February 4 is the 21st anniversary of a date best left forgotten in Reds history. On this date in 1991, the twelve members of the board of directors of the Baseball Hall of Fame voted that all individuals barred from baseball by the Commissioner of Baseball. This decision was almost forced by Pete Rose himself in an attempt to insulate the dignity of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. The story is a sad one but it is worth repeating.
After setting the record for the most hits in baseball history, Pete Rose went on to manage the Cincinnati Reds teaching his hard nose style of baseball to any who would listen. He managed the team from 1984-1989 when he accepted a voluntary ban from the game in order that Bart Giamatti, the new commissioner at the time would not reveal what he knew. Rose left the game on August 25, 1989 and just 7 days later Giamatti died of a massive heart attack at just 51 years of age. Fay Vincent, who stepped in to the Commissioner’s job, set a standard by viewing Giamatti’s decision as unassailable.
As time has passed Rose finally acknowledged he did bet on baseball but he only put money on the Reds to win. This seems at face value to be stupid but consider who we are talking about. Pete Rose does not accept losing as a viable outcome of any game he is involved in. He simply rejects the notion. Every manner bets on baseball in a manner of speaking. They are betting their career on the outcome of each game, each series and each season. Pete Rose just took this the next foolish step forward and placed his money where his mouth was. Even the Dowd investigative report, commissioned by the Commissioner, claims no evidence exists that Rose ever bet on his team to win. In my mind that separates Rose from damaging the game and leaves him simply as a confident moron.
Two wrongs do not make a right, but Rose would not be alone as a member of the Hall of Fame who has done foolish and horrible things. There is no sense revisiting the sins of others who are in the Hall but I will at least visit the case of another on the banned list: Shoeless Joe Jackson. Jackson, as a member of the Chicago White Sox from admitted to accepting money to throw games. Ironically in his case, he set a World Series record at the time by recording 12 hits. In addition he was charged with no errors and hit for a .375 batting average.
Another irony faces me every time I listen to a Reds radio broadcast and I am bombarded with advertisements from Belterra Casino. There is nothing wrong with the Reds benefiting from casino advertising dollars but it is odd considering the fervent way in which baseball has attempted to maintain the untainted purity of the game.
In my mind, the powers that be in baseball are eagerly awaiting the end of Pete Rose’s life. At that time, assured that they can paint the ending as they see fit, they will grant Rose a reprieve and place him in the Hall free from fear that he would make any who support his bid embarrassed to be affiliated with whatever crass bid to make money he might employ.
There is no right or wrong answer to this problem. He is Pete Rose. He deserves a place among the greatest in the game. He will embarrass you when he gets there if he is alive if only by wearing one of those hideous hats.
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