A committee formed to review Hall of Fame rules--particularly as they apply to Pete Rose--voted Thursday to recommend to the Hall’s board of directors that a player on baseball’s ineligible list also should be ineligible for the Hall of Fame ballot.
The 16-member board will meet in New York on Feb. 4 and seems certain to adopt the recommendation that would keep Rose, baseball’s all-time hit leader, off the ballot in 1992--when he becomes eligible for election--and beyond.
Thursday’s 7-3 vote by the special committee, meeting in New York, is also likely to threaten the relationship between the Hall and the Baseball Writers Assn. of America, which for 55 years has governed the screening of candidates and the election itself.
“I’m not surprised and not happy,” said Kit Stier of the Oakland Tribune, president of the writers’ association, reacting to Thursday’s vote. “The process has worked very well, but if the Hall is going to tell us how to do our business, then we have to take a hard look at the relationship.
“We can either play by their rules or disassociate ourselves, and I intend to contact every chapter to see what our next step should be.”
The Hall of Fame’s rules, endorsed by the writers’ association, allow the Hall to amend, revoke or alter rules at any time, but it is the contention of Stier and others that the writers’ association has conducted the Hall’s business in an honorable fashion and should have the right to decide if Rose should be elected.
Said Jack Lang, executive secretary of the writers’ association and one of two writers on the special committee: “What I said in the meeting was that they’ve trusted us for 50 years and we’ve never elected a candidate who was unworthy of the Hall, and now they’re questioning our integrity and taking away our right to vote. Now, all of a sudden there’s no trust.”
Said Phil Pepe of the New York Daily News, the other writer on the committee: “Lee MacPhail (former American League president) brought up the Rose issue today and said that, while he may not be voted in the first year, he was very concerned about what would happen after that.
“No one used the word embarrassed, but it was my impression that they simply don’t want to face the possible embarrassment of presenting a plaque to a person who has been ruled ineligible by baseball.
“I tried to make the point that this was going to make a bigger hero of Rose than he already is and give him the opportunity to say he would definitely be in the Hall if not for this rule.”
Rose was ruled ineligible on Aug. 24, 1989, for his gambling activity as manager of the Cincinnati Reds. He was subsequently sentenced to five months in an Illinois prison camp for two counts of income tax fraud and, as part of that sentence, is serving three months in a Cincinnati halfway house and performing 1,000 hours of community service.
He is eligible to petition baseball for reinstatement at any time, and Commissioner Fay Vincent said Thursday he would consider an appeal whenever it is presented.
Vincent, reached at his Connecticut home, said Thursday’s decision was strictly a Hall of Fame matter and he would have no comment.
“I’m a director of the Hall but don’t expect to attend the meeting in February because I’ll be traveling out of the country,” he said. “But if I did attend, I wouldn’t vote because I don’t think it’s in the commissioner’s purview, and I don’t want it turned into a Rose-Vincent issue.”
Vincent denied speculation that he influenced the Hall to adopt a rule on ineligible personnel, saying the review was organized without his consultation by Edwin Stack, the Hall’s president.
Stack joined Pepe and Lang in voting against the recommendation Thursday, but his was the last vote cast and came with the total already 7-2 in favor. It was called a sham by the two writers. “He was just trying to make himself look good,” Lang said.
Stack denied the allegation, saying he thought that Rose’s candidacy should be left to the jury of writers, but that the majority of committee members seemed to believe this was an area in which the Hall had to run its own business.
The adopted recommendation reads: “Any person on baseball’s ineligible list shall not be eligible for election to the Hall of Fame.”
Voting for it were American League President Bobby Brown, former National League president Chub Feeney, former Montreal Expo president John McHale, former baseball executive Charles Segar, Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts, former Negro leagues star Buck O’Neil and MacPhail.
National League President Bill White and Hall of Fame pitcher Whitey Ford, members of the committee, did not attend the meeting.
Brown, MacPhail, Feeney and McHale are members of the Hall’s board of directors and aren’t expected to change their affirmative vote Feb. 4.
Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella, a member of the Hall’s board and active in the Dodgers’ community service department, said he would withhold comment until the meeting.
The Rose issue was not on the agenda Thursday, but Pepe and Lang said that, too, was a sham designed to camouflage the intent of the meeting, and it was no surprise that, in Lang’s words, they left it to a respected heavyweight such as MacPhail to eventually bring it up.
“Unfortunately, we had no chance,” Lang said. “I mean, everyone was respectful, and we won one point when they discarded their attempt to raise the eligibility for voting from 10 to 15 years (as a writers’ association member), but on Rose it was a stacked committee in name and purpose.
“Sure, they’ve got their position on record now, but as I said to them when the voting was done, ‘What was this all about? The board doesn’t need a recommendation. The Hall can do what it wants. You just wanted it to look like we were a part of it.’
“It was a sham from start to finish.”