NEW YORK: In a last-ditch effort to save his reputation and gain entry to baseball's Hall of Fame, Pete Rose last week admitted to betting on baseball games while playing. Revealed in advance coverage of Rose's memoir, My Prison Without Bars, the admission was a dramatic revision of 14 years' worth of denials that his gambling problem never touched the game he played. It also put him back into the spotlight at a time when athletes are seen as less fallible than ever.Rose, of course, retired as the all-time leader in hits and was known as a sparkplug on several championship teams in the 1970s and 1980s. But in retirement, he'd been shadowed by suspicions that his gambling habit was even worse than he acknowledged. To many, his acceptance into the Hall was contingent on his coming completely clean. It remains to be seen whether his new book will do the trick, as many early reports were skeptical at best. AP even quoted former bet-runners who quarreled with Rose's assertion that he never bet on Reds games. Even Rose-friendly pieces grudgingly supported his entry, and only be- cause he was such a great player. The timing of the book's publication, however, was opportune - for Rose at least. (Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley, who were elected into the Hall last week, might feel otherwise.) Rose knew what he was doing by releasing My Prison months after a few retired baseball greats came out in support of him, and before he loses eligibility on the baseball writers' ballot. Beginning in 2006, he can only win Hall entry by way of the Veterans Committee, which is widely believed to be a long shot. In PR terms, Rose's timing is excellent in that it puts him back in the spotlight and prompts a public dialogue, not just on him, but on the broader question of whether athletic greatness should be diminished by personal foibles. Major League Baseball (MLB) must decide on that before the ban is lifted. Meanwhile, we award Rose PR Play of the Week for grabbing the nation's attention while MLB struggles with its verdict.
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