-time hitting king on its permanent ineligibility list in 1989. Unless the rule adopted in 1991 is changed by the current Hall directors, Horn said, “he cannot be considered a candidate for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame as long as he is on the ineligibility list.”
Kennedy said Rose has evolved considerably since first denying allegations that he bet on baseball.
“There are a lot of contradictions to Pete,” the author said. “He lied again and again.” On the other hand, he added, the latter-day Rose “is the most honest person you’d ever meet.”
Cooperstown shopkeeper Andrew Vilacky, a friend of Rose, said the Hall of Fame board should shelve the rule that keeps baseball writers from being allowed to consider Rose on their ballots.
“Pete Rose didn’t do any harm to the game of baseball,” said Vilacky, who runs a store called Safe at Home. “He did harm to himself.” Vilacky said he calls the rule instituted by the Hall in 1991 “the Pete Rose rule” because Rose is the only living retired baseball player impacted by it.
As a museum dedicated to education, he said, the Hall could opt to tell Rose’s “complete story” — warts and all — rather than denying him a chance at a berth in the baseball shrine.
In addition to Joe Morgan, the Hall’s board includes four other former players who are also Hall of Famers — Phil Niekro, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson and Tom Seaver. The commissioner of Major League Baseball, Bud Selig, is also a director.
The board’s chairwoman is Jane Forbes Clark, whose family foundation, the Clark Foundation, also controls the Bassett Healthcare Network, the Otesaga Hotel, the Fenimore Art Museum, the Clark Sports Center and other properties in the Cooperstown area.
The vice chairman of the Hall of Fame board, Morgan, a Hall of Famer himself, told USA Today last August that he thinks Rose, now 72, should be eligible for induction now that the Hall allows consideration of players who used performance-enhancing drugs.
“I think if you’re going to allow guys with PEDs on the ballot, then we have to allow him to be on the ballot,” Morgan told the newspaper. “Let’s face it, he’s been punished for 24 years. I think they have to take a second look at Pete now that this has come out.”