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Pete Rose Hall of Fame debate still rages on 25 years later


It’s been almost 25 years since his lifetime ban from Major League Baseball, but Pete Rose’s lack of inclusion in the Baseball Hall of Fame remains just as heated of a debate as ever. Pete Rose photo: http://www.stevefriess.com/podcast/peterose.jpg


Rose hasn’t worn a uniform in an official major league game since August 1989. That’s almost just as long as his playing/managing career, which spanned from 1963 until his last days as manager of the Cincinnati Reds in August 1989. Some reading this are too young to remember Rose for anything other than his actions leading to his banishment. Further complicating matters over the years was Rose’s constant denial that he bet on the game he once claimed he “would walk through hell in a gasoline suit” to play.


For better or for worse, there hasn’t been a baseball player before or since who has taken the field that’s been able to match Rose’s blend of charisma, arrogance, talent, and zest for the game. Rose will turn 73 years old in April. While many have said he has served his time, there is an equal amount of detractors who say Rose violated baseball’s ultimate golden rule and that his ban should never be lifted. So who’s right or who’s wrong? Has Rose served his time? Should his ban be lifted?


Let’s break it down.


Why Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame:


Of course, Rose’s lifetime statistics speak for themselves. Nobody in the history of baseball will eclipse his all-time hit record of 4,256. There’s the 17 All-Star appearances at five different positions, an MVP award in 1973, three World Series rings, three batting titles, a career batting average of .303 and too many other notables to mention. The impact Rose had on his teams is well documented. He played on the winning side of more games than anyone who has ever played baseball. Sure, the 2008 Phillies have taken some of the spotlight from the 1980 world championship team in the sense their championship was more recent. But fact of the matter is, the Phillies win nothing in 1980 if not for Rose. Sure, Mike Schmidt was the MVP, Steve Carlton won the Cy Young, but Rose led the way. Schmidt will tell you that himself.


Was Rose cocky? You bet. Ever watch the highlight reels of Rose spiking a baseball at first base after a 4-6-3 double play? Pretty cool. At the same time, Rose also openly fraternized with opposing players before, sometimes during, and after games. In fact, Rose was the first player to congratulate a Padres rookie named Tony Gwynn after getting his first big league hit against the Phillies in 1982. Rose was also known for having a lasting impact on his teammates and was known for befriending young ball players, such as Phillies rookie Jeff Stone back in 1983. Furthermore, it’s no coincidence Mike Schmidt had the best years of his major league career with Rose as his teammate. Schmidt has never been short with his praise of Rose and how he helped make him a better ball player. This continued into his managing days. Several players, including Reds shortstop Barry Larkin, praised Rose at his Hall of Fame induction ceremony for helping him during his early years in the majors.


Of course, a lot has happened in between August 1989 and 2014. After years of putting up a front of surly indifference in regards to the fate that was handed down to him by new commissioner Bart Giamatti, Rose emotionally broke down at a roast held for him at a casino on the 25th anniversary of his record setting 4,192nd hit back in 2010. In essence, he came clean. About everything. How he lied to his family, friends, teammates, and fans about betting on baseball. Nobody publicly had ever seen that side of Pete Rose before. Many in attendance claim they saw a man truly sorry for what he has done, but is it too late?


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Why he shouldn't:


Well for starters, The Dowd Report. This was put together by John Dowd, a former prosecutor hired by commissioner Peter Ueberroth to investigate the claims that Rose was not only betting on baseball, but the other three professional sports as well. Depositions from Rose’s friends and bookies uncovered the fact that Rose was knee-deep in debt to some pretty vicious characters. Gambling ledgers and phone records were also collected during this time which further detailed Rose’s transgressions.Photo: capewood.blogspot.com


Then there’s Rose’s deposition, which runs over 350 pages in the report. In a pattern that by now surprises nobody, Rose lied under oath that he ever bet on Major League Baseball or ever associated with anybody who placed bets for him. He denied that betting slips found in his home contained his own writing. Dowd would ask Rose where he was during certain days and caught Rose lying with evidence that said otherwise. Yes, my head is spinning, too. Just an absolute mess.


