"I want to make sure I understand all the details in the Dowd Report," Commissioner Rob Manfred said yesterday. "I want to hear what Pete has to say, and I'll make a decision."
That statement carried more weight than anything Manfred's predecessors said in the twenty-six years since Rose was banned from baseball for gambling on games while managing the Cincinnati Reds.
I co-wrote an autobiography with one of Rose's contemporaries, Pirates' pitching great Steve Blass, who once told me that Charlie Hustle was the only opposing player he would pay money for his two boys to watch play baseball. It was because he played the game that way it was supposed to be played every inning of every game of every season.
I have no insider's knowledge of what Manfred will ultimately decide, but the commissioners of the same generation to that of Bartlett Giamatti, who made the ruling to ban Rose from baseball and then, perhaps so disturbed by the weight of his own decision, tragically died days later, are now retired. Manfred, from a generation who grew up like I did watching the greatness of Pete Rose the ballplayer, not the gambler post-career, may very well decide that enough's enough, and that one of the great players and ambassadors of the game has been punished long enough.
So how can baseball, the sportswriters who vote, and the Hall of Fame honor Rose, a surefire HOFer should he get on the ballot, while not diminishing the efforts by previous commissioners to uphold the integrity of the game?
They can do it by simply putting on Rose's plaque that he was suspended for gambling on the Reds following his playing days as a manager.