Pete Rose deserves to be in baseball's Hall of Fame.
The preliminary committee which chooses the names to be placed on the ballot has decreed that Rose's name will be kept off because he is still on baseball's ineligible list.
Rose was suspended for "life" by A. Bartlett Giamatti, the late commissioner of baseball.
Anyone who has followed pro football and pro basketball realizes that life sentences are not quite the same in professional sports as they are in the real world.
When Giamatti ordered Rose's suspension, he added that Rose would be eligible for reinstatement after one year.
Rose was suspended from baseball for betting on games. But this is a charge to which Rose has never pleaded guilty and has never been tried.
In case you forget, Rose was found guilty of income-tax evasion. It was for this miscreancy that he was ordered off to prison.
Giamatti is no longer around, having succumbed to a natural death. But his successors have ordered Rose's name stricken from the ballot, thus making it impossible for him to be elected by the members of the baseball writers'
Apparently, the prison sentence Rose finished serving last week wasn't punishment enough to satisfy baseball's new ruling class.
They would punish Rose further by denying the most outstanding player of the modern era his rightful place in Cooperstown, New York. For some baseball players, this would be tantamount to permanent disbarment.
This will not be the case for Rose, however.
His lifetime achievements are such that his disbarment from the Hall of Fame would make baseball itself look silly.
It would place in stark relief the following question: Why bother having a hall of fame if the best players of all time are not in it?
Let's assume that Rose is kept out for a year or two longer. It probably will take that long to bring the do-gooders to their senses.
This ridiculous situation is what baseball deserves for bringing in Bart Giamatti, a poetry expert from Yale University, to become president of the National League and then commissioner of baseball.
Giamatti was a college professor turned baseball fan. These are the worst kinds of people to place in charge of anything.
Giamatti himself had never walked across those white lines to participate in a big league game. He had no feeling for what it was to be someone like Pete Rose.
Giamatti has by now gone to his eternal reward, leaving this mess behind him. His puritanical influence remains. His job as commissioner was filled by Fay Vincent, Giamatti's close friend and confidant.
Vincent is another Ivy Leaguer who never played the game.
Giamatti suspended Rose from baseball after a long and much-publicized gambling investigation conducted by a private investigator in the employ of the commissioner's office.
Many of the things dredged up and publicized by the investigator ranked as blatant attempts at character assassination.
If there ever was evidence that Rose is a terrible man who must be kept out of the hall, no one has ever seen it. More important, no one has ever testified to its veracity under oath.
So these ersatz baseball people continue to do all they can to delay the inevitable and demonstrate their power.
They should desist at once. Pete Rose should have entered baseball's Hall of Fame in his regular turn.
For some players, election to the hall comes as an honor and a surprise. By this time, so many mediocre players have been elected that the hall is no longer such an exclusive club as it once was. It has become, to some extent, a popularity contest.
Pete Rose, however, was one of a handful of truly great players who ever graced the game.
If Pete Rose doesn't make the Hall of Fame, the problem isn't Pete's. The problem rests at the feet of the people who are fighting to keep him out.
If they succeed, it will become necessary to place an asterisk in the book that contains the names of all the members.
The asterisk will be followed by a line stating that Pete Rose, one of the great players of the modern era, was excluded from membership because he had offended a commissioner whose baseball background consisted of teaching English at Yale University.
Baseball actually has no choice. Sooner or later, it must allow Rose into the shrine at Cooperstown to preserve its legitimacy.
Pete Rose belongs. He played long. He got more hits than Ty Cobb and played just as hard. He dominated the sport for two decades and, like Babe Ruth, was one of the biggest drawing cards in the sport, right down to the final days he played the game.
The year he broke Cobb's records for lifetime hits, Rose almost single-handedly helped every team in his division to sell out the parks and turn a profit for the year.
The vestal virgins of Cooperstown can haggle over Rose's personal life as much as they desire. They can gossip for decades among themselves over whether or not Rose actually really bet on the outcome of baseball games in the same way that Cobb did.
They can argue whether or not he was as promiscuous as Ruth.
And, with less justification, they can pretend outrage over Rose's dealings with the Internal Revenue Service. But an investigation into several key areas in the lives of Ruth and Cobb and a dozen other already-enshrined members would turn up a multiplicity of reasons for denying them membership, too.
One wonders what has transformed the powers of baseball into such a high-minded and abstemious group?
This attempt to deny Rose admittance to the Hall of Fame tells more about their lack of understanding than it does about the man they are so highhandedly excluding.
Meanwhile, Rose has been released from prison. His time working with kids and living in a halfway house will be a breeze. The worst is over.
It's time for the rest of us to help him to start fresh.
Bart Giamatti was a college professor turned baseball fan. These are the worst kinds of people to place in charge of anything.
Pete Rose's lifetime achievements are such that his disbarment from the Hall of Fame would make baseball itself look silly.