When it came time for Rose to offer answers to Giamatti (who took over for Ueberroth during the Dowd’s investigation) regarding Dowd’s report, he chose to accept a lifetime ban from baseball and apply for reinstatement after a year. A little more than a week after he banned Rose, Giamatti dropped dead of a heart attack. Some have said Giamatti’s successor Fay Vincent held a grudge against Rose and further honored his late friend’s legacy by refusing to accept any reinstatement Rose would apply for. Oddly enough, the only thing Rose was probably applying for one year later was better living conditions, as he was sentenced to five months in prison for failing to show income for signing memorabilia, autographs, and winnings from horse racing.


As the years went by, Rose could have come clean at any time, but chose not to. It makes you wonder if he possibly showed the slightest bit of contrition in the early going that there would be at least talk of reinstatement. Instead, Rose used pomposity as a defense mechanism. For decades, his adamant denial had supporters in his corner (including Schmidt, who stood by Rose more than anybody) lobbying for his reinstatement to the game. For 15 years, Rose  basically chewed the head off of anybody who even insinuated that he was possibly guilty (including reporter Jim Gray, who completely and utterly went about things the wrong way in an attempt to get Rose to confess to his wrongdoings after the All-Century team ceremony in 1999).


Then in 2004, Rose finally came clean. Coincidentally, this was right on the heels of a book tour, as well as Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor’s Hall of Fame announcements. Not exactly what you would call great timing. That alone is proof that Rose just doesn’t get it, or at least didn’t get it at that time. And talk about not getting it, do you really think someone who has had their share of struggles with gambling should be spending the amount of time Rose does in Las Vegas signing autographs? The only other celebrities who have a better known association with that city are Elvis Presley and Wayne Newton. I’m sure Major League Baseball just loves seeing this. That’s the equivalent of an alcoholic going into a bar.


 Final thought:


The recklessness that enabled Pete Rose to shine on the baseball diamond also led to his demise. His competitive desires never wavered, even as his playing days were winding down. Betting on baseball as a manager (and I don’t care whether he only bet on the Reds to win) is the ultimate disgrace. A manager is an individual players look to for guidance. Has there ever been a worse example set by a manager or coach in the history of sports? Possibly, but it’s hard pressed to find one. You can walk into any major league clubhouse and see the following sign:


Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible. 


As great as Pete Rose was, nobody is exempt from those rules. To their credit, Major League Baseball has held a firm stance on Rose’s ban. With the exception of the All-Century Team ceremony and a few occasions at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark, Rose has not been a part of any celebrations associated with Major League Baseball, including the 1980 Phillies celebrations at Veterans Stadium or Citizens Bank Park. It’s a real shame for Rose as well as the fans. This clearly isn’t an issue of karma here. Rose dug his own grave and it kills him not to be part of the game he loves.


Commissioner Bud Selig possibly lifting Rose’s ban would certainly alter Selig’s shaky (at best) tenure (for better or for worse) in the minds of baseball pundits and fans alike. That being said, if Selig allows Rose back in baseball before his retirement, what example will that set for future wrongdoers? Would the precedent baseball set become undone? And even if baseball were to let Rose back in, would they have to sleep with one eye open and watch every move he made? And what would he even do if he was allowed back in the game? Remember, this is a guy who outwardly lied for the better part of a decade about violating one of baseball’s cardinal sins.


Do I personally think Rose is sorry? Yes, but is he sorry for Pete Rose, or is he sorry that he damaged the integrity of the game and let people down?  If you want to keep Pete Rose out baseball and the Hall of Fame, keep in mind several proven performance enhancing drug users are still participating in the game. Jose Canseco injected Mark McGwire with steroids, and he’s employed as a hitting coach. Look how Alex Rodriguez tainted the game of baseball, and not even he’s been banned for life. Is that fair?  Can baseball just forgive and forget with a handshake?


What do you think?


Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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First photo: www.stevefriess.com/podcast/peterose.jpg

Schmidt/Rose photo: capewood.blogspot.com