Pete Rose has not appeared on his own Topps card since Major League Baseball banned him in 1989. Any player on the permanently ineligible list is prohibited from being included in any licensed MLB product. And that doesn't only go for the picture on the front and the "complete batting record" on the back, apparently.
Author Rob Harris of Chicagoside noticed that any mention of Rose's name has been scrubbed from Topps first new set of cards for 2013 — even when its inclusion seems organic.
He writes about the '13 set:
On the back of each card, wedged between each player’s personal information and his “Complete Major and Minor League Batting Record,” there’s a little line labeled “Career Chase.” On every card, whether the player is a living legend or a rookie, there is a sentence indicating how close that player is to reaching one of the game’s big records.
So, for example, it says on the card for Paul Konerko that his 422 career home runs "are 340 shy of Barry Bonds’ record of 762." Everybody in the set gets a blurb like this. "Player 'X' is 4,000 shy of Nolan Ryan's record, or Cy Young's, etc." Only, this is what it says on the card of A.J. Pierzynski:
I guess it's not Pete Rose's record anymore! It would be one thing if none of the record holders were named on any of the cards. Then nobody would have noticed Pete Rose's name not being there for hits. Harris did get Topps to comment, though:
Clay Luraschi, a spokesman for Topps, called the omission of Rose “a simple decision” but declined to elaborate. When pressed, he repeated that it was “plain and simple” that Rose’s name should not appear on cards.
So it appears to be related to MLB ban and not to, say, a dispute over licensing monies (even though players get paid through their union, not the league, when it comes to their likeness, and Rose would seem to be in good standing with the MLBPA). Topps wants to keep its license with MLB, and that's obviously understandable. It also might be taking Rose's ban a little far.
(And before you EVEN bring it up: Yes, Barry Bonds' name has been associated with PEDs and he's been punished for it by the BBWAA when it comes to the Hall of Fame vote. But he hasn't been punished by MLB. He's not ineligible for anything — like Rose, or the Black Sox guys. So he can be on cards, according to the rules.)
UPDATE: Has Topps ever so obviously scrubbed Rose's name before? @Nightowlcards came across this from 2010:
No mention of stats that Rose leads in — hits, doubles, runs, walks, at-bats. It's not proof of anything, but it's a little curious. And much more subtle. This is how to omit Pete Rose without letting on you're doing it.
UPDATE II: Rose's name somehow slipped through the cracks in this 2006 Topps card of Shawn Green:
A slip-up? Or has there been a change in policy?
It seems like Topps could have used some creative license. Not producing new Pete Rose cards is one thing — after all, that's the rule. And not making it so obvious that he's banned would have been OK, too. MLB can keep Pete Rose's plaque out of the Hall of Fame. But the league isn't going to leave Cooperstown because the museum still shows Pete Rose exhibits that include his memorabilia. The Hall of Fame still acknowledges Pete Rose happened. MLB probably isn't going to cut off Topps because Pete Rose's name is on the back of some cards.
Besides, scrubbing his name off the back — in this particular case — comes off as petty. And vengeful, from MLB's standpoint. OK, we get it, Pete Rose has been banned, you're all mighty and powerful.
Most of all, it's also a lie by omission. Pete Rose happened. Remember?
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