Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig said today he has no intention of lifting Pete Rose's lifetime ban from the game, thus preventing the all-time hits leader from being eligible for the Hall of Fame.
Selig clarified his position at a news conference announcing the start of balloting for baseball's all-century team. Included at today's gathering were 29 of the game's greatest players, including 22 Hall of Famers.
With Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson and a host of others looking on, Selig defended late commissioner Bart Giamatti's 1989 ban of Rose for gambling and said he has no intention of overturning it.
"I don't think there's anything I would do to change what Bart Giamatti did," Selig said.
Rose applied for reinstatement in September 1997, but Selig hasn't formally announced a decision.
Rose is one of the 100 players on the ballot for the all-century team. Eighty-five of the players already are in the Hall of Fame, and several others, including Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray, are certain first-ballot inductees when they're eligible.
The ballot includes eight active players: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Gwynn, Rickey Henderson, Greg Maddux, Mark McGwire and Ripken.
"You have no idea the impact that you've made," Selig told the gathering. "I thank you on behalf of all those fans."
Fans will cast votes in balloting similar to that used for the All-Star Game. They will choose two players at each infield position, two catchers, nine outfielders and six pitchers. A committee can select up to five additional players, bringing the total to 30.
Voting will end Sept. 10, and the team will be announced before Game 1 of the World Series. At today's news conference, players joked with one another and reflected on what they like -- and don't like -- about the game.
"You don't like to say money hurt the game," Murray said. "The way I would put it, guys are now more conscious of wanting their careers to be extended, to play as long as they can, some of them. I don't think they really want to play. . . . I think that's one way the game has changed. Back in the early '70s, you might have had to get yourself another job or played winter ball. I don't think the guys love it now. I think everybody up here at this table loved the game of baseball. I prefer the old days."
Last winter, when he was having troubling getting an invitation to spring training, John Jaha couldn't have imagined playing in the 1999 All-Star Game. He eventually signed with the Oakland Athletics, but only after being released by the Milwaukee Brewers and told by the Boston Red Sox that he had failed their physical.
"I went to spring training not knowing if I'd even have a job," he said. "The All-Star Game was too far out there to even think about. It's really something to be around all these great players."
He was bitterly disappointed when the Red Sox withdrew their offer, both because he was worried about his future in the game and also because Fenway Park is his favorite ballpark. Now, at 33, he'll get a chance to play there as an American League all-star. He was named to the team after hitting 19 home runs and driving in 56 runs.
"I worked every day over the winter," he said. "I never stopped. I was never going to quit. I was going to keep trying. Right now, I think some of my friends are more excited than I am. It's a little overwhelming to be at the All-Star Game when three or four months ago I didn't have a job."
Sign of Trouble
American League Manager Joe Torre laughed as he recalled his first all-star appearance. "Cleveland in 1963," he said. "I was a 22-year-old catcher and didn't get any further than the bullpen in left-center." However, he did start a year later when the game was played in Shea Stadium. He remembers going over the signs with starting pitcher Don Drysdale before the game. Torre asked what sign Drysdale wanted for the fastball, slider and change-up. And then he asked what sign to drop for Drysdale's infamous spitball.
"He said, `I'll throw it off the fastball,' " Torre said. "And I said, `Okay.' That was the dumbest thing I've ever done. In the first inning, I went back to say hello to Mayor Wagner [behind the plate chasing wild pitches] about four times. We had a sign for it after that." . . .
San Diego Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn didn't play tonight because of a pulled calf muscle, but he's here anyway because he'd never been to Fenway Park. "I even went out and got a book on Fenway Park," he said. "After 18 years, this is the last park I really wanted to see. I got to see Tiger Stadium and Yankee Stadium in the World Series. This might be my only chance to see Fenway."
CAPTION: Baltimore Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken takes infield practice at Fenway Park before last night's All-Star Game. Ripken made his 17th all-star appearance.