CINCINNATI — Retiring Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig knew it was coming, just as any hitter facing the Cincinnati Reds knows a fastball is coming from Aroldis Chapman.
Selig was in Great American Ball Park Friday night and held a media conference to field questions.
As he stood at the podium, he smiled and looked out toward the nearly filled room and said, "I can probably guess some of the questions."
As the laughter died down, Selig said, "Depending on the city I visit, if there is a controversy of any kind I make myself a bet — how many questions in the press conference will it take for them to get to it."
And it was apropos that the commissioner used the word, "bet," in his opening remarks because he knew the question that was coming involved Peter Edward Rose.
And it was question No. 2 — and several after that.
"Pete Rose," said the questioner. And before he could ask the question, Selig said, "Dammit, you missed it by one." Selig figured it would be question No. 1.
The questioner wanted to know, "How do you think this ends with Pete Rose?" Rose, of course, was banned for life from baseball in 1989 after he was found guilty of betting on the game.
"I understand I am in The Land of Pete Rose, driving in here on Pete Rose Way," he said. "All that is fair. The man was a great player and had a great history here. He was a great hitter.
"But, you know, there are a lot of things in life that happen that the commissioner, or any of us, wish hadn’t happened. I was particularly close to Bart Giamatti, one of the best friends I ever had in the world."
It was Giammati who banished Rose after a six-month investigation by John Dowd, a Washington attorney hired by baseball to dig into Rose’s gambling. And Giammati died of a massive heart attack shortly after banishing Rose.
"I understand the feeling here in Cincinnati, I do. I’m sensitive to it, as a matter of fact," he added. "I’ve said, because I am the judge and it is a matter under advisement, that it is inappropriate for me to say any more about it."
But there were more questions and Selig did try to answer as best he could, although it is evident nothing is imminent involving Rose’s status. It will be status quo, still banned, when Selig leaves office before the start of next year.
"How it ends, eventually, I do not know," he said. "I’ve taken it seriously, talked to a lot of people. It is one of those situations that is difficult and you wished it didn’t exist. I have to think about this. I have five months to think about it."
Selig later said all he thinks about in matters pertaining to baseball, is what he believes is in the best interest of the game. And he said Cincinnati is the only city that ever brings up Pete Rose to him.
"I understand that and I understand why," he said. "It is what it is and as commissioner you have to do what you think is right and that’s what I always try to do. And whatever you do, somebody is going to be mad and the commissioner has to live with it."
Selig was asked about compassion and forgiveness and if he thought that he could make history by pardoning Rose.
Selig is a historian. He was late a few minutes to the press conference because he became engrossed in his tour of the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum. And he will teach history at the University of Wisconsin and write a book after his retirement.
"All factors enter my mind on this," said Selig. "I’ve spent many hours talking to people, a lot of players, some of whom I’m very close to. I’ve spent an enormous mount of time on this. And in the end I’m going to say what I say to people on any subject. I have to do what I’ve always been trained to do. Do what I think — what I think — is in the best interest of this sport. That transcends everything else."
And ever since 1989, when Rose signed the liftetime ban, baseball has believed that in the best interest of the sport, Rose belongs on the outside looking in.