Pete Rose made 4,256 hits as a Major League ballplayer, 77 more than runner-up Ty Cobb. On the basis of skill alone, he belongs in baseball's Hall of Fame.
But he also made a serious error during his years as a player, and later manager, with the Cincinnati Reds. He placed bets on sports events, and, according to an investigation carried out by the commissioner of baseball, he bet on baseball itself.
That caused Mr. Rose to be expelled from the game in 1989. But he's now making a determined effort to get Major League Baseball to change its ruling.
His argument, in essence, is that a lot of time has passed and that his accomplishments and fan support argue for reinstatement. And that, in any case, he did no worse than a lot of other players.
Well, the alleged offense - endangering the integrity of the sport by betting on games - is as serious now as it was 10 years ago. Sports, which are based on individual merit, bring a value to life that games of chance can't. Luck didn't make Rose a star, but its temptation did unmake him.
Rose's continued, even growing popularity doesn't change all that. He may have been made an example, but he may also have been more flagrant in his contacts with gambling types than most.
It would be all too easy, since gambling is something of a national pastime itself, to cut Rose some slack.
In fact, he can do that for himself by more squarely acknowledging the gravity of his off-the-field gambling behavior. Then some now-closed doors will open to one of baseball's unquestioned standouts.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society