Let’s be clear here: It’s not the Hall of Integrity. It’s the Hall of Fame. Fame comes in all sorts of ways and not all famous people who have been given awards are “legit,” so to speak. There are way too many people in history who were plain jerks or failures as human beings that were brilliant at what they did. Fame is just that: fame. To attach any moral codes to it is hypocritical.
So let’s move on about Pete Rose.
If it were up to me, character would be among the primary considerations when bestowing an award on someone. But this would be imply we live in a perfect world inhabited by perfect beings.
So when it comes to the Baseball Hall of Fame (or any Hall for that matter) and Rose, what I’m saying is that we need to separate the character from the accomplishment. In the event that both happen to mesh, that only reflects well on the person and in some cosmic way humanity will reward that person.
Pete Rose is one of the most perplexing athletes of the 20th century. Subjectively, without a doubt, he is among the greatest, most intense players in the history of baseball. He was the essence of the Cincinnati Reds that won back-to-back championships in the 1970s. Objectively, his stats speak for themselves.
As a human being, let’s just say we won’t be pointing to him in a picture one day and saying to our kids, “See son, this is who I want you to model yourself under.”
At the heart of the story is a person with a gambling addiction who bet on games as a manager. Not as a player, but as a manager – as in after his career as a player was over. Not only that, he bet on his own team. Worse, he lied about it for nearly two decades. Most people in denial tend to do that.
Now the truth comes out of nowhere and it’s not pretty at all. It simply reveals that Rose is a flawed human with utter lack of judgment and decency. He could have averted all this had he come clean from the start. Who knows? Maybe he would have been inducted into the Hall by now. Mind you, baseball writers are not exactly a forgiving or sometimes enlightened bunch.
In Pete Rose we see where excellence meets vice. Where vice overcame virtue. It’s easy to look at Rose and think that his actions were selfish and arrogant. Of course they were. But he has a disease of a gambling variation. His explanation and reasoning that he bet on his team every single time to win because he believed in them rings hollow.
Still, we shouldn’t be negative. It may have taken him almost two decades but it does suggest he realizes he made a mistake.
Did anyone catch Katie Couric on CBS Evening News asking that reporter if his chances of getting into the hall are “kaput”? All that money and she could not have come up with a better word?
When it comes to Pete Rose the baseball player, we need to disassociate him from Pete Rose the human being when considering the Hall. I know that many other sports’ Halls of Fame consider character, but let’s be frank: it’s not foolproof. It’s such a dicey thing. Keeping him out is lousy, considering who is in there already, some cheats, gamblers, and racists alike. The Baseball Hall of Fame is not a place where we look for Renaissance Men.
In contemplating Rose’s Hall of Fame status, we should judge him based on his accomplishments on the field and nowhere else. It’s black and white. Going beyond this to prevent him from getting in is wrong. Questioning and even chastising him for his poor deeds is justified and should be discussed. But isn’t that separate issue altogether?
There is, perhaps, an opportunity in all this. We can learn from Pete Rose. Astute parents can teach their kids about his mistakes. There are many life lessons in his story. It’s the only way to help combat this addiction – or any other addiction for that matter.
Aside from all this, Pete Rose is simply a baseball player who earned his place in the pantheon of great players.