Pete Rose is launching an Internet petition and may sue baseball to end his lifetime ban.

"You can't keep a guy from making a living," he said in an interview with the Associated Press. "It's not the American way."

Following an investigation of his gambling, baseball's career hits leader agreed in August 1989 to a lifetime ban from the sport. He applied for reinstatement in September 1997 and while Commissioner Bud Selig has said several times that he has seen no evidence that would make him change the ban, he hasn't formally responded to Rose.

"If you find in your heart you didn't want to give me reinstatement, just write back and say, 'No,' " Rose said. "I know he has stationery. I know the mail is delivered in Milwaukee."

Rose was in New York for today's launch of sportcut.com., which through Jan. 15 will contain a fan petition calling for Rose's admission to the Hall of Fame. As long as he's banned from baseball for life, Rose is ineligible for the Hall. . . .

The Yankees and reliever Mike Stanton agreed yesterday to a $7.35 million, three-year contract. The 32-year-old left-hander was 2-2 with a 4.33 earned run average in 73 games last season.

Meanwhile, the Yankees are said to be mulling a $9.5 million, one-year offer to right-hander David Cone with a club option for a second year. Cone is holding out for a second year, yet it is uncertain whether any of his other suitors--Cleveland, Boston, Baltimore or the Mets--will offer him that. . . .

Catcher Tony Eusebio decided to stay with the Houston Astros, agreeing to a $2.4 million, two-year contract. . . .

Major League Baseball umpires are about to learn whether they'll have a new union or keep the bargaining unit that's represented them for the past 21 years.

Umpires will gather at the National Labor Relations Board's offices in New York at 4:30 p.m. today and learn the results of a vote called by a group looking to oust union head Richie Phillips and start a new union.

The vote will help determine the future of umpires, who have been split by internal strife since 22 umpires lost their jobs after taking part in a mass-resignation strategy in mid-July.

The union that wins the election will represent umpires in their next contract talks with baseball. The umpires' collective bargaining agreement runs out Dec. 31.

Soccer

New Coaches Hired

Octavio Zambrano, whose firing this season ignited a run that carried the Los Angeles Galaxy to a berth in the MLS Cup, was hired to coach the New York-New Jersey MetroStars. Zambrano received a two-year contract that won't start until Jan. 1. . . .

Fernando Clavijo, an assistant coach on the worst team in the MLS, was hired as coach of the New England Revolution, which has made the playoffs once in the league's four seasons.

Clavijo left the MetroStars to become the fifth coach in the Revolution's short history. He succeeds interim coach Steve Nicol, who took over after Walter Zenga was dismissed Oct. 1 with two games left.

Boxing

Johnston Keeps Title

American Stevie Johnston retained his WBC lightweight title on a unanimous decision after battering Billy Schwer for 12 rounds.

The left-handed champion from Denver scored freely against the determined but easily hit Brit at Wembley Arena, cutting him around both eyes and across the bridge of the nose. All three judges scored it 118-110, 10 rounds to two. Johnston improved to 29-1. . . .

Roy Jones Jr. will defend the undisputed light heavyweight championship against David Telesco on Jan. 15. at Radio City Music Hall in New York. It will be the first fight at Radio City.

The historic fight in the legendary showplace is taking place because on Jan. 15 the NBA's New York Knicks will be playing in Madison Square Garden. The Garden and the Music Hall are owned by Cablevision.

It was announced that 5,500 seats will be available for the fight that will be televised by HBO.

The telecast will begin at 9:30 p.m. A 10-round heavyweight match between David Izon (24-3, 20 knockouts), a native of Ghana, and Derrick Jefferson (22-0-1, 18 knockouts) will precede the main event.