It’s now been 25 years since Pete Rose accepted a permanent ban for betting on baseball, and it’s still one of the most hotly debated topics in all of professional sports.

Rose retired following the 1986 season as the sport’s all-time leader with 4,256 hits and 3,562 games played. It was his tenacious style of play that made him a fan favorite and the heart and soul of the Big Red Machine.

He took over as player/manager for the Reds in 1984, and all told he spent parts of six seasons as the Cincinnati Reds’ manager.

It was during his time at the helm that he started betting on the Reds, and doing so on a regular basis, according to what he said back in 2007.

I bet on my team to win every night because I love my team, I believe in my team,” Rose said on ESPN Radio. “I did everything in my power every night to win that game.”

For nearly 15 years he denied the allegations against him, until he released his autobiography My Prison Without Bars in January 2004 and finally came clean about his gambling.

Let’s start at the beginning, though.

The snowball officially started rolling Feb. 21, 1989, when Rose was called in to meet with Commissioner Peter Ueberroth and other league officials to talk about his gambling habits. He was well-known to be a gambler, but suspicions had cropped up that he was betting on baseball.

On Apr. 1, the IRS seized betting slips with Rose’s name, writing and finger prints on them, and the following day it was reported that he was betting $8,000-$10,000 per day on baseball.

A month later, the league announced it was launching a full investigation. On May 9, 1989, a 225-page report from investigator John Dowd that would be known simply as the “Dowd Report” was handed over to new Commissioner Bart Giamatti.

The report included a full breakdown of his gambling activities, including a day-by-day account of his 1987 betting that included 52 Reds games.

From there, the league officially handed down a lifetime ban on Aug. 24, 1989. Both Rose and Giamatti signed a five-page document to put the ban into place, though Rose still did not admit to any transgressions.

The gist of the document was that Rose accepted he was being banned on factual basis, while Major League Baseball agreed to make no formal findings in the case against him.

As you can imagine, this is a very sad day,” Rose said in a Los Angeles Times article. “I’ve been in baseball three decades, and to think I’m going to be out of baseball for a very short period of time hurts.”

As part of the agreement he signed, he would be allowed to appeal the lifetime ban after one year, so his thinking at the time was obviously that he would be able to convince the commissioner to lift the ban.

After serving a five-month prison sentence in 1990 for falsifying tax returns, Rose was dealt another blow in 1991 when the 12 members of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s board of directors voted unanimously to ban him from the ballot.

He received 41 write-in votes that next year, and his Hall of Fame candidacy is something that is still debated on a yearly basis.

Those arguing for him say his gambling indiscretions had no impact on his on-field play. On the flip side, he sullied the game and earned a lifetime ban as a result, so it’s hard to say he belongs among the game’s immortals.

The debate waged on until 1999, when Rose was named to the All-Century team and allowed to be part of the festivities when the team was announced during Game 2 of the World Series that year.

After receiving the loudest ovation of all, he was grilled by NBC reporter Jim Gray on the national TV, who tried to get Rose to admit he did in fact bet on baseball and apologize for what he did.

From there, all was quiet on the Pete Rose front for a while, until he finally came clean about everything in the aforementioned autobiography.

“For the last 14 years I’ve consistently heard the statement: ‘If Pete Rose came clean, all would be forgiven.’ Well, I’ve done what you’ve asked,” he wrote in the book, via USA Today‘s Mike Dodd.

It wasn’t that simple, though. Rose remains banned, and there have been no real signs of that being overturned.

The New York Daily News‘ Bill Madden reported July 27, 2009, that Commissioner Bud Selig was seriously considering lifting the ban, but those rumors were quickly shot down.

Despite that, Rose still had faith that Selig would one day pull the trigger on reinstating him.

Really, where I belong is back in baseball. I still believe it can happen,” Rose told Bob Nightengale of USA Today. “To be honest with you, I really haven’t given up on Bud giving me a second chance.”

With Selig set to leave office at the end of the season, replaced by his right-hand man Rob Manfred, Rose will have a new commissioner to work on.

One thing is certain: The now-73-year-old Rose is never going to stop pleading his case for reinstatement and Hall of Fame eligibility, and fans aren’t going to stop debating it any time soon either.

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