Pete Rose gets out of prison this week, but he may find he won't be eligible to get into the Hall of Fame.
A special committee of the Hall of Fame meets Thursday to review election rules. The Baseball Writers Association of America believes the panel is specifically trying to keep Rose off the ballot because he was kicked out of baseball for betting."After trusting us for 55 years, why do they think they can't trust us with an ineligible player potentially on the ballot?" BBWAA executive secretary Jack Lang said.
Rose was placed on the permanent ineligible list by then-Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti on Aug. 23, 1989. Rose is scheduled to be released from prison Monday after serving a five-month sentence for income-tax crimes.
Ed Stack, the president of the Hall of Fame, said Thursday's meeting wasn't called because of the Rose situation. Rose would be eligible for the ballot next year under current rules.
"Historically, every five years or so, we in a more formal way have taken a look at our rules of election," Stack said. "This just happened to be a time I thought we needed to do that. I really didn't think of the Rose issue. In retrospect, maybe I should have held off of it for a year."
The 12-man panel consists of American League president Bobby Brown, National League president Bill White, former AL president Lee MacPhail, former NL president Chub Feeney, Stack, Lang, New York Daily News columnist Phil Pepe, former Montreal Expos president John McHale, Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts, former baseball executive Charlie Segar and former Negro League star Buck O'Neil. Stack said he wanted one additional Hall of Famer for the panel.
When Giamatti kicked Rose out of baseball, he didn't plan to push for any changes in the Hall of Fame rules.
"When Pete Rose is eligible, Mr. Lang will count the ballots and you will decide whether he belongs in the Hall of Fame," Giamatti said to the baseball writers eight days before his death.
Currently, players must appear in 10 major league seasons and then must be retired for five years before they become eligible for the ballot. A six-man panel reviews the names to weed out borderline players; all six must vote to keep a player off the ballot, and the only criteria for keeping players off is if they had marginal careers.
"It is the belief of the baseball writers that every candidate is deserving of his day in court," Lang said.
Players can appear on the ballot for 15 seasons, but are dropped if they get less than 5 percent of the vote. A 75 percent vote is required for election.
A second route into the Hall is the veterans' committee, which can elect players after they've been dropped from the BBWAA ballot for three years. The BBWAA has complained that the veterans' committee has voted in undeserving candidates.
"I have suggested to the committee some things we should look at in regards to both sets of rules," Stack said. "The controversy regarding Rose has not been placed on my agenda. That's not to say it won't come up at the meetings. It would be hypocritical to say it won't come up. I'm sure it will."
The BBWAA claims the voting criteria already covers players who had off-the-field problems. The rules for the ballot state: "Candidates shall be chosen on the basis of playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, their contribution to the team or teams on which they played, and to baseball in general."
"It seems to me there already is a provision," Jerome Holtzman of the Chicago Tribune said. "I don't know where I stand. I won't know where I stand until I close the curtain of the voting booth."
Dave Anderson of The New York Times believes Rose belongs on the ballot and in the Hall.
"He deserves the opportunity to be voted on," said Anderson, a Pulitzer Prize winner. "He hasn't done anything to eliminate himself from the ballot."
The BBWAA says it isn't attempting to address the issue of whether Rose belongs in the Hall, but merely wants to ensure that the voting writers have the opportunity to decide for themselves. All 10-year members of the BBWAA get Hall of Fame ballots.
"Being in the position I am, I really can't publicly express my own opinion," Stack said. "However, I would go on to say - and I've expressed this publicly - I am very satisfied, and I think our board is very satisfied, with the conduct of the writers in their handling of the election process."
Any changes would have to be approved by the Hall's 16-member board of directors.
"I have no way of knowing if we will need to have more than one meeting," Stack said. "Hopefully, we can wrap it up on Thursday."