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The Difference Between Pete Rose and Charlie Hustle


Pete Rose had two lives.Pete Rose photo: http://www.diablomag.com/images/Blogs/News%20and%20Community/10107109.jpg

One as a man who got the most hits in baseball history. The other was as a gambler who disgraced his reputation.


Homophones are words that have at least two meanings. Hustle is a homophone. It can mean:

1. To work energetically. Think about Rose grabbing the ball that popped out of Bob Boone's glove in the 1980 World Series.

2. It can also mean to commit fraud. Like betting on baseball while playing and managing.

Baseball fans continue to have such mixed feelings about Pete Rose because we have seen at least two sides of him.

Unique in so many ways, Rose's talent and drive were so far superior to his peers that he almost literally seemed superhuman. Problem was, Rose thought that as well, and it carried over to his off-the-field activities. Only Rose knows when he actually started betting on baseball. And not only did he bet, he unsuccessfully lied about it.

Oddly enough, Rose was warmly honored in Cincinnati on the 25th anniversary of him breaking Ty Cobb's all-time hit record this past weekend. I say oddly because this was the first time that Major League Baseball allowed Rose on the field in eleven years. The last time being in Atlanta prior to Game Two of the 1999 World Series, when he was honored as part of an All-Century Team. Rose was also on a major league field in 2002, when former Reds owner Marge Schott held an alumni softball game during a final farewell to Riverfront Stadium.

If smart enough, most athletes could hold a regular job in the working world like we do. On the flip side, very few can hit a 100 mph fastball like Pete Rose once did. With that being said, maybe we really shouldn't judge what we would do if we in fact had Rose's talent. Perhaps a more fair comparison would be to look at Rose along with his peers. Whether it was on or off the field, very few players (if any) could duplicate the actions of Pete Rose.

It's rather suspicious that everyone in baseball claimed ignorance about Rose's gamblingPete Rose photo: http://www.stevefriess.com/podcast/peterose.jpg until the late 1980's. By that time he had broken Cobb's record and had lost his capacity to fill a stadium. Baseball has also claimed that it was unaware of steroids in the game until recent years. Were they REALLY unaware of the actions of these players who were filling stadiums with their nightly, videogamesque, home run displays?

Let's take baseball's claims (not Pete's) one step further. Is baseball unaware of any currently enshrined Hall of Famers who bet on baseball during their careers? Because that is basically the claim they are using to keep Rose out: because he broke their gambling rules. Understood and agreed. Chances are other inductees were not known to have violated these rules.

In all likelihood, most Hall of Famers did not bet on the game. But, none ever? Not one? Other than “Shoeless” Joe Jackson's  ban, the length of Rose's banishment seems to indicate a massive personality clash with the baseball gods. Rose was and still is a brash human being. If many fans feel that way about him, then it certainly isn't a stretch to believe that the baseball gods are put off by him as well. After all, how do most people react towards someone who has rubbed them the wrong way?

He is Pete Rose, the great ballplayer, and Charlie Hustle, the cheater. First we knew Rose the ballplayer, and whether he was on our team or not, we respected his accomplishments. Later, we got to know Charlie Hustle and were disillusioned. These two views are always present because they are both accurate.

The names Giamatti, Dowd, Vincent, Selig, and all of the other names associated with the fiasco Rose created will fade more easily over time than he will. A future group of baseball decision makers will have far fewer, if any, emotionally mixed feelings about who Rose was and what he did. They may very well value his baseball numbers more than his crib sheets, because they weren't personally involved in his story.

I will never forget my encounter with Rose. In the Spring of 1979, he was in his first year with the Phillies after having signed as a free agent and he appeared in an exhibition game against the Phillies' Reading double-A affiliate. At eleven years of age, I was lucky enough to be at that game. When the start of the game was delayed by rain, I was unexpectedly and incredibly taken into the Phillies' locker room.

When I saw Rose, I had no hesitation in telling him that I was trying to learn how to bat from the left-side (as I was a natural right-handed batter). He picked up a bat and took his famous stance right there in front of me. Rose then gave me the bat, went behind me and held his arms around mine, showing me how to stand just like him. Rose and all of my Phillies heroes are forever visible when I want to replay that memory again.

Will images of Rose's great accomplishments on the field be more compelling for future historians than replays about gambling conversations? Their own personal connection to his baseball statistics? Or to his gambling statistics? He is both Pete Rose and Charlie Hustle. But, Charlie Hustle's actions have never overcome Pete Rose's numbers. Those numbers will grow stronger in the future because they are that great.

Rose making the All-Century Team proves that his name should be penciled into an all-time lineup card. He can honestly be considered one of the eight best, non-pitchers, ever. People visit the Hall of Fame knowing they will see visual displays of extraordinary baseball talent. They don't go there expecting to see saints.

Peter Edward Rose was born (like every new baseball season) in the Spring: April 14th, 1941. His uniform number matched that date. He hit in 44 consecutive games in 1978. His lifetime batting average was .303. Rose ended his career with 4,256 hits, and he even named one of his sons Ty (Tyler) before passing Ty Cobb's hit record in 1985.

Charlie Hustle might have trouble getting into heaven.

But with those numbers, Pete Rose is going to get into the Hall of Fame.

Contact Sean O'Brien at seanboru68@yahoo.com


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Article Photo: http://www.stevefriess.com/podcast/peterose.jpg