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.