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Column: Time to allow Pete Rose back in baseball?

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Time to End Pete Rose's Exile

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Pete Rose didn't want it to be about him, not on a day when four new members were elected to baseball's most exclusive club.

Good picks all, Rose said, though he would have liked to see Mike Piazza get in, too. He believes Piazza was the best hitting catcher ever, which says something because Rose played alongside the best catcher ever in Johnny Bench on the Big Red Machine.

"Let's talk about them, not me," Rose said. "Why take away from the four inductees? It would be like those policemen turning their backs on the mayor at the funerals in New York."

Invariably, though, the talk returned to baseball's all-time hit king. Had to, because there's a big gap in Cooperstown where his Hall of Fame plaque should be.

It's been a quarter-century since Rose agreed to a lifetime ban from the sport for betting on games, and almost that long since the Hall of Fame adjusted its rules to keep him off the ballot. Rose thought when commissioner Bart Giamatti issued the ban that it would include a chance to apply for reinstatement, but 25 years later there's been no sign that baseball will welcome him back.

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens may someday find their way into the hall despite being poster boys for the steroid era. Time has a way of healing all wounds, even those that were self-inflicted, and their monster numbers may impress some more voters a few years down the road.

But time is running out on Rose. He'll be 74 in April and there's been no indication so far from Rob Manfred that he will be any more agreeable to Rose's reinstatement when he takes over from Bud Selig as commissioner later this month than Selig himself was.

Rose understands that. He's also figured out by now that selling signed balls with the inscription "I'm sorry I bet on baseball" isn't going to get him off the banned list.

Yes, he bet on baseball, though he says it was always on his team to win when he was managing the Cincinnati Reds. And, yes, he continued to deny it until finally admitting it in a 2004 book that infuriated many in the sport.

But he'd like to hold out a little hope that his lifetime sentence won't last the rest of his life. He'd like to think that one January day not too far in the future he will be on a long overdue Hall of Fame ballot himself.

"I'm not eligible, though I'd like to be eligible," Rose said. "I'm the one that messed up, but if I'm ever put on the ballot I'll be very happy about it."

So would a lot of Pete Rose fans, who can't help but wonder why the juicers who made a mockery of the sport are still welcome in baseball while Rose is on the outside looking in. No matter how you feel about him betting on games, no one questions his numbers as they do those of several players who were on the latest Hall of Fame ballots.

Those numbers more than speak for themselves. Rose played more games (3,562) than any other major leaguer, had more hits than any other player (4,256). He played in six World Series, winning three, and hustled every step of the way.

He didn't pump steroids into his body to hit more home runs. He never tried to fix a World Series; not even a spring training game.

Yes, his original ban was rightly imposed as a deterrent against someone else trying to fix games themselves. But after all these years, his punishment no longer fits the crime.

Rose watched the latest selections Tuesday, applauding the election of Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Craig Biggio and Randy Johnson to the hall. He then headed to work at the Art of Music collectibles store at the Mandalay Bay where he spends most of his afternoons chatting with fans and signing merchandise they buy.

A signed 8x10 of Rose sliding head-first into third base is $75, while the apology baseball goes for $299. For $199 fans can get another baseball with the inscription "Hits: 4,256. Steroids: 0" on it.

He'll be in Cooperstown this summer as he almost always is, though not for the actual induction ceremony itself. Like many other former players, he sets up shop that week to sell his merchandise to fans and the sons of fans who once watched him play.

It's good money on a busy week, and Rose isn't going to apologize for being there. It's what he does for a living, and the reason he finally had to cut short a conversation about an induction of his own that will probably never come.

"I've got two people waiting in line right now," he said. "Could be busy day."

If you missed it, check out the best sports shots of the week in the gallery below:

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Column: Time to allow Pete Rose back in baseball?
Quarterback Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions fumbles the ball after being sacked by defensive end Demarcus Lawrence #90 of the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth quarter during a NFC Wild Card Playoff game at AT&T Stadium on January 4, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Andrew Shaw #65 of the Chicago Blackhawks is sprayed with water prior to the NHL game against the Dallas Stars at the United Center on January 4, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
Jermaine Edmondson #39 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates a 42-41 win against the Baylor Bears during the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium on January 1, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
In this handout image provided by the Volvo Ocean Race, Misty Start of Leg 3 from Abu Dhabi to Sanya on January 03, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 is the 12th running of this ocean marathon. Starting from Alicante in Spain on October 04, 2014, the route, spanning some 39,379 nautical miles, visits 11 ports in eleven countries (Spain, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, China, New Zealand, Brazil, United States, Portugal, France, The Netherlands and Sweden) over nine months. The Volvo Ocean Race is the world's premier ocean yacht race for professional racing crews. (Photo by Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race via Getty Images)
Roger Federer takes part in the Pat Rafter Arena Spectacular during day one of the 2015 Brisbane International at Pat Rafter Arena on January 4, 2015 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
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Germone Hopper #5 of the Clemson Tigers attempts a reception against Jordan Thomas #7 of the Oklahoma Sooners during the Russell Athletic Bowl at Florida Citrus Bowl on December 29, 2014 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Max Domi #16 of Team Canada scores an empty net goal to secure Team Canada's win over Team United States in a preliminary round game during the 2015 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships at the Bell Centre on December 31, 2014 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Spectators watch a competitor jump during Day One of the FIS Nordic Combined World Cup HS 106 Team Competition on January 3, 2015 in Schonach, Germany. (Photo by Michael Kienzler/Bongarts/Getty Images)
The Washington Capitals swarm goalie Braden Holtby (70) after their 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in the Winter Classic at Nationals Park on January 1, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Jack Nowell of Exeter Chiefs dives over for his side's first try during the Aviva Premiership match between Exeter Chiefs and Gloucester Rugby at Sandy Park on January 3, 2015 in Exeter, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
#301 Nasser Al Attiyah of Qatar and Mathieu Baumel of France for the ALL4 Racing Mini Qatar Rally Team compete during day 1 of the Dakar Rallly on January 4, 2015 between Buenos Aires and Villa Carlos Paz, Argentina. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Emily Sweeney of the United States competes in the 1st run of the Women's FIL Luge World Cup Koenigssee at Deutsche Post Eisarena on January 3, 2015 in Koenigssee, Germany. (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic serves in the mixed doubles match against Eugenie Bouchard and Vasek Pospisil of Canada during day one of the 2015 Hopman Cup at Perth Arena on January 4, 2015 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)
Severin Freund of Germany during the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup Vierschanzentournee (Four Hills Tournament) on January 04, 2015 in Innsbruck, Austria. (Photo by Stanko Gruden/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)
In this handout image provided by the Volvo Ocean Race, onboard Team Alvimedica. Sunrise in the Straits of Hormuz after a busy night of sailing north along the UAE coastline. Dave Swete gets a hand from Seb Marsset while he repairs a rip in the A3 sail January 4, 2015 during Leg 3 between Abu Dhabi, UAE and Sanya, China. The Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 is the 12th running of this ocean marathon. Starting from Alicante in Spain on October 11, 2014, the route, spanning some 39,379 nautical miles, visits 11 ports in 11 countries (Spain, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, China, New Zealand, Brazil, United States, Portugal, France, the Netherlands and Sweden) over nine months. The Volvo Ocean Race is the world's premier ocean race for professional racing crews. (Photo by Amory Ross/Team Alvimedica/Volvo Ocean Race via Getty Images)
Adrian Colunga of Brighton celebrates scoring the first goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Fulham and Brighton & Hove Albion at Craven Cottage on December 29, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

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