Thursday, January 13, 2000

'75 Reds must be honored - with Rose




BY TIM SULLIVAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[big red machine]
The Big Red Machine: (front) Bench; (second row) Rose, Concepcion, Morgan, Perez; (rear) Foster, Geronimo, Griffey.
| ZOOM |
        A precedent has been set. A barrier has been broken. Baseball's strict embargo on Pete Rose has been relaxed.

        If the Cincinnati Reds want to honor the exiled hit king this summer, Bud Selig no longer has any grounds to prevent it.

        On the 25th anniversary of the Reds' 1975 World Championship, with Tony Perez headed for the Hall of Fame and Sparky Anderson destined to join him, the home team will have much to celebrate this season.

        There ought to be some kind of official observance. The team deserves to be honored in person as well as on uniform patches. There has to be an opportunity to reassemble the members of the Big Red Machine on the riverfront. And Pete Rose — absolutely, positively — must be a part of it. He was, after all, the Most Valuable Player of the 1975 World Series.

        Rose can't have the stage to himself. That much has been made clear. Baseball will not allow any club to stage a ceremony specifically in Rose's honor, not so long as his lifetime suspension is in force. (Despite the ongoing conversations between Rose's lawyers and baseball attorney Bob DuPuy, there is no reason to think that suspension will be lifted any time soon.)

        Yet if Rose were honored as part of a group, as he was before the second game of the World Series, baseball would have about as much chance to block him as did Ray Fosse in 1970.

Selig supports hypocrisy
        Selig is no stranger to hypocrisy — witness his pro-active response to John Rocker's slurs versus his profound silence about Ted Turner's — but he would be hard-pressed to impede the Reds from honoring Rose as part of the '75 Reds. Not after allowing him to take the field in Atlanta for the sake of a credit card promotion. Not if the faint-hearted commissioner has a flicker of fairness.

        This does not mean Rose should be reinstated. He shouldn't. Until he confesses to betting on baseball or can refute the most damning details of the Dowd Report, Rose has no claim to clemency. George W. Bush is more convincing. Tony Soprano is more contrite.

        Still, to deny Rose a few bows before the fans at Cinergy Field, to discourage the formal retirement of his number, to obstruct his rightful place in Redsland serves no purpose save revenge. If Rose's absence from the Baseball Hall of Fame is awkward, his omission from the Reds Hall of Fame is an outrage.

        Worse, it diminishes any honor the Reds might bestow on anyone else. Until Rose's No.14 hangs on the wall at Cinergy Field, his exile will haunt every celebration held there.

        Among the first questions posed to Perez upon his Hall of Fame election Tuesday was a request for an opinion about Rose. Come Feb.29, when the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee is expected to anoint Sparky Anderson for enshrinement, the over-under on Rose questions is two.

It's history, like it or not
        One member of the commissioner's office, in a casual conversation at the World Series, suggested that baseball might be better off getting Rose into Cooperstown than making him into a martyr. While Selig does not share that sentiment, he need not bend his principles to oblige the Reds.

        Selig fancies himself a student of history. He should not presume to rewrite it. If the Reds want to celebrate 1975, or the Philadelphia Phillies wish to observe the 20-year anniversary of their only World Championship, Rose has to be included. Baseball might succeed in excluding him from its future, but it cannot possibly eliminate him from its past.

        John Allen, the Reds' chief executive officer, wants to do the right thing. He is eager to please his customers — nostalgia being good for business — and reluctant to offend the commissioner. He is usually careful to seek approval before taking action.

        But Allen shouldn't have to run this one up the flagpole. Selig can't make an exception for MasterCard and deny the Reds the same right. He doesn't have the grounds and he doesn't have the guts.

        Tim Sullivan welcomes your email at tsullivan@enquirer.com.

       



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