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A Rose by any other name, mostly unprintable.

 

Pete Rose apologists, this one’s for you.

Yes, you, the guy evangelizing for Pete Rose’s immediate induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame between slurps of domestic beer in Any Dive, USA. You, the guy who is right by virtue of breathing and wouldn’t recognize objective facts if you inhaled the Oxford English Dictionary along with your nachos, guac and processed cheese. You, who still drinks from the cracked tubing of  a beer infused, souvenir batting helmet. Look, rummy, Pete Rose’s career statistics are not in question so I won’t reproduce the back of his baseball card here, except to say that as the career hits leader, former MVP, owner of  three World Series rings and a Series MVP award, he is  certainly deserving of induction strictly on career achievement. Not happening though, Beer Bong.

The Dowd Report, all 225 pages of it, contains information from Ron Peters and Paul Janszen, two known associates of Charlie Hustle.  The report concluded that Rose bet on Major League games in 1985, 1986 and 1987 with an average wager of $10,000. The real problem? Rose placed those bets as manager of the Cincinnati Reds, 52 games in 1987 alone. There is one reason and only one reason that Rose should  never be holding a Hall of Fame plaque. If players or managers are betting on games they are competing in, then fans have reason to doubt if players are giving their full effort.

Yes, a betting line from Las Vegas comes out every morning. There are five dollar a throw office pools during March Madness and serious betting from some unsavory quarters otherwise. The Super Bowl is the largest betting day of the year and I admit that sports are far from pure and that wagering is a reality. That said, when players, managers or coaches are texting their bookies too, then the unspoken rule of any competitive endeavor, that players are making their best effort to win, is in question and you have no game worth watching in that event. The clip below is Bart Gianmatti, the late Commissioner who banned Rose from the Hall for life. Giamatti refers here to the Dowd Report, the official finding that Rose bet on baseball while manager of the Cincinnati Reds.

Shoeless Joe Jackson was banned for life after accepting money during the Black Sox debacle of 1919. The eight implicated White Sox were cleared in a court of law but banned permanently by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis for the integrity of the game. In the 1960’s, the Great Connie Hawkins was banned from the NBA for most of his playing career on collusion charges. He was eventually cleared but his great skills were largely missed by NBA fans.  He was banned on hearsay, was questioned by New York police without a lawyer present and he eventually sued the league and played for the Phoenix Suns and other teams after starring in the A.B.A. I add this because any athlete can be accused of collusion and the charge should not be made without drop dead proof. The evidence against Pete Rose cannot be refuted because the FBI has his betting slips.  On August 24, 1989, Rose was banned from baseball and he even admitted that he had been treated fairly during the investigation.

In February of 1991, The National Baseball Hall of Fame instituted a rule reading; “Any player on baseball’s ineligible list shall not be an eligible candidate for induction.” Rose was once quoted as saying; “Id be willing to bet you, if I were a betting man, that I have never bet on baseball.” There are many characters in the Hall of Fame but character itself needs to be on the ballot if it’s printed there or not. People hated Ty Cobb and he was known to spike opponents but unstinting hard work lit his path to Cooperstown.  Any apostle for Rose residing there one day is making his case that a player or manager may compete with an agenda other than doing his very best to win. Maybe the only real sport is betting itself but for those who who still value honest competition and for everyone who was told that competing with basic values was important, Pete Rose needs to stop whining at the Hall of Fame doors. They should douse him with a hose and maybe he could go chase firetrucks down Main Street. The giant asterisk on Pete’s back will at least give the firemen a good target.

Rose should not be pitied but his physical abilities were not enhanced by the cream and the clear. At least he’s got that over Bonds and McGuire. Other performance enhancers have been used in the game for decades but I draw the line at accelerating the body’s ability to grow muscle at an unnatural rate and Brady Anderson going from seven home runs one year to 50 taters the next is simply not acceptable. Is that an arbitrary standard? Maybe, but what’s next, robotic players, made of titanium, with fantasy league statistics programmed into their electronic brains?

For the evangelical Rose apologist, there is no case to be made once the drinks are drained and the tab settled. If honest effort and integrity are not found between the white lines, then the sporting industrial complex is based on a lie that every kid with a ball and bat was told they could believe. Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame? Say it ain’t so. May it never be said at all.

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