Pete Rose has memories and regrets. His newly published book, "Play Hungry: The Making of a Baseball Player," brings them back into the spotlight. Well, maybe for the general public, at least. For baseball diehards, Rose never left the spotlight, especially when the conversation turns to the Baseball Hall of Fame and his worthiness for induction.
The baseball great was considered a lock for the Hall of Fame with a major league-record 4,256 hits at the conclusion of his playing days in 1986. Then, Rose’s life changed forever in 1989 when he was banned from baseball for gambling on the game he loved and played for a living. Conviction and imprisonment for income tax evasion followed in 1990, and the Hall of Fame formally excluded Rose and others on professional baseball’s permanently ineligible list the following year.
Public opinion remains divided to this day. Rose’s many critics argue that any player, manager, coach, umpire or executive caught betting on games in violation of Major League Baseball Rule 21 does not deserve induction into the Hall of Fame. Many of these folks, in all their self-righteousness, seem to equate induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame with canonization by the Vatican. But the Hall of Fame is no Hall of Saints.
Pete Rose belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was too great, too accomplished, a player to be left on the outside. The Hall of Fame lessens itself without his plaque on the walls. Something is missing without him.