Could Now Be the Time for Charlie Hustler
No I didn’t misspell the headline. Pete Rose spent 24 years as a player in the big leagues running out walks, diving head first instead of sliding, endearing himself to millions who loved the game.
After he retired as a player, possibly the most popular Reds player ever, he went on to manage the team. He spent those three years betting on baseball, then 15 more years lying about it, alienating himself from the millions who loved the game.
In 1989, then commissioner Fay Vincent banned Rose from baseball for life, making him ineligible for induction into baseball’s hall of fame.
Ever since, it’s been one of the most debated subjects among fans: should Peter Edward Rose, Sr make it to the Hall of Fame. I have changed my mind repeatedly about it. I mention it now because Rose has once again officially asked for reinstatement and new commissioner Rob Manfred has said he will consider it.
No one can argue that Rose is not qualified as a player. He has more base hits than anyone in history: 4,256 of them. In 24 years, he hit .303 lifetime. He had more than 200 hits in a season 11 times.
He played in 14 post-season series, including six World Series, and had a .321 lifetime average. He was a key member of the Big Red Machine team of the 70’s that won three World Series titles.
He was a perennial All Star, selected at three different positions. And he played in an era when the only steroid players consumed was wheat germ.
But he bet on baseball, a lot. As the manager of the Reds, he bet on his own team. After the Black Sox scandal that nearly destroyed major league baseball in 1919, the one cardinal rule in the game was never, ever, never bet on baseball.
Like Nixon before him, his even greater crime was lying about it.
It always amazed me that players that came after Rose never learned that lesson. In a society that was more than willing to forgive the crime, (does anyone remember Steve Howe?), all a player had to do was admit he did wrong, and beg for forgiveness.
But Rose lied and denied for 15 years before finally confessing in a tell-all book. Some of his biggest critics, including former teammate Johnny Bench, say he would still be denying it, except he had the chance to make millions selling the book.
Unfortunately for baseball, the next generation of steroid users like Mark McGuire and Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa - all players with Hall of Fame statistics, didn’t learn from the Rose lesson and lied about their use and nearly ruined the game again. None of these players now will ever make it to the Hall.
But what about Rose? The All-Star game is in Cincinnati this year. Will baseball forgive the greatest Red before the game? Tough bet either way!