Proposed bill would have called for letting Pete Rose back into baseball
By MALIA RULON
Gannett News Service
WASHINGTON - What would have happened if Congress had called on Major League Baseball to allow Pete Rose back into the game?
As far flung as that scenario sounds, it was actually something that an Ohio congressman and Rose's former attorney worked on for weeks, according to interviews with those involved.
This proposed bill, which was never introduced because of Rose's reluctance to lobby Congress for the legislation, has never been reported.
Neil Volz, chief of staff to former Rep. Bob Ney, said the idea to lobby MLB for Rose's reinstatement came after baseball's all-time hit leader won a spot on the All-Century Team in 1999.
Rose, banned from the game since 1989 for betting on baseball games while playing for and managing the Cincinnati Reds, was allowed to attend Game Two of the 1999 World Series, during which the All-Century Team was introduced.
Volz, a longtime Reds fan, broached the subject with Ney of a congressional resolution expressing a sense of Congress that Rose be allowed back into baseball.
Ney, a Republican from central Ohio who was later convicted of bribery and is now serving time in jail, had at the time been looking for ways to help bolster statewide name recognition in hopes of a future gubernatorial run, Volz said.
The Rose bill was intended to help Ney appeal to Cincinnati voters.
"The bill language wasn't specific. We were just going to say, 'Everyone deserves a second chance,' and leave it at that," Volz said.
One of Rose's lawyers at the time, S. Gary Spicer, recalled working with Ney and his staff on the proposed legislation.
"It was an idea," he said. "I actually met with him and his staff and they were real enthusiasts."
Spicer said he flew to Washington for the meeting and recalled going back and forth with Volz on the proposed language for the bill.
Roger Makley, a Dayton lawyer who also has represented Rose, couldn't be reached for comment.
Volz, who attended the World Series game in which Rose was introduced as part of the All-Century Team, said the resolution had been drafted and a press release written to tout the legislation when Rose declined to meet or speak with Ney about the resolution.
"We had it all ready to go and he pulled the plug," Volz said. "We were willing to say it was all our idea, which it was, but he didn't want it to appear as if he was going over and asking for this."
Warren Greene, Rose's Florida-based agent, said Rose has always stayed on the sidelines on these kinds of issues. He said after Rose sent MLB a letter in 1997 asking to be reinstated, he tried to stay away from outside efforts lobbying for his cause.
"We just felt, that's a nice gesture, a nice offer, but we're not going to be a part of it," Greene said. "Other Washington political people have approached us over the years, including Ohio senators, and we have had the same response."
Greene didn't say who else approached Rose about legislation. He also declined to make Rose available for an interview.
Volz, who also has been convicted in the Ney bribery scandal and is serving probation, said the recently released George Mitchell report prompted him to talk publicly for the first time about the proposed Rose resolution.
The Mitchell report accuses dozens of professional baseball players by name of using performance enhancing drugs.
"Here's my childhood hero sitting there - banned from baseball as this steroid scandal explodes - asking for a second chance," Volz said.
In a recent interview with Dennis Miller on his "Sports Unfiltered" show, Rose mentioned the steroid scandal in comparison to his suspension.
"If you're gonna put these guys that supposedly did steroids into the Hall of Fame, I mean I gotta get a shot somewhere," he said. "I've been suspended 18 years for betting on my own team to win. ... I was wrong ... but these guys today, if the allegations are true, they're making a mockery of the game."
Rep. Steve Chabot, a Republican who is as big a fan of the Reds and Pete Rose as there is in Congress, agrees.
"He's clearly been punished. To keep him out of the game here on out is going overboard," Chabot said, adding that keeping Rose out of the Hall of Fame "is just wrong."
Still, Chabot says as much as he personally would like to see Rose allowed back into the game - and someday inducted into the Hall of Fame - he doesn't feel the issue should be solved legislatively.
"I'd prefer to see baseball do this on their own," Chabot said.
A representative for MLB did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.