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Sports

December 27, 2012

EXTRA INNINGS: Hall of Fame or Hall of Blame?

OPINION — LET ME SEE if I got this right: Several years ago, Ferguson Jenkins and Gaylord Perry were both inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame.

When he was a player, Jenkins was arrested in Toronto for possession of illegal drugs.

When Perry was a player, he admitted that his career was successful almost solely because he threw a spitball, an illegal pitch.

Mickey Mantle drank himself to death.

Ty Cobb was a racist, whose reputation centered on his constant attempts to intentionally injure opposing players.

Even Babe Ruth's reputation as a drunk and womanizer is general knowledge.

In football, the NFL once suspended Paul Hornung for an entire season for betting on football games, and he is enshrined in Canton.

And, like the others above, he should be.

After all, Hall enshrinement rewards athletes’ on-the-field performances. As a Baltimore Sun writer once put it: "The Hall of Fame is not for choir boys to begin with."

USA Today Sports Weekly's Michael Knisley said that there isn't any morals clause in order to become a member of the Hall of Fame. "If that was the case," he wrote, "Cobb would be taken off."

Baseball's Rule 5 for Hall of Fame consideration does say that voting should be based on a player's "playing record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team."

Even suspected/admitted steroid users like Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, and others are eligible for selection.

The point is that voters, not the commissioner, select inductees.

However, the greatest player I’ve ever seen is not in the baseball’s Hall, solely because he is not eligible for selection.

Of course, even non-baseball fans know I’m talking about Pete Rose, Cincinnati Reds superstar whose nickname “Charlie Hustle” perfectly described the first $100,000 singles hitter back in 1970.

John Dowd, who headed baseball's investigation of Rose in 1989, never mentioned any evidence that Rose bet against the Cincinnati Reds when he managed the team. Besides, Rose would be considered for enshrinement as a player, certainly not for his less-than-stellar record as a manager.

Some people have said that if Rose were made eligible for enshrinement, then so should Shoeless Joe Jackson. But Jackson was one of the players who threw the 1919 World Series. Rose has never been accused of inappropriate behavior as a player.

Then commissioner Bowie Kuhn barred retired players Willie Mays (1979) and Mantle (1983) from baseball because they associated themselves with Atlantic City casinos. That ban was short-lived.

Major-league baseball allowed Rose to participate in its Team of the Century and Greatest Moments promotions in 1999?

How hypocritical is that?

It's about as hypocritical as people saying Rose should be banned while they're on their way to buy a lottery ticket or a raffle ticket or en route to Bingo. And you don't suppose those who wager billions every year on the Super Bowl are against Rose's rightful election?

It's about as hypocritical as the Hall that already displays dozens and dozens of Rose memorabilia at Cooperstown.

Conservative estimates say that Rose has lost about $30 million in endorsements and promotions he might have had since his being banned 23 years ago.

How long is enough punishment?

Besides, even if Commission Bud Selig makes Rose eligible for consideration, it will be up to the Baseball Writers Association of America to vote him. Voters are writers who work in major-league cities and cover baseball on a daily basis for at least 10 years.

Don't you think these nearly 500 people should have the say as to whether Rose deserves enshrinement?

Let Selig keep the ban Rose agreed to in 1989, if lifting the ban is what bothers people. Just make him eligible, while not permitting him to return to the game, a provision he agreed to in 1989.

Enough is enough.

Selig’s New Year’s resolution should be to allow Rose to be eligible for BBWAA members to decide. They’ll do the rest.

Jim Sankey is a baseball columnist for the Allied News.

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