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Pete Rose Stains The Game Once More

Though it was more than 21 years ago – September 11, 1985, to be exact – I can remember the moment like it happened yesterday. Cameras flashing throughout the sellout crowd of 50,000-plus at Riverfront Stadium. Eric Show on the mound for San Diego. Pete Rose steps to the plate with a chance to pass Ty Cobb and become baseball's all-time hit king. Rose rifles Show's delivery into left field for a base hit, and history was made.

I was sitting in the left field seats for a perfect view on that night. Raised near Dayton, about an hour from Cincinnati, I attended dozens of Cincinnati Reds games, though I've been a Red Sox fan since early childhood. When I saw Pete Rose break Ty Cobb's record, I figured that Rose would retire at season's end and talk about the dramatic occasion five years later at his Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown. Of course, we know what would happen in the subsequent years. Rose was banned from baseball for findings in the Dowd Report that he bet money on the game, a charge that Charlie Hustle denied until 2004.

For several years, Rose has humiliated himself with comments which demonstrated that he truly does not understand the magnitude of his transgressions against baseball, and on the integrity of the game. He even signed an array of baseballs that read, "I'm Sorry I Bet on Baseball." Yesterday, on ESPN Radio's Dan Patrick Show of all places, Rose made another alarming comment. He told Patrick and Keith Olbermann that when he managed, he bet on his team, the Reds, every night. He justified this by telling listeners that, by betting on the Reds every night, it ensured he would do everything in his power to help the Reds win.

Rose just doesn't get it. The issue is not for which team he placed his bets, but the fact that he made the bets in the first place. True, it would be worse if he bet against the Reds and made managerial moves to enhance the probability that his team would lose – like keeping closer John Franco in the bullpen and off the mound with a one-run lead in the ninth inning. Still, that he bet only for the Reds to win does not eliminate the lack of integrity that Rose exhibited.

Rose's actions are sad and troubling. I am a Red Sox fan, but I am also a fan of the game. I write about the game, relish baseball's history and feel proud about the importance it has in the past and present of American culture. This is why I am repulsed by guys like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, and Sammy Sosa – players who are stains on the game and to themselves. Rose is a stain on the game as well. There is no way he should be allowed to manage another game, and it is difficult to justify ever permitting his enshrinement in the Hall of Fame, which is a genuine shame since he is one of baseball's all-time greats.

Though it is true that the Hall of Fame is adorned with players who had their problems – Babe Ruth, Ferguson Jenkins, and Cobb are examples – but these were actions off the field, not on it. Technically, if Rose did wager on the Reds every game when he managed, he did so for a period as a player. Remember, he was a player-manager for part of the 1984 season and all of the 1985 and 1986 seasons.

So kudos to Rose for not betting against his team, but shame on him for wagering for his team and the sport in which he managed at all.

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  • MCH

    “Though it is true that the Hall of Fame is adorned with players who had their problems – Babe Ruth, Ferguson Jenkins, and Cobb are examples – but these were actions off the field, not on it.”

    Not totally true. Ty Cobb once went into the stands during a game and punched a handicapped guy senseless.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Exactly. Off the field.

  • MCH

    During a game, in uniform.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    The high school sports writer (and “veteran” cyber stalker) from the Helena Independent Record doesn’t get sarcasm, Suss…

  • sal m

    pete once said, “i’d walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball.” that statement can be amended to read, “i’d walk through hell in a gasoline suit to get into the hall of fame.”

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    “So kudos to Rose for not betting against his team,”

    Are you trying to say that you believe Rose now ? This is the same guy who said he never bet on baseball. You can’t trust anything that comes out of his mouth, and unless I hear from all his bookies, there’s no reason to believe him.

    He shouldn’t be allowed into the Hall during his lifetime. I’m fine with it afterwards as long as his ban for gambling on baseball is the first line of info about his career

  • MCH

    “The high school sports writer (and “veteran” cyber stalker) from the Helena Independent Record doesn’t get sarcasm, Suss…”

    But I know a phony when I see one.

  • Rose colored glasses

    He was a great player. The betting was stupid. Fine him and let him in the HOF.

  • http://www.britannica.com Tom

    1968 31-game winner Denny McLain, himself no stranger to gambling, says this today on the Encyclopaedia Britannca blog:

    ‘The real tragedy concerning Pete is that Cooperstown could have been “Pete Rose Town”–he was that good, and we all will always respect him for his hustle and ability to win. I’d like to believe that I loved the game as much as Pete did. I loved every aspect of it–the challenge of the hitters, the Olivas, Yaz, Killebrew, Powell, the Robinsons, Frank and Brooks, and many others.

    ‘Let’s keep one other thing in mind, too: Pete was the best at the time when the game was the best ever. Few will argue that Pete’s era was not the best of all time–with the best competition, the best pitching, and the best players playing the game.’

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    No one says he wasn’t a great player, but he doesn’t get a pass for that. Just because he is the all-time hits leader doesn’t make so it okay that he gambled along the way. Do supporters who want Rose in the hall now want to set an achievement goal that when reached allows a player to gamble on games? Maybe batting average or home runs? And don’t forget the pitchers so come up with an acceptable ERA or strikeouts in a season. Because that’s where your thinking is headed. Any player who gambles on baseball ruins the sport’s integrity.

  • Rilaly

    I agree with El Bicho, it’s the precedent of Pete Rose’s ban that must remain throughout history. The next time a bookie calls a player or vice versa, the player may be likely to go through with it, because he doesn’t want to end up like Pete Rose.

    I used to be in the camp that said that Pete should be inducted with a bold disclaimer, but the precedent is far more important than that.