Pete Rose Tries a Squeeze Play

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Could Jim Gray be Pete Rose's secret weapon? A month after the NBC sportscaster drew the ire of fans for ambushing Rose in a pregame interview and pressing him to admit he bet on his own team, Rose is hoping to parlay the sympathetic publicity he got from the incident into helping his case for reinstatement into Major League Baseball. Tuesday, for the first time, he got a top dog in baseball's front office to agree to meet to discuss his case (OK, so it was only beta dog Bob DuPuy instead of alpha Bud Selig, but still, gamblers can't be choosers). Then, Rose launched a poll on asking fans whether he should be reinstated. The hope is that a public outcry could influence his talks with baseball's top brass, possibly allowing him to manage again, or at least enter the Hall of Fame.

The question is whether baseball has any responsibility to let the public have a say in the decision — if indeed the fans want Charlie Hustle back. While MLB is privately held, it does enjoy an anti-trust exemption, and implicitly, a responsibility to serve some form of public interest. "If there's an overwhelming continuing noise by the fans, it may have some effect on his reinstatement," says TIME sports editor at large Daniel Okrent. "But baseball won't let Rose into the Hall until he acknowledges what he did." Okrent adds that while Rose, if reinstated, would be a shoe-in to the Hall, "he's kidding himself if he thinks he'll manage again; nobody'll hire him." So even if reinstated, Rose may need to find a way to get by on the million dollars he reportedly takes in each year signing autographs and selling off his old memorabilia.