Weaver backers buoyed
- Hopeful ban may be lifted for pair of 1919 Black Sox
January 6, 2004
By Michael Hirsley
Now that the truth about Pete Rose's betting on baseball
is coming out, does a Rose by any other name smell as
If Rose gets past his past, can "Shoeless" Joe Jackson
have his ban from baseball lifted posthumously?
Author Eliot Asinof says Rose's high-profile case has
eased the climate on bans and that Rose, Jackson and
Buck Weaver, Jackson's 1919 White Sox teammate, "should
all definitely be reinstated into baseball."
Asinof's book "Eight Men Out" chronicles the Black Sox
Scandal in which Jackson and seven teammates allegedly
conspired to fix the 1919 World Series they lost.
Ray Allen, co-founder of the Shoeless Joe Jackson Historical
Society, is encouraged by the prospect of Rose applying
for reinstatement and initiating "a process with Major
League Baseball that will at least create guidelines
and a forum for us."
The society has been seeking to have Jackson's case
revisited for more than two decades.
Chicago attorney Louis Hegeman, who drafted a petition
to Commissioner Bud Selig on behalf of Jackson's advocates,
is less optimistic about a trickle-down from Rose's
case to Jackson's.
"If baseball does anything for Pete Rose, it will be
out of a calculated weighing of what they think the
public reaction will be," Hegeman said.
Jackson died in 1951 without complaining publicly about
"Shoeless Joe suffers from the greatest impediment of
all," Hegeman said. "Unlike Rose, he can't lobby for
himself, go on talk shows. There's not that great a
groundswell of support for Joe Jackson. His strongest
recent advocate, Ted Williams, died before Selig responded
to his arguments."
Selig has said repeatedly that the Jackson case remains
Richard Levin, a spokesman for Major League Baseball,
said, "I wouldn't want to speculate on whether developments
with Pete Rose would lead to other possibilities."
Asinof believes Rose's case has created "a climate now
where reinstatement of heroic figures in the game should
be considered. Baseball has lost its honorific glow.
No sophisticated baseball fan thinks their heroes are
that pure off the field. We now know that the great
Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker were suspected of fixing games.
"It is unbelievable how great and inspirational a baseball
player Pete Rose was, but he is not one of nature's
Rose's and Jackson's bans should be lifted "because
they were great ballplayers on the field," Asinof said.
Though Weaver lacked the Hall of Fame credentials of
Rose and Jackson, Asinof said Weaver was a solid player
"who never took a dime" in the alleged fix.
"Buck was innocent of the plot," said David Fletcher
of Champaign, one of the late Sox third baseman's ardent
supporters. On behalf of Weaver's relatives, he has
petitioned the commissioner's office for Weaver's reinstatement
along with Jackson's.
"I am clearly excited about what's happening with Pete
Rose," Fletcher said. "I think if Selig can reinstate
him to baseball, this is a crack in the window for restoring
honor and respect for two men who have been wronged
for 85 years."
Similarly, Allen said, "If Major League Baseball is
going to look at Pete Rose's case, they should look
at our case for Joe."
The crux of the Jackson Historical Society's argument
is that he was not at the meeting with gamblers when
the bribe was negotiated, that he tried to give the
money back and that he played well in the Series. Jackson,
whose .356 lifetime batting average is the third highest
in history, led all hitters in the 1919 Series with
a .375 average.