Selig, who has steadfastly sidestepped Rose-related questions through his tenure as commissioner, recently said the Reds will have some latitude to celebrate Rose when the All-Star Game takes place in Cincinnati next year. That's an encouraging crumb, but more enduring forms of recognition are elusive. Now that Rose is off the writers' ballot, would the expansion era committee ever deign to consider him? And would enough Hall of Famers be outraged by his induction that they would boycott the ceremony or walk off the stage in July?
Rose is still enough of a battler (or a master of self-delusion) to believe in best-case scenarios. Rob Manfred, who will succeed Selig as commissioner early next year, has a lot on his plate. But Manfred is not particularly burdened by history, as Selig is, and Rose clings to the hope that his case will get a fresh look.
In the spring and summer of 1989, Rose's son Tyler often scurried around the clubhouse and the manager's office as a 5-year-old mini-me with spiked hair. Now, Tyler is 29 years old, stands 6-foot-5 and helps out with Pete's autograph-signing enterprises. At the music store in Vegas, they're surrounded by artifacts from the past, such as a $15,550 framed collage of the "Rat Pack" and a $10,500 Paul McCartney Hofner bass guitar.
Amid the smiles and signatures, Rose is trapped in a bizarre time warp in which he seeks forgiveness and a trace of a wisp of a presence. But baseball studiously avoids him, and the anniversary of his ban amplifies how little has changed. Giamatti famously told Rose he needed to "reconfigure" his life. Twenty-five years later, Rose is still pleading his case and wondering aloud why he's the only person in the game who can't get a second chance. As jerseys, bats and balls go out the door, he'll always be pitching Pete Rose.
"If I can make the Hall of Fame, I'll be the happiest guy in the world," Rose says. "But I don't go to bed at night worrying about the Hall of Fame. I understand what it means and what it takes to get there, but I'm the one who [messed] up. Why should I get mad at Bart or Bud Selig?"
Baseball should give him a second chance, Rose contends, because he's an "attitude-changer" and a master of outreach -- those messy loose ends notwithstanding.
"The last thing in the world I'd do now is bet on baseball," he says. "I would be the cleanest guy in the world when it comes to that because of the scrutiny I would go through. You may think I'm crazy, but I think baseball is in a better place if I'm in it."