BOZICH | Time for Baseball to put Pete Rose to a vote
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Sometimes Eric Crawford and I talk to our readers. Sometimes our readers talk to us.
Friday night the words flowed both ways.
Eric and I spoke at a fund-raising event for the New Albany Little League, which has raised more than $800,000 of the nearly $3 million needed to move its home from Mt. Tabor Road to a spectacular multi-field baseball/softball complex planned on the city's north end off Charlestown Road.
More than 300 fans of Little League (as well as the project and New Albany's 2014 state champions) attended. Eric and I answered questions for nearly 30 minutes.
The usual lineup of inquiries:
Will Yogi Ferrell return to Indiana for his senior season or make himself eligible for the NBA Draft?
Which horse will win the 2015 Kentucky Derby?
Here is where the audience response was more important than what we said:
What should baseball do with Pete Rose?
After Eric and I spoke, I turned the question to the crowd:
How many believed that baseball should welcome Rose back and that he should be eligible to have his name on the ballot for the Baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.?
Raise your hands.
Hands reached for the sky quickly, by my estimate at least 70 percent of the crowd.
I was not surprised. And, I'm not opposed.
Given a vote (and I don't have one), I would not put Rose in the Hall of Fame.
His transgressions were serious. He bet on games involving the Cincinnati Reds while he was managing the team in the Eighties. He lied about his activities for years before settling on the latest version of what Rose says occurred. He displayed scant contrition. He agreed to a lifetime ban in 1989.
But I'm convinced that most baseball fans, especially in this area, disagree.
They're ready to forgive. They'd be fine with Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame. They want to honor him for his Charlie Hustle career with the Reds and Philadelphia Phillies. They wish more players today loved the game the way Rose loves it.
They'd accept a compromise that ensured Rose's Hall of Fame plaque included a paragraph about why he was banned from the game for more than 25 years.
My 70 percent read on the show of hands by the gathering at Huber's Orchard and Winery in Starlight, Ind., Friday night was in the ballpark with other information I've read about Rose's standing in polls and surveys.
A CBSNews.com (unscientific) readers' poll last October showed 84 percent of respondents believed that Rose should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. In February Rose drew better than 85 percent approval from respondents to an on-line poll at NJ.com.
The most recent scientific poll I found, from Rasmussen Reports three years ago, broke down this way: 59 percent said Rose should be eligible for the Hall of Fame; 29 percent remain in favor of baseball's lifetime ban and 12 percent were undecided.
(I have attached an on-line readers' poll with my column. Please participate. I'll share the results next week.)
Rose, in case you missed it, will be visiting your living room soon. He is scheduled to be a guest analyst for the MLB on Fox pre-game shows on Fox and Fox Sports 1. There's more. Rose will also appear on Fox Sports 1's MLB Whiparound, America's Pregame and Fox Sports Live.
I expect Rose to be an informed and controversial analyst for Fox. He knows the game. He won't flinch from criticizing players, managers or the game's administrators. He should add viewers. Baseball's national TV numbers need more viewers.
If this goes well, the next step would be for Rose to huddle with baseball commissioner Rob Manfred and determine if there are other ways that Rose, the game's all-time hits leader, can market the game. Manfred has already agreed to let Rose participate in All-Star Game festivities in July in Cincinnati.
Fans who were drawn to baseball in the Sixties and Seventies either love or loathe Rose. Those with a more recent curiosity about baseball need to understand his story – the spectacular rise, the harsh fall and possibility the redemption.
We should resume the discussion now.
Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.