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Pete Rose: I'm Treated Like a Leper

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Pete Rose says he feels like Charlie Leper, not Charlie Hustle.

Baseball's career hits leader wants to attend anniversary celebrations for the 1975 Cincinnati Reds and 1980 Philadelphia Phillies, who both won the World Series. He says the commissioner's office, which invited him to the All-Century team celebration at last year's World Series, won't even return his agent's telephone calls.

``When they want something or need something, they're very cordial,'' Rose said Wednesday. ``Other than that, they treat you like you have leprosy. We've learned to live with it, not that it's right.''

Rose agreed to a lifetime ban from baseball in August 1989 following an investigation of his gambling. He said he feels like a non-person.

``Everybody from the team in '75 is going to be there but me,'' he said. ``I guess I'm the one who died. Nino (Espinosa) is the guy from the 1980 team who died.''

Rose applied for reinstatement in September 1997 and his lawyers met Jan. 27 with commissioner Bud Selig's top lawyer, Bob DuPuy, but no decision has been made.

Rose and his agent, Warren Greene, said they repeatedly have tried to contact DuPuy and other baseball officials in recent weeks about the June 3 ceremony in Cincinnati and the June 15-17 celebration in Philadelphia, but can't get any replies.

Selig said in February that he wouldn't allow Rose to participate in the on-field ceremonies for the Reds and Phillies.

``I did make an exception for the All-Century team because fans were voting and I didn't want to do anything to stop that,'' Selig said then ``But we said it was a one-time thing.''

Rose and Greene said they think the only reason baseball allowed Rose to participate in the World Series ceremony in Atlanta before Game 2 last Oct. 24 was pressure from MasterCard International, the event's sponsor. Greene said baseball paid Rose $2,000 to attend the Atlanta ceremony, identical to what the other members of the All-Century team received.

``I think MasterCard paid the bills and MasterCard knew the people voted me in,'' Rose said.

Rich Levin, Selig's spokesman, denied that the company pressured baseball to allow Rose to attend,

Rose, who received the longest ovation of any All-Century team member introduced at Turner Field, said he won't go to the ceremonies as a spectator and watch from the stands. Greene said a woman in Cincinnati offered Rose a pair of seats in the row behind the Reds' dugout, and that former Reds owner Marge Schott also offered to arrange seats.

``It's a no-win situation,'' Rose said. ``I would love to go for the fans and my teammates, but I don't want anyone to think I'm there to hog the publicity, get the biggest hand. I know how the people of Cincinnati and Philadelphia feel. I assume the response would be similar to the one I got in Atlanta. I don't know if the commissioner's office is worried about that.''

While he hasn't made a formal ruling, Selig has said many times he hasn't seen any evidence that would cause him to alter the decision of former commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti, who pressed for the lifetime ban after concluding Rose bet on the Reds to win while managing the team.
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