Baseball’s Biggest Tragedy: Pete Rose

We have now arrived at the greatest Red of all-time. With Morgan, Robinson, and Bench off the board only one man remains. Baseball’s hit king, charlie hustle: it’s Pete Rose.

Perhaps the greatest hitter of all-time, he is known for the most prestigious record in baseball: more hits that anyone else in the history of the game.

Pete Rose said, “I’d walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball.” Pete loved the game. He gave each day his full effort because he believed that the game of baseball deserved it, and for all those who played with him, they found his love of the game infectious.

I need not post his stats from baseball reference or make an argument to justify his being placed as the greatest Red of all-time. Instead, I think I would be doing the Reds family an injustice if I did not take this opportunity to write about baseball’s biggest tragedy, Pete Rose not being in the Hall of Fame.

Pete’s manager for the Big Red Machine was Sparky Anderson. Anderson was as intense as any that have ever managed and does not throw around praise lightly. For Anderson to say, “Pete Rose is baseball” should mean something to not only Reds fans but to all who have ever loved this game.

As Pete Rose walked through downtown Cincinnati in 2010 before he was to make a rare appearance on field at Great American Ballpark to honor his record-breaking hit, fans from everywhere came up to Rose to show their support. Each lamented the one honor that has not been given to Rose: induction into the Hall of Fame. That night as Rose stood on first base and tipped his cap (Much like he did 25 years ago) Reds fans clapped, cheered, and gave Rose a standing ovation. The fans stood not because Rose was a great guy or even a guy that they always agreed with, but because he gave more to baseball then anyone has ever done during their playing career. The fans know that Rose has made mistakes in his life yet the chants of hall of fame still rang from the grandstands of Great American Ballpark.

Bud Selig should have taken note. Baseball is played for the fans, and through wars, depressions, and recessions baseball has been there for those that love it. Pete Rose loves it.

After being honored on the field, Rose teared up as he said, “I love the fans, I love the game of baseball, and I love Cincinnati baseball.”

After the ceremony to honor Rose, ESPN’s Buster Olney summed everything up perfectly. No one has ever been sent to Cooperstown based on “sportsmanship” or “character.”

Much debate has now arisen over whether Rose is more deserving of the Hall than players who have been linked to steroids. The simple answer is obvious: yes. Rose played the game on his own merit. Rose worked harder and played harder than anyone else who has ever played the game. Each hit was earned; each head first slide was a show of heart, and in every game his team won, Rose played a pivotal role.

Pete Rose never took a drug to improve his performance, never needed a steroid to heal from an injury, and never lied to Congress. Yet his name remains left off of the Hall of Fame ballot while names like Palmeiro, Bonds, McGwire, and Pettitte will be placed on the ballot when they are eligible.

The fact that players that cheated the game and cheated other players, other teams, and the fans will be placed on the ballot over Rose is quite simply an embarrassment for the game that we and Rose love so much. Let me be clear: Rose should never be able to manage again or take a job with any Major League team, and Rose should continue to have to live with the consequences of the terrible choices he made because there is no place in baseball for gambling. However, taking steroids means cheating to achieve whatever you can in your career, and Rose got every hit based off his own hard work and talent.

Rose has made as many mistakes in his life as the Wall Street Big Wigs of the early 2000’s, but as they have been forgiven so should Rose. Let’s forgive but not forget. As fans, we can no more disown Mr. Rose than we can disown a member of our own family who has made mistakes in his or her life.

Compared to the harm and shame that so many players have brought to baseball in recent years (hello Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds), Rose’s punishment is almost a crime itself. So unfair the punishment compared to others that Rose should be apologized to for a failure by baseball to punish those who have actually harmed the game.

Now around the age of 70, it is time for baseball to back off of its most punished man. Rose has been shamed, and Major League Baseball has made it clear that it will not stand for betting on the game. There will always be a place in Pete Rose’s heart for the game that he has always loved, and it is time for there to be a place in the Hall for Pete Rose!