This Rose has many thorns
January 8, 2004
It is now undeniable, through his own admittance, that Charlie Hustle did a lot more hustling in his Major League Baseball career than just bolting around the base paths with hellish ferocity.
As he has “dramatically” admitted to the world in a television interview and in his new book, Pete Rose undoubtedly bet on baseball while playing and managing the game. So now, all over again, for the umpteenth time, we have to listen to the never-dying debate on whether he should be allowed entry into baseball’s Hall of Fame, and also if he should be allowed to manage again.
As I wrote in a past column, in which I admitted my love for betting on sports (although my “addiction” is far less extensive than what Rose has done), I still contend that Rose, the table setter for the Big Red Machine of the 70s, belongs in the Hall of Fame for two reasons:
— In an age when we detest more athletes for taking plays off than revere them for hustling and playing the game like it’s meant to be played, Rose should be honored for what he represented on the field. He is the quintessential model of the effort that a player owes to himself, his team and his fans (even though he arguably went a little too far when he basically ruined catcher Ray Fosse’s career after a colliding with him at home plate in the 1970 All-Star game, giving the National League a 5-4 victory in extra innings).
— But, the biggest reason is the gaudy numbers he put up in a 24-year career, in which he earned Rookie of the Year honors in 1963, won a MVP award in 1973, won three batting titles, and played in the most career games, had the most career at-bats, and set the mark for most hits in a career – with 4,256. He also played on six World Series teams, three of which won the championship, and he posted a .321 career post-season average.
One has to take a deep breath when they read stats like that. They’re off the charts. They’re out of this world, and they would make players like Ty Cobb proud. In fact, in a baseball fantasy world, Cobb would let Rose play on his team because of the way he played the game, and that is saying a lot. Come to think of it, Rose would have fit in nicely with all the drinkers, bettors and womanizers of baseball’s past.
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Rose is in his own category, and after baseball officials give in and let him in the Hall, they can step back and set a precedent. When the dust settles, it will be a positive situation for baseball. They can use the Rose situation to set up guidelines that will never again result in a gray area for potential Hall of Fame candidates.
They can say to future baseball players, “If you break this or these rules, you will not be eligible for the Hall of Fame. End of story.” It will save sports fans time reading about such issues, and it will save sports writers time writing about such issues.
To add to the dilemma, the Cincinnati Reds have shown interest in making Rose a manager again. Hey, look on the bright side, ESPN.com will always have a Rose-related question to throw at the public when it runs out of poll ideas, right?
Seriously, let’s stop wasting time and put an end to it already.
It’s funny how the sports world hassles over such petty things when there are such simple solutions. Like a baby that wants to slug down his fifth cookie of the day with his third soda of the day, just present Rose an ultimatum.
“Look junior, you can have the cookie or the soda, but not both. But you have to have milk with the cookie. Or you can have the soda, but you have to finish your dinner first.” Whatever.
Either let Rose in the Hall of Fame or let him be a manager, but not both. Let it be his decision entirely. Let him hold a dramatic press conference if you have to, in which he spills his guts about the sleepless nights that led up to his decision. Most likely, he’ll choose to enter the Hall of Fame, and the sports world can finally forget about it and move on.
If he chooses to manage, he can let his addiction get the best of him again, start betting on games, and then it will be completely unanimous that Rose is indeed a slime ball. The baseball world can tar and feather him, ride him out of Cincinnati on a rail and lynch him all at once.
Or another reasonable solution (which I think has already been recommended) is granting him entry into the Hall, but only after he passes away, so that he never gets the satisfaction of seeing his shrine in Cooperstown. But then, do they let him manage in this case?
Who knows, but it’s a tired subject that needs closure.
Whatever the jury decides, Rose has already made a lasting impression on the game that will live on forever. He has left us a perfect model of how to play the game, but Pete Rose, the person and the athlete, is blemished and tarnished forever.
Rose’s imprint on baseball is ugly, but respectful, and his numbers alone warrant a place in the Hall of Fame.
But there is no reason to let Rose put on a uniform again and sit in the dugout. End of column.
Matt Brown is sports and outdoors reporter for the Sierra Sun.
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