All is not as you might believe when it comes to Pete Rose and the Hall of Fame

Every year we hit two periods of time where the stories begin. It seems a bit lighter in January… heavier in July… but for years the foundation has essentially developed around a simple concept…

How do you tell the story of baseball without including Pete Rose?

And I’m not all that far off with that statement, even though this isn’t a true quote I can credit to a specific person.

See… sure… the true debate is about Pete Rose and his place on Major League Baseball’s list of permanently ineligible players, and by practice and extension, his exclusion from the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

But somewhere in the heart of the argument, as emotions and tangents get stripped away, we arrive at a simple concept. And, I feel fairly comfortable saying that any of us that know the reason why Rose is on the ineligible list has heard something virtually identical to the idea of… again…

How do you tell the story of baseball without including Pete Rose?

And the answer is… you don’t. (And… in fact… they don’t.)

In the beautiful northeast setting of Cooperstown, New York… with a scenic drive into the village, virtually clichéd tree-lined drives and an everyone-seems-to-know-you total of roughly 2,000 year-round residents… is a Main Street that for all true measures is dedicated to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

The best of baseball are honored here… many treasures of baseball are preserved and displayed here… and, if such a single physical location is to be named and agreed upon, the story of baseball is told here.

Each year, usually in early January, announcements are made about honorees that have been selected for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. And each year, usually in late July, the induction ceremonies for those honorees are held.

And, ever since he was declared ineligible by the league, along with a separate but supporting decision of ineligibility for the Hall of Fame, the media goes crazy in January and July with stories about Pete Rose.

And these stories and arguments and debates get emotional, can be hysterically funny, and often have all sorts of great sideshow elements featuring Rose signing autographs in Cooperstown, denying all allegations against him, denying some allegations but admitting other allegations against him, releasing interviews and authorized biographies and more and even more where he argues for and against all sorts of different levels of admission of his innocence and guilt.

Eventually the senses overload -- Rose admits he hasn’t admitted what he admitted to not doing when he did it -- the conversation gets numbing, and we… again… arrive at a simple concept…

How do you tell the story of baseball without including Pete Rose?

We’re talking about the legend of Charlie Hustle… the tale of Ray Fosse… the histories of championships for the Reds and Phillies (including possibly the greatest World Series ever… 1975… Cincinnati and Boston)… totals for hits and games played… and…

And if you read enough of the articles about Rose and his ineligibility… if you listen to enough media reports… if you in some way find yourself exposed in any way… eventually you get to the point where something funny happens.

You get the idea that while Rose may occasionally visit the village of Cooperstown, that centerpiece on Main Street completely ignores him. You begin to believe that the all-time leader in areas like career base hits, career singles, career at bats, and career games played, is left out of the picture… out of the fabric… out of the story of baseball.

And for years, that’s what I thought was happening. Because I listened to the media reports… and because no one debated Pete Rose was on baseball’s list if ineligible players… and because everyone agreed that the Hall of Fame recognized the list of ineligible players and kept them from induction… which all seemed to arrive at the same place…

Telling the story of baseball without Pete Rose.

And on a visit to that quaint and peaceful village, I found out firsthand that simply isn’t true.

In July of 2014 and June of 2015, I happened to be in Cooperstown. During these visits, I walked inside the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, and I looked around. And it turns out… Pete Rose is there. And not just once.

He’s recognized for his part in The Big Red Machine…

He’s recognized as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies…

And he even has plaques and notices and places in all sorts of statistical exhibits that document his hits and so on...

In short… the Museum and the Hall of Fame are two different parts of this building. And that is something I have never heard explained, covered or noted in any of these other stories. I’m sure I’m not the first to discover it… not the first to note it… and you may even already know it… but it’s still important. Because it changes the argument significantly.

I do understand that many might argue that enshrinement in Cooperstown… that induction to the Hall… is an honor for a person, and a celebration of a career and recognition of contributions that extend well beyond the simple acknowledgement of a place in the story. I would most likely agree with any argument founded on such claims.

Instead though… for a moment, I want you to understand that for many, those that aren’t aware that artifacts from Rose’s career and recognition for his accomplishments are on display… it creates a completely different scenario. Most of the coverage is saying Rose’s place in baseball history isn’t being depicted. We’re being presented a tale where the front gates of the building are closed, Rose faces from across Main Street, and Ian McKellen is standing opposite him saying something close to “you shall not pass” (likely not in Gandalf robes, but that image is probably more striking than picturing McKellen in a cap with a warm-up jacket and cleats).

And that’s simply not true.

Look… honestly… I’m not the person to offer even a true opinion on whether or not Pete Rose should be a member of the Hall of Fame. I’m not a professional baseball writer… I don’t have enough historical knowledge… and we could go on.

That’s not what this article is about though.

Instead I want to point out how we, as fans as well as a general public, are being handed a completely different set of considerations and arguments. It’s a listing of thoughts and points that cover the ground of Rose’s deceptions and lies, examine his play on the field, question the impact of his gambling on his professional actions and decisions, and so on. Ultimately, as I noted, it winds up in that simple idea of how his baseball career is important to baseball history. Too important to not be a part of it.

The debate we are handed, which is in many cases met with strong emotions and opinions, is misleading and false though.

Pete Rose… the player… is in the Hall of Fame… the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Pete Rose is, repeatedly, mentioned and honored for his accomplishments and career.

Pete Rose… the man… is not enshrined in the Hall of Fame. He’s on the ineligible list.

And wherever your thoughts on the matter take you, the fact is that the story of baseball is not being told by omitting Pete Rose.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at