Fosse reluctantly weighs in on Rose report
A's broadcaster does not believe lifetime ban should be lifted
BOSTON -- Mindful that any comments he makes regarding Pete Rose might be interpreted as personally charged, A's broadcaster Ray Fosse on Monday reluctantly weighed in on a New York Daily News report that Commissioner Bud Selig is considering lifting the lifetime ban to which Rose agreed 20 years ago.
Rose and Fosse are forever linked in baseball lore, the result of a collision at home plate in the 1970 All-Star Game that permanently damaged Fosse's left shoulder.
So when asked if Rose deserved reinstatement, Fosse was hesitant. Rose holds baseball's career hits record but is ineligible for induction to the National Baseball Hall of Fame as the result of an investigation that determined he'd bet on Major League games.
"I have to preface anything I say about Pete," Fosse said, "because I know that whatever I say, based on what happened 39 years ago, could be seen as sour grapes or whatever. But I can honestly say that my thoughts on this issue have nothing to do with that day whatsoever.
"All I can say is simply this: The cardinal sin in baseball is, and always has been, betting."
Thus, Fosse is in agreement with many of his former peers and colleagues. A lifetime ban, they say, should be just that.
"From your very first day in the big leagues, it's ingrained," Fosse said before the opener of a four-game series between the A's and Red Sox at Fenway Park. "You don't even consider betting. You don't even say the word bet. So I find it hard to believe when people say, 'He's already paid the price.' From Day 1, we're told as players that the worst thing, the most damaging thing you can do, is bet on baseball. It's something you don't even consider doing.
"But he admitted that it happened. And at the time of the ban, he agreed to it. So what's changed?"
The Daily News report suggested that Selig might be swayed by the thoughts of Hank Aaron, a close confidant of the Commissioner, and a handful of other Hall of Famers who said over the weekend that Rose's on-field accomplishments should be recognized with enshrinement in Cooperstown.
Fosse, who played 12 seasons in the Majors, won three World Series championships with the A's and was named an All-Star reserve the year after the collision with Rose, is "surprised" by some of the comments, but he doesn't begrudge the opinions.
"Time does these things," Fosse said. "I remember before Ted Williams passed away, he [lobbied] for Shoeless Joe Jackson to be reinstated. It's a forgiving country. But you know going in that if you bet on the game, you're done. It's that simple."
Jackson, a legendary talent, was one of eight players associated with the "Black Sox" scandal of 1919, in which several members of the Jackson's White Sox conspired to throw that year's World Series against the Reds. Jackson and his teammates were banned for life by then-Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis.
"That thing went to trial, and they were acquitted," Fosse said. "But they were never reinstated.
"Look. I have nothing against Pete personally. He's got the greatest numbers, and what he did on the field ... will probably never be matched. Without the gambling, he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer, no question.
"But the gambling is a part of it. The biggest part. I just think it's hard to separate the two."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.