COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Pete Rose sat less than a block away from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, at Safe at Home Ballpark Collectibles, autographing baseballs and meeting fans on Friday, though removed from this weekend’s induction ceremonies. During a lull, he began working on another carton of balls, these with a different message: “I’m sorry I bet on baseball,” he wrote in clear blue block letters.
Rose has been selling those balls for years, and they’re sold online for about $100 to $200 now. He’s still contrite, he said, and though he’s quick with a smile and witty retort, Rose seemingly has moved toward a Zen-like acceptance of life in baseball purgatory. He’s one of the best to ever wear the uniform but is banned from baseball and enshrinement into the Hall because he gambled on games he played in and managed. It’s been cut and dry for years, though perhaps more nuanced now that Major League Baseball has waded into the gambling waters: In 2018, MLB named MGM Resorts its official gaming partner. It was the first time the league had entered into a gambling partnership.
Rose doesn’t think this means baseball will change its mind about him, though.
“No, but I don’t worry about that,” he said when asked about the possibility of reinstatement. “I don’t ever complain about that to you or anybody else because I screwed up. It’s my fault I’m not here [in the Hall of Fame] and I’m not going to worry about what happened. Life’s too short to worry about it. I’ve been suspended 30 years. It’s a long time.”
He also said he’s not surprised. There are all sorts of ways to bet on baseball now, far from the reaches of the Vegas casinos, and MLB has even had a relationship with the daily betting site DraftKings.
“That’s where they’re going to make the money,” Rose said. “It’s all about making money. The players, the owners — if the gambling situation will create more money for them, that’s what they’re going to do. It doesn’t affect me, so I’m not worried about it.”
Instead, he’s been doing this for 26 years — making the pilgrimage to Cooperstown at least once a year, around other engagements. Just this month, he’s scheduled to visit Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas five times. And, in a touch of irony, he has an upcoming three-day engagement with MGM. He had the best Cooperstown Thursday of his life this year, he said, because a troop of youth baseball players from Cooperstown Dreams Park stopped by to see him.
“Best Thursday ever,” he said. “Just talking to the kids and I always talk positive, try to help them become better players. [Mention some of my] philosophies. And you go from there. They’re only 12 years old.”
On Friday, he got to sign with his old friend and teammate Tony Perez, and then with Joe Morgan. He’ll do that until Sunday, save for a stretch on Saturday when he’ll watch the parade. The induction ceremony will start at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, so Rose will wrap it up around 12:30 p.m., “and then I’ll go catch a plane back home.”
Rose said he’s happy for the inductees, and called it “an honor to be in Cooperstown.” He’s happy for Mariano Rivera’s unanimous vote, too, but the only time he displayed any frustration was when he spoke about the voting process. Rivera deserved to go in, he said, but he shouldn’t have been the first person voted in unanimously.
“I want to sit across from the guy who didn’t vote for Hank Aaron and ask him why,” Rose said. “I want to sit across from the guy who didn’t vote for Stan Musial, Willie Mays and I’ve got to hear their reasons . . . Because, to be honest with you, if you’re a Hall of Famer, you should be on everyone’s ballot. If you’re a Hall of Famer, you should go on the first ballot. One of the best players I ever played with was Tony Perez, almost 1,700 RBIs. He had to wait 10 years. Why? I don’t get it. I don’t understand that. If I give you a name and you have to think about it, then it’s not a Hall of Famer.”