Americans overwhelmingly believe Pete Rose deserved jail time for cheating on his taxes, but most also say he should be allowed to work in baseball again--and even get a swing at the Hall of Fame.
Eighty-one percent in a national Associated Press poll said it was right for Rose, baseball's all-time hit leader, to be sentenced to federal prison last week for failing to report $350,000 in income. He got five months.
But respondents went easier on Rose in relation to baseball: Fifty-six percent said he had not harmed the game's image, and among those who said he had hurt baseball, only about a third said the damage was serious.
Nearly two-thirds overall said Rose, ex-manager of the Cincinnati Reds, should be allowed to work in baseball again. He was banished from the sport for life last year for gambling but can apply for reinstatement.
Despite the banishment and his felony tax conviction, two-thirds said Rose, 49, should be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He amassed 4,256 hits, the current record, in 24 major league seasons.
Rose becomes eligible in December, 1991, for election by sports writers to the Hall of Fame. He was virtually assured of the honor before he ran afoul of the baseball commissioner and the law, but his chances now are less certain.
The poll did not specify an election date for Rose, asking only if he should be named to the Hall of Fame "at some point." Baseball fans were a bit more likely than non-fans to favor Rose for the hall, 71% to 63%, and men were more supportive than women, 74% to 62%.
Women also were slightly more likely than men to say Rose had damaged baseball's image, 43% to 36%. But men were somewhat harder on Rose in other areas: Eighty-five percent said he deserved jail time, compared with 78% of women who said so. And whereas 67% of women said Rose should be allowed back into baseball at some point, only 59% of men agreed.
In most cases, opinion was roughly the same among respondents who called themselves baseball fans as among non-fans. Fifty-four percent said they were fans, including 61% of men, 48% of women.
The telephone survey of 1,004 adults was conducted for the AP from Friday through Tuesday by ICR Survey Research Group of Media, Pa. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.