Pete Rose could soon be coming to a wall near you. At the very least, baseball's all-time leader in hits and the steam behind the first World Series title in Phillies history will be on a ballot for fans to vote upon in the very near future.
A baseball source said Thursday that the Phillies have been given approval by Major League Baseball to induct Rose onto their Wall of Fame, an annual honor bestowed upon the organization's greatest players. The process for that to happen begins with fan balloting, which is likely to open online at phillies.com later this month.
Scott Rolen and Placido Polanco also are expected to be among the candidates. Both of them spent more time in Philadelphia than Rose and had solid careers. Rolen, in particular, is a player who should be on the Phillies' Wall of Fame at some point. But neither Rolen nor Polanco was ever embraced the way Phillies fans fell in love with Peter Edward Rose.
That's why it is impossible to imagine anyone other than Rose standing inside Citizens Bank Park on Aug. 12 when the Phillies place their next former player onto the Wall of Fame that sits beyond the ivy-covered wall in center field.
Attempts to reach Rose by telephone Thursday were unsuccessful.
Several of his former teammates told me last season that they believed Rose deserved the Wall recognition from the Phillies for being the driving force behind the team's 1980 World Series title. In five seasons with the Phillies, Rose hit .291 with a .365 on-base percentage and a .726 OPS.
He had come to the Phillies as a free agent after 16 seasons, 12 all-star appearances, and two World Series wins with the Big Red Machine in Cincinnati. His signing was a coup pulled off by former Phillies president Bill Giles, who at the time worked under owner Ruly Carpenter. Giles persuaded WPHL television, the Phillies' rights holder at the time, to kick in the extra money needed to sign Rose in December 1978.
Giles simply would not take no for an answer when it appeared Rose would sign elsewhere.
"I told him if the Phillies won a World Series he could be governor," Giles recounted in a 1978 Daily News story. "I asked him if there was any chance that he'd change his mind. I knew the money wasn't close at that time, but I had a feeling he really wanted to play for the Phillies."
Rose's agent, Reuven Katz, asked Giles to "see if you can rearrange those figures a little bit."
Giles, with the help of Carpenter and Phillies business manager David Montgomery, did exactly that and the Phillies signed Rose.
Most of Rose's Phillies teammates will tell you that he meant so much more than his numbers during his five seasons in Philadelphia and that he was worth every penny of a contract that made him the highest-paid player in team history at the time.
"Pete Rose didn't have quit in him and I think he brought that to the ballpark every day," said Dickie Noles, a reliever with the 1980 Phillies. "I was a young player. I was 23 years old at the time and I played quite a while after that, and I never saw anybody quite like that."
That's because there was never anybody quite like Rose, which we would later discover had its positive and negative connotations.
Eight of Rose's teammates from the 1980 team - Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Larry Bowa, Greg Luzinski, Tug McGraw, Garry Maddox, Bob Boone, and John Vukovich - are already on the Wall of Fame. And even though most of them want Rose there, too, a feeling among some baseball people persists that he should not be honored because of his gambling sins.
Rose was placed on baseball's permanently ineligible list on Aug. 24, 1989, by commissioner Bart Giamatti, who died just a week later. Rose signed an agreement to accept the ban from baseball and only years later admitted to gambling on the game.
The Hall of Fame later ruled that Rose was also ineligible to be voted in among baseball's greatest players because of his ineligibility. For years, he was also banned from even participating in any on-field activities by Major League Baseball teams.
Those sorts of things have loosened over the years, starting with his inclusion during the 1999 all-century team celebration at the All-Star Game in Boston. Last year, the Reds got the go-ahead to honor Rose by inducting him into their Hall of Fame during a game at Great American Ballpark.
That opened the door for the Phillies to do the same this coming season, and it seems like a foregone conclusion that it will happen now. Rose will turn 76 on April 14, and regardless of how you feel about his past misdeeds, it should be a moment worth seeing when he is finally honored at Citizens Bank Park.