Pete Rose asked commissioner Rob Manfred on Wednesday morning to remove his name from Major League Baseball’s ineligible list, which would allow the all-time hits leader to be considered for induction into the Hall of Fame.
In a petition sent to the MLB commissioner’s office and obtained by ESPN, Rose and his lawyers argue that Manfred has recently opted not to punish players guilty of major game-changing rules infractions and, as a result, should end Rose’s 30½-year ban for gambling on baseball while he was manager of the Cincinnati Reds.
The lawyers say that Rose’s lifetime ban is “vastly disproportionate” when compared with MLB’s punishments of players who took performance-enhancing drugs and the players involved in the sign-stealing schemes by the 2017 Houston Astros.
“There cannot be one set of rules for Mr. Rose and another for everyone else,” Rose’s 20-page petition for reinstatement says. “No objective standard or categorization of the rules violations committed by Mr. Rose can distinguish his violations from those that have incurred substantially less severe penalties from Major League Baseball.”
Rose also seeks a meeting with Manfred.
A Major League Baseball source told ESPN that the league has received Rose’s petition and is reviewing it.
In 1989, Rose was permanently banned from baseball by then-commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti after an investigation led by John Dowd, the special counsel to MLB. The Dowd report showed that Rose had illegally wagered with bookmakers on MLB games, including on the Reds, while managing Cincinnati. On Aug. 24, 1989, Rose signed an agreement accepting an indefinite suspension from baseball, though he did not admit to violating Section D of MLB’s Rule 21, which prohibits players and others involved with the game from betting on baseball.
For 15 years, Rose repeatedly denied he had bet on baseball. But in 2004, Rose admitted in his book, “My Prison Without Bars,” that he had wagered on baseball and the Reds in the 1980s.
Besides Manfred in 2015, MLB commissioner Bud Selig also rejected a previous Rose application for reinstatement.
Rose declined to comment for this story. But in an ESPN interview for the Backstory episode “Banned for Life*,” which first aired last month, Rose said, “People should know that I’m very sorry that I made the mistake that I did. … If you want to look back, which you can, I should have admitted to [Giamatti] the first time he called me in the office in January of ’89, but I didn’t.”
Rose’s petition Wednesday marks his second bid for reinstatement from Manfred. In December 2015, Manfred denied Rose’s application to be removed from the ineligible list, concluding he had not “reconfigured” his life, in part because Rose continued to place bets, legally, on MLB games in Las Vegas, where he lives year-round. In 2017, the Hall of Fame rejected a separate request by Rose to be placed on its ballot.
Rose, 78, argues now that Manfred has used far less harsh punishments than permanent ineligibility on games-changing rules violations that have affected the integrity of the game.
In particular, Rose’s lawyers highlight that Manfred did not punish any players on the Astros for systematically using electronic sign stealing on their way to winning the 2017 World Series. Last month, the commissioner suspended Astros manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for one year and fined the team $5 million. Hinch and Luhnow were then fired by the team.
“It has never been suggested, let alone established, that any of Mr. Rose’s actions influenced the outcome of any game or the performance of any player,” the petition reads. “Yet for the thirty-first year and counting, he continues to suffer a punishment vastly disproportionate to those who have done just that. Given the manner in which Major League Baseball has treated and continues to treat other egregious assaults on the integrity of the game, Mr. Rose’s ongoing punishment is no longer justifiable as a proportional response to his transgressions.”
Rose holds major league records for hits (4,256), games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053) and singles (3,215). His name has never appeared on a Baseball Hall of Fame ballot.
Rose’s lawyers pointed out that Manfred reinstated a player, Jenrry Mejia, who had been permanently banned from baseball after testing positive a third time for anabolic steroids.
“It’s in the best interests of baseball to not have as its legacy that Pete Rose is being treated grossly differently than every other player in its history, with the exception of ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson and the Chicago Black Sox,” said Mark Rosenbaum, a Los Angeles-based civil rights lawyer who is representing Rose pro bono. “I don’t think there has been an athlete in any sport in history who has fallen more steeply and more of a distance for a longer period of time than Pete Rose has.”
Rosenbaum added that Rose’s permanent ban should end because “proportionality is the cornerstone of baseball, like it is in life. … This is a country of second chances, and I don’t think Pete Rose poses a threat to the integrity of the game.”
Baseball has changed in other ways, too — mainly its embrace of legalized gambling. In May 2018, the Supreme Court granted all 50 states the right to accept sports wagers legally, allowing Major League Baseball, like all major sports, to profit in multiple ways from legalized gambling.
“Yes, I reconfigured my life,” Rose said during the Backstory interview. “I do no more illegal gambling. That’s what I got in trouble for — illegal gambling. I live in Las Vegas. If I want to make a bet on the football game or a basketball game … I’m 78 years old. That’s my enjoyment. That’s my pleasure. … And I’ve reconfigured my life.”
In the reinstatement petition, also filed Wednesday with the Hall of Fame, Rose argues that he is, in effect, banned “from Hall of Fame consideration for his lifetime and beyond.”
In February 1991, the Hall of Fame passed a rule that any player on MLB’s ineligible list would not appear on its ballot for Cooperstown; the rule was quickly dubbed “the Pete Rose rule.” A Hall of Fame spokesperson told ESPN that a permanently banned player would not be eligible for Hall of Fame induction even after the player’s death. This statement appears to close the door on any chance for induction of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and seven banned teammates of the 1919 Chicago White Sox, who took cash to throw that year’s World Series, won by the Cincinnati Reds.
That position also, presumably, closes the door on any chance Rose has to get into the Hall of Fame after his death.
In the early 1980s, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were placed on MLB’s ineligible list by commissioner Bowie Kuhn for accepting jobs as greeters at Atlantic City, New Jersey, casinos. But in 1985, commissioner Peter Ueberroth removed Mantle and Mays from the ineligible list, saying, “The world has changed.”
Mantle and Mays are in the Hall of Fame.