Rose backs McGwire for Hall of Fame

Updated: December 19, 2006, 6:58 PM ET
Associated Press

CINCINNATI -- Pete Rose thinks Mark McGwire should be in baseball's Hall of Fame, and hasn't given up hope that he'll get there someday, too.

Baseball's banished hits king said Tuesday that McGwire, who is on the ballot for the first time, ought to be voted in despite his refusal to discuss steroids. Rose isn't eligible for the ballot because of his lifetime ban for gambling.

Rose made the case for McGwire by noting that baseball didn't crack down on steroids until after the 2002 season, by which time McGwire had retired.

McGwire hit a then-record 70 homers in 1998, when his race with Sammy Sosa to top Roger Maris' record drew huge crowds and helped the game reshape its image after labor strife.

"Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, I think they kind of saved the game in [1998] with the home run contest," Rose said. "That home run derby kind of brought baseball back."

Rose himself isn't having much luck with Halls of Fame.

Flu prevented him from flying from the West Coast for a news conference at the Cincinnati Reds' Hall of Fame on Tuesday. The hall is putting together a special exhibit honoring Rose's career.

The Cincinnati native helped the Reds win back-to-back World Series in 1975-76 and broke Ty Cobb's career hit record, finishing with 4,256. He was banned in 1989 for betting on baseball, something he denied for the next 13 years.

He acknowledged betting on baseball in 2002 during a meeting with commissioner Bud Selig. His second autobiography in 2004 made the admission public, but turned off many fans and, evidently, baseball's top executives. The book contained little remorse and was released just before Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley were elected to the Hall of Fame.

"When the book came out, everything kind of went haywire," Rose said Tuesday during a conference call set up because he couldn't travel to Cincinnati.

Rose's eligibility for the ballot ended last year. Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, a close friend, wrote in a book earlier this year that Rose understands he probably never will be inducted and that he'll almost certainly never be allowed back in the game in any capacity.

"There has been no change in the status of Pete Rose's reinstatement petition," Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said Tuesday in an e-mail.

Rose said he hasn't lost hope.

"Sure I'd like to go into the Hall of Fame," he said. "More important to me, I'd like to be back in the game. I'm a teacher of the game."

Rose thinks that if baseball ever reinstated him, some owner would hire him as manager.

"I'm sure there are always going to be things about what I did in the past, but I'm not concerned about that," Rose said.

He was the Reds' player-manager from 1984-86, allowing him to catch and pass Cobb's record. He then limited himself to managing until his banishment in 1989.

The Reds finished second each season from 1985-88, then fell to fifth in his final season. They won the World Series by sweeping McGwire's Oakland team in 1990 under Lou Piniella.

Rose's career is honored as part of the team's history in various places at Great American Ball Park, which opened in 2003. There's a rose garden at the spot where record-breaking hit No. 4,192 landed at old Riverfront Stadium, which was alongside the new ballpark.

Rose hasn't been inducted into the Reds' Hall of Fame, but several of his jerseys are on display. Also, there is a three-story display of 4,256 baseballs, honoring his most famous feat.

A special exhibit opening next March will include the bat and ball from his record-setting hit, other memorabilia and a television documentary. Baseball officials said the exhibit conforms to the terms of Rose's lifetime ban.

"We see this exhibit as very much a celebration of Pete and his career, a way for us to acknowledge the special characteristics he brought to the playing field and made him so beloved in Cincinnati," said Greg Rhodes, executive director of the Reds' Hall of Fame.

Rose hopes that the exhibit is popular and that baseball takes notice.

"That probably would give baseball another reason to consider reinstating me," Rose said. "I know I've made mistakes, but a lot of people feel I've paid for those mistakes. It's been 17 years already."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press