Karl Lindholm: Pete Rose and the Hall: Do it if you must, just get it over with
I am not Pete Rose’s biggest fan.
Actually I can’t stand the man. He’s repulsive.
Go ahead. Reinstate him, put him in the Hall of Fame, and be over with it. Just do it. I’ll get used to it.
Pete was a great player, more or less, and deserves to be in, I guess. He’s not as great as he and his supporters think: his most celebrated attribute was superfluous hustle — sprinting to first on a walk, sliding head-first.
He was a fairly big guy (210 pounds) who hit singles and wasn’t a base stealer. He played more games and went to bat more times (and made more outs) than any player in the long history of the game. The last three or four of his 24 years in the game constituted shameless record chasing.
But these are quibbles. He does indeed have more base hits than anyone else in Major League Baseball history, and that in itself merits his inclusion in the Hall.
Every day, in all of his 3,562 games, Pete co-existed with the notice of the gambling prohibition posted in every clubhouse, Major League Baseball Rule 21(d):
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.
Above the game, or too stupid to respect the rule’s validity, he ignored it, and eventually paid the price. The Dowd Commission Report, which formed the basis for Pete’s suspension in 1989 documented a man addicted to gambling who bet “chronically” and “recklessly.” His suspension by Commissioner Bart Giamatti was entirely justified.
Yet for the next 15 years Pete denied his guilt in forum after forum; in every interview, in every conversation, he issued adamant denials, until, of course, the publication of his autobiography in 2004, and its reported million-dollar advance.
So he did an about-face, a “never mind,” and acknowledged the truth of all the charges against him. He not only bet on baseball, but bet on his own team, the Reds, “every night,” he admitted.
Time has passed since his banishment, 25 years. Pete’s advocates cite that passage of time as an argument for forgiveness and reinstatement to his rightful place in baseball.
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred is considering calling an end to Pete’s suspension. The self-described “Hit King” will be allowed to participate in this summer’s All-Star Game in Cincinnati, his hometown growing up, and the location of his greatest success playing for the Big Red Machine.
Earlier this spring, without objection from the commissioner, Pete accepted a position as a guest baseball analyst for Fox Sports.
So it looks like Pete’s headed toward reinstatement. It begs the question: What has he done to deserve it?
Is it fair of us to have expected some gesture of redemption? Has Pete learned anything from his long exile? Has he changed?
There’s no evidence that he has. Certain phrases you never hear connected with Pete Rose, such as “service to others.”
He spent five months in jail in 1991 for failing to pay taxes on his memorabilia sales and winnings at the track.
On a number of occasions since 1998, Pete has appeared in WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) Wrestlemania events, earning himself induction into that Hall of Fame (“Celebrity Wing”).
Pete also starred in a short-lived reality show with his fiancée Kiana Kim (Pete is twice divorced), called “Pete Rose: The Hits and the Mrs.” Kim Kardashian has nothing on Pete Rose.
He makes about a million dollars a year being Pete, signing autographs and selling memorabilia — he puts in about 20 days a month at Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
If he were to be reinstated, he contends the only job in baseball he could possibly take on the field is “as a manager.” He told Sports Illustrated Editor (and a Rose biographer) Kostya Kennedy last year, “You can’t be a coach and make the kind of money I need to live the way I want to live.”
Does being a creep disqualify him for the Hall of Fame? Do you have to be a moral exemplar to be in the Hall of Fame?
The Hall is hardly full of characters of impeccable rectitude. Pete can be Captain of the Moral Turpitude wing of the Hall of Fame.
Only his sin is worse than the others. He violated the integrity of the game.
Pete’s sin is baseball’s cardinal sin. Ever since eight White Sox players conspired with gamblers to fix the World Series in 1919, baseball has viewed gambling by its principals as a capital offense.
This past weekend, I participated for a “Coming of Age” ceremony for a number of Addison County young people. The statement of beliefs of one teenager included this value: “If we mess up, I believe we must make up for what we have done.”
Too bad Pete never came of age.
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