'IT'S HIM again, Commissioner Manfred."

"Him who?"

"Pete Rose. On line one."

"Now what does he want? . . . Hello?''

"Hello Mr. Commissioner. I just wanted to say . . . "

"Save it Pete. We've been over this a thousand times. You bet on baseball. Looks like you bet on your team too. You're living in Vegas, you own a bar, you still gamble on anything that moves. Including baseball. The deal was you were supposed to change."'

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know, I know, I know. I tried for awhile too, I really did. But you can only sign so many cards, so many 'Hit King' posters, you know? I once bet a guy I could sign 100 cards in a minute. You know how fast you have to scribble? My hand hurt for a week. Say, you wouldn't want to make a friendly wager . . . "

"No, Pete. I shouldn't even be having this conversation."

"Yeah, right, right. My bad. That's not why I called anyway."

"Why did you call?"

"To thank you."

"Thank me? For what? Didn't you read my report?"

"Every last word. You even called me 'Mr. Rose' a whole bunch of times. Awesome, man."

"Awesome? Pete, did you open up your sports bar early today?"

"Nah. I'm as sober as, well, that Dowd report. What a bore that thing was, huh? But how about those crowds at my Pete Rose Sports Bar and Grill here in Vegas on Monday? You should have seen it on Tuesday, and Wednesday and Thursday too. Did you see all those people that came to my press conference?"

"Yes, yes. Looked like a good time. Given the circumstances."

"That's just it. That's why I called to thank you, for the circumstances. You did me a solid, man."

"You sure that bar isn't open?"

"Nah. I might have to open it late in fact. I've been getting calls all morning from card shows, auto shows, minor league parks, boxing matches, ultimate fighting. My cell phone is buzzing right now. I even got a call from some dude in Cooperstown this morning."

"But Pete. The director of the Hall of Fame said nothing had changed his mind either. I tried to help you there, but . . . "

"Yeah, don't do me any favors. Nah, this guy owns a restaurant or something up there. Wants me to come for Hall of Fame weekend, sign a bunch of crap. Offering me twice what I made there last year."

"I don't understand. You can't manage. You can't coach. Can't work in the front office and you can't get into the Hall of Fame. "

"You don't get it, do you? People are feeling sorry for me all over again. People are feeling outraged that I'm being kept out of baseball all over again. I'm the Hit King, dammit. I should be in the Hall of Fame. Why I even had a throne made up, made up almost entirely of bats."

"I saw that. Clever."

"To be honest though, it was all getting a little old. People weren't coming around the way they once had. Reporters weren't calling as much. Some people thought I was even in a home or sumptin' until they saw me on TV during the playoffs. Hell, I'm only 74. And then, when it looked like you were going to reinstate me early last summer, I couldn't even book a Little League banquet.''

"Yes, well, that's before ESPN found that notebook documenting that you did, in fact, bet on the Reds. I couldn't overlook that. Pretty damning stuff."

"Of course not. Thing is, people started coming around again after that. Reporters started calling again. Manna from heaven, that notebook. Do you know how much money I stand to make now? I think the last time I was denied reinstatement my bank account tripled. I paid more taxes than I ever did as a player or manager. Oh, baby, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the old Rose household. It's a wonderful life."

"But I saw your press conference. You seemed sad, and contrite."

"Yeah, I was pretty good, wasn't I? Maybe I can get one of those TV reality shows from this. Call it 'Banned.' You could have me, Donald Sterling, Mel Gibson. Too bad they let Tom Brady back in. He would have been good."

"Interesting concept. Gotta say Pete. You're taking this well."

"Well, it's been 27 years, Commissioner. And as long as people feel sorry for me for what I did to myself, I'll be making a nice chunk of change. Can anyone in baseball say that?"