It's been almost 20 years since Rose was banned for life from Major League Baseball for allegedly betting on the game.
And it's still one of the most popular debates: Does Pete Rose deserve the Hall of Fame?
Well. Let's look at his case.
First of all, was he good enough of as a player?
It's pretty safe to say yes.
Major-league record 4,256 hits. Three batting titles. Three World Championship rings. 17 All-Star appearances at five different positions. A league MVP award, two Gold Gloves, and a style of play and hustle over a 24-year career unseen by any player who ever lived.
I don't think there's any logical way to deny that he wasn't good enough.
He fulfilled every kid's dream of becoming a pro athlete – Rose was a guy without a lot of natural talent who made his living by playing every day at whichever position he was needed. He was just 5-11, 200 pounds, but he was everything you could hope for, in the sense that Rose took advantage of the abilities he had and gave it his all.
He was a lock for 200 hits and a .300 average every season. And his teams normally won.
He was a guaranteed lock for the Hall, when he retired, fresh off his record-breaking 4,192nd hit to cap off a brilliant 24-year career. He took a job managing the Reds and was just a few short years away from enshrinement in Cooperstown with the best of the best in baseball.
And then disaster struck.
In 1989, allegations swept across the nation that Rose had bet on baseball.
Gambling, in the eyes of major league baseball, is a big no-no.
A six-month investigation ensued and concluded on Aug. 23, 1989, when Pete Rose accepted a lifetime ban from Major League Baseball commissioner Giamatti. With this ban went Rose's chances at the Hall.
The Hall of Fame and major league baseball are two separate organizations, but the Hall of Fame states that no one on major league baseball's ineligible list can be inducted into the Hall. It's just the way it works.
For this, Pete Rose is unable to be elected into the Hall of Fame.
Many people feel it is an outrage not to include baseball's all-time hit leader in the Hall of Fame. Ty Cobb is in the Hall of Fame and he once attacked a handicapped man in the stands. Mickey Mantle pretty much drank his life away.
Rickey Henderson was an arrogant, pompous, self-centered jerk. Babe Ruth, the greatest baseball player who ever lived, partied constantly and was certainly no role model for children.
Part of the qualifications for the Hall of Fame is “integrity and character.” If these guys can make the Hall of Fame, why can't Pete Rose??
Well, there's a difference between those other guys and Pete Rose. Those other guys—Cobb, Mantle, Henderson, Ruth—didn't break any actual rules.
There are no official major league baseball rules against beating up handicapped fans. Or drinking. Or being self-centered. Or partying, in Ruth's case. If these were rules, there might be a dozen people in the Hall of Fame. Probably not even that many.
There is, however, a rule against gambling.
Major League baseball states that “any player, umpire or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform, shall be declared ineligible for one (1) year.
Any player, umpire or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible."
According to this, Rose, who was said to have bet on his team as many as 50 times during the 1987 baseball season, was declared permanently ineligible. Rose has since applied for reinstatement twice (1997 and 2003)—both times were unsuccessful.
So should Pete Rose, the only living player on baseball's ineligible list, be allowed into the Hall of Fame? Well...He broke one of major league baseball's cardinal rules. Putting him in the Hall of Fame—rewarding him despite his gambling—would not send a good message.
But he is one of baseball's greatest players ever. It's been almost 20 years since Rose was banned. He was on the All-Century Team. He holds some of baseball's most impressive records. And perhaps no one has played the game with as much passion as Rose.
So does he deserve the Hall? It's tough to decide. Really tough. Part of me says yes and part of me says no. After all, who I am to decide whether Rose deserves Cooperstown or not? But if you really pressed me...
I would have to say yes.
It's not just as if Rose were a jerk or a drunk. He broke a rule, and a big one at that. The 'no-gambling' rule is posted in the clubhouse of every single team.
But there are other rules that guys have broken - and they aren't declared ineligible.
Major league baseball has a no steroids policy, and yet Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, etc are not declared ineligible (although good luck to them getting in). I don't think it's fair to completely exclude Rose from the greatest honor a baseball player can receive because he broke a rule.
But hey, that's just one man's opinion.