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"So lust, though to a
2002-12-16 13:31
by Mike Carminati

"So lust, though to a radiant angel link'd, will sate itself in a celestial bed, and prey on garbage"

That-the quote in the title-was Hamlet's Ghost. Right before he said, "Adieu, adieu, adieu! remember me."

Just as his spirit hovered over feudal Denmark, the late Bart Giamatti haunts the issue of Pete Rose's exile from baseball. And just like Hamlet, we are bound to listen when his specter speaks.

Today, Fay Vincent, Giamatti's faithful lieutenant and successor, wrote an editorial in the NY Times. Giamatti's spirit beckons to Vincent, always has. That's why Vincent continued to enforce Giamatti's draconian code of justice with the players. And that's why Vincent speaks out to whomever whenever the topic of rehabilitating the baseball career of Pete Rose, or so he would have us believe.

Of the very little substance that inhabits and informs Vincent's editorial, I found the following of interest:

The evidence collected by the commissioner's office - betting slips in Mr. Rose's handwriting, the testimony of his bookie - seemed overwhelming... But Mr. Rose would admit nothing, so Bart was left with no choice. Mr. Rose was banished from the game and placed on the permanently ineligible list. Eight days later, a heart attack claimed Bart's life.

I take issue at a number of items in this statement. First, the evidence was far from overwhelming. It consisted of: 1) Some COPIES (i.e., not originals) of papers, that were procured in an unusual fashion, that contain references to non-existent games, and whose purpose is not altogether clear, the originals of which may or may not have been in Pete Rose's hand. They were first referred to as his betting book, but when the term seemed ludicrous when applied to two sheets of paper the term betting slip was and is still being used. And 2) the testimony of Ron Peters, a bookie that Rose placed bets with usually through a go-between, and one of those go-between, Paul Janszen, and their hangers-on. Both of these men were facing criminal charges of their own and present information which contradictory or easily explained by solutions other than Rose's betting on the Reds (like Janzsen's betting on the Reds). I know I have gone over this umpteen times (actually umpteen plus 5 times), but I will continue to say it until I'm blue in the face-a rather difficult task over the internet-since the contention that the evidence was overwhelming or even compelling is ridiculous.

"Rose would admit nothing"-did it occur to anyone that he had nothing to admit regarding betting on the Reds. I know that Rose was not being helpful to the investigation and this colors all of his testimony, but could it be that he just didn't do it? Rose did say that "if there were telephone calls to Ron Peters (from his hotel suite or house), 'I'll guarantee you that Paul Janszen was in the room.' Rose said that Janszen was probably in Rose's home more frequently than Rose was." I'm not saying Rose is an innocent lamb, but couldn't it be possible that any circumstantial evidence points to Janszen at least as much to Rose? When Rose does deny something couldn't it be that he actually didn't do it?

"[S]o Bart was left with no choice..."-Bart and Pete and their attorneys came to an agreement to end the mess. It was not a unilateral decision by good ol' Bart. Further, Vincent implies that there was a connection between Rose's alleged gambling on the Reds and his expulsion. The agreement is purposely non-committal.

"Eight days later..."-Is he implying that the issue took Giamatti's life? He did choose it in his litany of events. I see no mention of "Two days later, I had a great BLT sandwich." He chose it as a salient event associated with the incident. Is he implying that the stress associated with the dark side of the sport he loved caused Giamatti's early demise or that Giamatti was fatally consumed with grieve over betraying the agreement that he signed with Rose as the ink was drying? If he's saying the latter, I then do see the connection.

He's another chestnut: "Everyone in baseball knows with certainty that betting on a game in which you have an interest will lead to a lifetime ban... After all, none of us was willing to reinstate Shoeless Joe Jackson." What does Joe Jackson have to do with gambling on one's own team or Pete Rose? Jackson admitted to throwing games, World Series games, for money. Rose and Jackson would not share breaking the same codicil of the rule (#21) even if the Rose allegations were true.

"My advice, unsolicited, is for him [Bud Selig] to move cautiously.": "Unsolicited"? Selig did as much as try to gag Vincent, whose caustic remarks have been plaguing the commissioner's office since his departure. One gets the feeling that Vincent is bitter that a man he once saw banished may once again "earn the seven-figure salaries managers receive today" while Vincent's phone calls go unanswered by everyone in the game.

"To get back in the game, Mr. Rose would have to admit that he bet on his team, demonstrate a reconfigured life and dedicate himself to public service on behalf of baseball." My first question is "Why?". If an admission is required, how about the lesser confession of betting on the game, which carries a one-year suspension? Besides baseball has no credible evidence that he did even that. Why would Rose admit to betting on his own team when a) it may not be true and b) it would be the kiss of death to his reinstatement?

For a more circumspect look back at the Giamtti's legacy, read his son Marcus's view. It certainly is a more considered one:

"I think the worst thing that could have happened was that my father died, because I think my father would have taken steps to help him (Rose)."

It makes me wonder more than ever if Vincent's motives are to revere Giamatti's memory or fulfill his own agenda.

[By the way, Murray Chass points out that Jackson may follow Rose off the permanently ineligible list, but he is in error in stating that Rose would be the first off the list. Fellow-New Yorkers Steve Howe, George Steinbrenner, Willie Mays, and Mickey Mantle (not to mention three 1865 New York Mutuals) have all been rehabilitated from the list.]

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