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Mixed Emotions: The Continuing Story of Pete Rose


In the thirty one years of my existence, I've met my share of actors, rock stars, television personalities, athletes and even a president. I'm lucky to say that most of them have been very courteous, if not gracious. In saying that, there's always one bad apple out of every good bunch that spoils things for everyone. Lenny Dykstra wasn't the most pleasant guy during my bat boy days, and former 76ers "guard" Greg Graham was so pathetic he doesn't even count. As a result, my bad apple gets the nod over the "poser" of a hoops star and the now bankrupt "Dude." And the winner is...........

Pete Rose

Now, anyone who knows me understands that if someone doesn't like me, it is pretty much their problem. But my encounters with Pete Rose kind of hurt. Anyone who knows me also knows I wasn't exactly blessed with tremendous strength or natural athletic ability, much like Pete Rose. Back in the early 1980's, it was the Pete Rose sticker in the old Topps Sticker Book that my sister and I always looked forward to getting.

To us, Pete Rose was a Phillie. Not some guy who played for the Cincinnati Reds for sixteen years, and who only wound up playing five of his twenty four years in the majors in a Phillies uniform. Watching Mike Schmidt play was absolutely exciting, but I couldn't relate to a 6’2’’ beast who mashed home runs as if he wasn't even trying. I could relate to Pete Rose. I was the guy who spent hours in the batting cage until my hands practically bled. I was the guy who ran to first base no matter what. I was the guy taking ground balls in my yard in the snow. When I saw guys bigger than me with twice the natural ability just loafing around, it really pissed me off. To me, working hard was the only only option I had. THAT is why I loved watching Pete Rose.  The 1982 Pete Rose Topps card I USED to carry in my wallet.

So when Pete was appearing with George Foster at the Shore Mall in the summer of 1994, I HAD to be there to meet him. George Foster was first at the autograph table. Surprisingly, he was one of the nicest athletes I had ever met. I’d heard stories that Foster's disposition didn't exactly remind anyone of the loveable Dale Murphy. He once got himself released from the Mets because he refused to leave the bench during an all-out brawl with the Reds, which featured former Phil John Denny attempting a sumo wrestling move on Gary Carter while his back was turned. Nonetheless, he stopped and talked with me and my family for about five minutes. When I look at that autographed picture, it still brings a smile to my face.

It was then time to approach Pete. Finally, I was face to face with the man who helped the Phillies to (at that time) their only World Series title. The man who inspired me to dig, dig, and dig some more no matter what the odds were. The man with more hits than anyone who had ever played the game. The guy who I believed in, despite his trials and tribulations concerning his banishment from the sport he once claimed he would "run through hell in a gasoline suit" to play. My heart was about to explode out of my chest. The moment had arrived.

And for no reason whatsoever, Pete was an arrogant, self serving, egotistical five-star jack ass. He even gave my dad a hard time while he was trying to take a pitcture of me.

I was so young at the time, so I guess it really didn't sink in until later. Or maybe I didn't want to realize it. Besides, I was 16 years old, and since there was no baseball that summer because of the strike, I shifted my attention to girls and music. I ran into Pete again almost ten years later at a local car dealership. I thought to myself "I'll give him another chance. Anyone can have a bad day." Turns out, I caught Pete Rose on two bad days and I'll leave it at that. I was older, a bit wiser and not as naive as that kid back in 1994. Part of me wanted to take the ball he autographed and....I'll let you use your imagination.

It wasn't until early 2004 however, when I truly realized how desperate and pathetic Pete Rose's life had become. That was when he FINALLY came clean and admitted that he’d bet on baseball. Keep in mind this was fifteen years after he’d been issued a lifetime ban from the game. Coincidentally, Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley were announced as that year's Hall of Fame Inductees, a mere two days prior to Rose's admission.

Great timing Pete. Real classy. Nothing like releasing a book to make a fast dollar, and then stealing the spotlight from two terrific athletes who are having their moments in the sun. You were going to have a day just like those guys, before you blew everything you had. In doing what he did, Rose let down some of his biggest supporters. People like Schmidt, myself, and countless others. Oh, the price of arrogance. If Rose had held himself accountable twenty summers ago in 1989, or even showed a slight bit of repentance for what he did, I'd probably not be writing this article right now.

Oddly enough, Rose was in Vegas signing his life away last February across the street from the hotel I was staying in for my thirtieth birthday. Part of me in my "beverage induced haze" wanted to go right over there and tell him how much of an idiot I think he is for screwing up his life and disappointing the millions of people who believed in him. However, I decided it was best to take the high road. To this day, I'm glad I did. After all, Pete Rose's worst enemy has always been Pete Rose. Would you even set your pinky toe near a casino if you were him? Exactly.  In life, you have heroes. Sometimes, your heroes drop the ball.  It's how they handle the adversity that builds their character and allows them to rise from the ashes. Rose's problem is that he dropped the biggest ball of them all in August of 1989, and he's been looking for it ever since.

Which brings us to the present. This weekend, Hall of Famer Hank Aaron allegedly voiced his opinion to Commissioner Bud Selig that he would like to see Rose enter the Hall of Fame. We could go on and on about the pros and cons of this. You could say he paid his dues, and that induction into Cooperstown is meant for his on-field accomplishments.

I'm not going to argue about the many players who have been given second and third chances despite violating the rules of baseball. This is more about Rose, and whether he is truly sorry for betting on baseball. Although Rose seemingly did not bet on the Cincinnati Reds while managing that team, any type of betting is considered the ultimate cardinal sin by almost everyone who has played the game. I'm glad I don't have to make that vote if the day ever comes. I honestly don't know what I would do. I think it's safe to say that I'm probably not the only one. Fifteen years ago, my answer would have been in favor of induction.

Let’s just say a lot of things can change over the course of fifteen years.


homepage photo: www.youbeenblinded.com

article photo: www.beckett.com



1:42 PM
Tue Jul 28 2009
Pete Rose article

Great article Joe........very passionate which makes for a good read! Mike Schmidt has always been my number one Phillie, always will be but I did have an interest in Pete Rose as well. I enjoyed his playing days and then when all the stuff went down with him I followed that as well. I was saddened that he took so long to admit his mistake. I was also upset with his complete lack of showing any type of remorse. He still gets defensive in any kind of interview where it is brought up.

I am torn in what should actually should be done at this point. His playing record tells me he should be in but is actions off the field tell me no way.!! Kids used to look up to him and these are not attributes I want any of my kids to make a part of there life.

Again Joe great article. Thanks.