Is there a place for Pete Rose in Cooperstown? Gene Budig thinks soand the man who headed both West Virginia University and major league baseballs American League has written about it, in a book due out this spring by the WVU Press.
InThe Inside Pitchand More: Baseballs Business and the Public Trust,Budig makes a pitch for Hall of Fame status for the fiery Rose, known asCharlie Hustleduring his days as an all-purpose player on the Cincinnati RedsfamedBig Red Machineteams of the 1960s and 70s.
Rose, I contend, has served his time,Budig writes of the athlete who was banned from the game for gambling in 1989.
Budig was president of the American League from 1994-2000, and also put in his time as WVU s top officer, serving as the universitys 17th president from 1977-81.
His book looks at everything from designated hitters to dwindling attendance numbers in Americas ballparks.
A whole chapter,The Rose Dilemma,addresses the politics and particulars of a public fall from grace.
If Rose violated the publics trust by betting on baseballcharges that got him tossed during his tenure as Reds managertheres no denying his pure accomplishments on the ball diamond, Budig writes.
Thats important to note, Budig writes, because Roses ouster also knocked any chance of a consistent .300 hitter from ever being welcomed at Cooperstown, N.Y., for an induction to the baseball Hall of Fame.
And that, Budig writes, just might not be fair, given Roses record as a player.
Reinstatement to the game, Budig says, gives Rose a shot at the hall on the strength of that record. It means Americas sportswritersthe ones who make the call for Cooperstowncan vote on whether or not Charlie Hustle gets in.
Rose should never again be allowed to manage a team or to serve as an executive officer in any club office, Budig writes. But symbolically, he earned everything he got on the field. And that should be enough, he writes.
No one can dispute the fact that Rose had 4,256 hits,Budig writes,far more than the 3,000 hits thought to guarantee election to the Hall of FameAmericans are forgiving people, and they clearly believe in giving second chances to sports figures.
Rose himself recently rolled the dice on that sentiment, when he finally came clean after 14 years to publicly admit he did indeed gamble on baseballthough not on any Reds games. He even tacked on a tough-guy apology at the end.
Budig writes that Roses induction to hall, again, based solely on athletic accomplishment, just might restore some of that above-mentioned purity to the pursuit that is still the national pastimein spite of itself.
Baseball is more than a game ,writes Budig, a lifelong fan, who, as league president, befriended his boyhood idols, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio.It is part of our social well-being.
Budig is now a professor of sports business at Princeton University. He earned degrees from the University of Nebraska, and also served as president of Illinois State University and the University of Kansas.
The Inside Pitchand More,hits the shelves in March. Advance orders are being taken now. For information on Budigs book and other WVU Press titles, call toll-free, 1-877-WVU PRESS (988-7737), or visit online athttp://www.wvupress.com.