Commissioner Bud Selig recently sat down with Bob Costas for an interview that aired on the MLB Network. Among the topics discussed was the possible inclusion of Pete Rose in the baseball Hall of Fame.
The topic of Rose and his possible admittance into the Hall has been one of baseball's most hotly debated issues since his lifetime suspension in 1989 by former commissioner Bart Giamatti.
He voluntarily accepted the ban from Giamatti, but after Giamatti's death, Rose had said that it was planned between the two that Rose would only serve a one-year suspension and then apply for reinstatement.
In the past few years the case for Rose's induction has gained momentum. After finally admitting to gambling in his book, My Prison Without Bars, many spoke up on his behalf, saying it was time for the suspension to be lifted so Rose could take his place among baseball's greatest players.
Hank Aaron, who happens to be a very close friend of commissioner Selig, has been most vocal in his support for Rose. Along with many others, Aaron feels Rose deserves the honor of being able to receive enshrinement in Cooperstown while he's still alive.
The most likely scenario will have Selig allowing Rose to appear on the ballot for the Hall, and it will then fall on the shoulders of the Baseball Writers Association of America to determine whether or not he is worthy of the Hall of Fame.
It can be argued back and forth until the end of time whether or not Rose should be allowed back into the game. We live in a society that is quick to denigrate an individual, but also forgiving enough to build that person back up once they are struck down.
Cheating has always been a part of baseball in one form or another, from gambling to steroids, amphetamines, and even putting a foreign substance on a pitched baseball. For all the wonderful aspects of the game, cheating in any form is simply a part of it, as well.
If Rose is allowed to make his return to baseball to enter the Hall of Fame, baseball needs to take swift action to give the same luxury to former Chicago White Sox outfielder "Shoeless" Joe Jackson.
Most fans know the story of Jackson. He was a member of the 1919 Chicago White Sox team that lost the World Series to an inferior Cincinnati Reds club. It was later discovered that Jackson and seven of his teammates had conspired with gamblers to "throw" the series to the Reds.
Although Jackson did admit to receiving money from gamblers to throw the series, a fire later destroyed all evidence in the case. Jackson and his conspiring teammates were later banned for life by newly appointed commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis.
Jackson's career was cut short, and he would never have the ability to enter the not yet formed Hall of Fame.
If not for the lifetime ban, Jackson would likely be discussed as one of the greatest players in the history of the game. He was the premier power hitter in baseball prior to Babe Ruth's explosion. In fact, Ruth said many times he copied the swing of Jackson.
Jackson played in the dead ball era, when power numbers were based off doubles and triples, not home runs. At the time of the suspension, the game was just entering a new era. In 1920, his final season, he hit .382 with 42 doubles, 20 triples, 12 home runs, and 121 RBI.
For his career, Jackson finished with a .356 lifetime batting average, trailing only Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby. He finished with 200 hits in a season four times, while finishing his career with an on-base percentage of .423. He tallied 1,772 hits over his 13-year career.
Jackson was only 31 at the time of the ban, so there's no telling what kind of numbers he could have accumulated for his career, especially with the offensive explosion in the game.
3,000 hits would appear to have been an attainable goal for Jackson. Only three men that finished with at least 3,000 hits aren't in the Hall of Fame: Rose, Craig Biggio, and Rafael Palmeiro. Biggio and Palmeiro have not yet fulfilled the waiting period after their careers to be eligible for induction.
There are still millions of fans that feel Rose should never be reinstated to the game. Going by the letter of the law, he shouldn't be. It is a very delicate situation in which a good case can be made for both sides of the opinion.
However, baseball has proven to be very accepting of those that have done wrong, and it's easy to envision Rose receiving his day in the sun to join the Hall of Fame. If Rose does enter the Hall, Joe Jackson deserves the same opportunity and treatment, as well.
Rose may still have the chance to enjoy the honor; Jackson never will. Baseball, for all that is good and bad with it, is about making it home. Even 58 years after his death, Shoeless Joe must be allowed to enter his rightful home: the Baseball Hall of Fame.
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