Pete Rose: 25 years in exile

Tekulve, who grew up in the Cincinnati suburbs rooting for the Big Red Machine teams and pitched for Rose at the end of a career that produced 184 saves and a World Series ring, speaks from the vantage point of a fellow ballplayer. It's a perspective tinged with admiration and bewilderment.

"The first thing any player thinks of is competition, and obviously, the man competed like crazy," Tekulve says. "As the saying goes -- and they say it way too many times about way too many guys -- Pete played the game the right way. He played it the way a professional is supposed to play it.

"But you go in from day one representing your team, yourself and your city. And because of the Black Sox scandal, baseball had clearer rules about what would happen to you if you gambled, as opposed to if you killed somebody. So every player had it beaten into them. As a fan, I'm disappointed in Pete. Here's this guy who played the game the right way, but he let me down, he let the Reds down and he let the city down. He let down everybody who was a fan of his. It was such a wasted opportunity for him to be the whole face of baseball."

THROUGH THE YEARS, Rose has tested the patience of Mike Schmidt, Joe Morgan and others who have tried to lobby MLB on his behalf and has done his best to make peace with those he alienated on his road to self-destruction. In the summer of '89, for example, Johnny Bench had the misfortune to go into Cooperstown with Carl Yastrzemski while his former teammate was dominating the news for all the wrong reasons. Rose believes the events of that summer produced a major strain in his relationship with Bench, until time helped heal the wounds.

"Once I took responsibility for what I did, it changed a lot of guys' minds," Rose says. "Johnny is a smart guy. He knows I [messed] up, but he's willing to give me the benefit of the doubt."

Bench, who declined to be interviewed for this story, has not been especially supportive when asked whether Rose should be Cooperstown-bound.

"I've been on three committees that have drawn up ways for Pete to get on the non-restricted list, and Pete's failed to do it every time," Bench said in a November 2012 public appearance in Pennsylvania. "The question always is: 'Do you believe Pete should be in the Hall of Fame?' And I ask, 'Do you have kids?' [If Rose is in,] you can tell them that there are no more rules.' We've all had to abide by rules."

Rose's Cooperstown exclusion goes well beyond the absence of a plaque in the Hall of Fame. He was always at home in the locker room, a place denied to him since '89, and some people close to him believe he is just as pained by the ostracism he feels during induction weekend. While the other baseball greats mingle in the dining areas, the golf course and the scenic back porch of The Otesaga Resort Hotel, with its postcard view of Otsego Lake, Pete is consigned each summer to card tables in memorabilia shops on Cooperstown's Main Street.

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