Pete Rose's place in the Hall of Fame is no longer the sure thing it once was.
Despite Rose's lifetime ban from baseball, he will be eligible for election to the Hall in 1992. Rose, who can apply for reinstatement in one year, was banished by Commissioner Bart Giamatti for betting on games involving his Cincinnati Reds.
The former Cincinnati manager is baseball's all-time hit leader with 4,256 and holds 19 major-league records. He holds major league records for most games played, most at-bats and most singles.
"I did my part to get in the Hall of Fame," Rose said today. "It's up to you people who do the voting. I got all the hits and scored all the runs and won all the games. I can't worry about something that's not in my control."
The language of the ballot distributed to 10-year members of the Baseball Writers of America is open to interpretation. It directs the electorate that "voting shall be based upon a player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, contribution to the team or teams on which he played."
"There's a clause in there about moral character," said Bob Beebe, a former sportswriter with the Minneapolis Tribune and a voter. He certainly earned it every other way but he's not been good for the game of baseball. He should not be in it if he bet on baseball."
"Time has a way of changing opinions," said Phil Pepe, president of the Baseball Writers Assn. of America. "Three years down the road will work in Pete's favor."
"I would let him in," Hall of Famer Ted Williams said in support of Rose. "The morals in this country have eased over the years. Look how many people bet everyday. I'm not saying it's right, but it shouldn't deny him something he deserves."