FROM MY SEAT 

FROM MY SEAT

THE ROSEY TRUTH The revelation that Pete Rose did, in fact, after all -- stop the presses, if you will -- bet on baseball is a perfect 21st-century news story: lots of volume and very little depth. Rose’s formal admission -- made public last week in his new book, My Prison Without Walls -- is akin to acknowledging that, yes, the Kennedys have chased a few skirts. Since his 1989 ban from the sport that made him a household name, the Hit King (as Rose likes to call himself) has denied vehemently that he (1) gambled on baseball, (2) did so on the very Cincinnati Red team he managed at the time, and (3) placed the alleged bets from major league clubhouses. (He admits to the first two in his book, still denies the third.) But the fact is, there’s no way Bart Giamatti -- the baseball commissioner in 1989, a former president of Yale, and a tried-and-true Boston Red Sox fan -- would suffer the smoke of an intense and very public investigation were there not an all-too-destructive fire to extinguish. It goes without saying that the stress of Rosegate played a role in the heart attack that killed Giamatti merely weeks after Rose’s ban was announced. Not until the 1995 trial of O.J. Simpson would we witness the kind of over-the-top denial in the face of damning evidence that Rose screamed from beyond baseball’s proverbial fence. So the recent “news” is hardly worth a pause. The story, as it were, remains the same we baseball fans have debated for 15 years now: does Rose, gambling warts and all, deserve a place in baseball, and eligibility for the Hall of Fame? Let’s begin with the latter question. Pete Rose (Charlie Hustle, as I like to remember him) played in more baseball games and accumulated more hits than anyone else in the history of the sport. (Considering modern salary structure, which will shorten careers, and the dramatic shift in priority to power hitting, I’d argue Rose’s 4,256 hits belongs on the short list of unbreakable baseball records.) He engineered the second-longest hitting streak (44 games) in the history of the game. He was an instrumental member of three world champions. And he should bow to no one in terms of candidacy for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Remember, this is not the Character Hall of Fame. Rogers Hornsby, Ty Cobb, even Babe Ruth would hardly be the kind of person you’d want babysitting your children. But the Hall of Fame would be incomplete without them. For youngsters to visit Cooperstown and not learn about Pete Rose . . . you might as well hit Disney World and skip Mickey Mouse. (As for the character issue, as long as Simpson retains his bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, no such shrine anywhere should look beyond the athletic feats of any player, any sport.) So Rose gets his plaque, which will feature an engraved line about his ban (as much a part of his legacy as the head-first slide or sprints to first after ball four). What about a job, presumably of the managerial sort? Sorry, Pete. This is where we -- the protectors of baseball’s integrity as a national pastime -- draw the line. No can do. Posted in every major league locker room is a strong admonishment on the subject of gambling. Even if a player is ignorant of the Black Sox scandal of 1919 (and the sad fate of Shoeless Joe Jackson), the consequences of gambling on baseball is spelled out for a player to read before, during, and after every game he plays. Rose can read. A hubris born of his transcendent achievements on the field -- combined with an addiction for playing the odds -- led Rose to defy his game’s most sacred law. And there shouldn’t be a second chance here, not when it involves Rose again taking a leadership role in a big-league clubhouse. Returning Rose to such an environment would be the equivalent of asking a recovering alcoholic to tend bar at the New Year’s bash. I visited Cooperstown in July 2002 for Ozzie Smith’s induction. The day before the ceremony, I walked into a memorabilia shop, quite literally across the street from the Hall of Fame museum. In the back of the shop, behind a table with two “officials” -- one to monitor the line snaking out to the sidewalk, the other to count cash -- was the Hit King himself, signing autographs for a fee well in excess of the Hall of Famers I’d see in similar venues that weekend. Pete Rose, you see, has profited as a pariah. Turns out a baseball legend is hardly as attractive to the masses as a baseball outlaw. The time has come to legitimize Pete Rose in relation to the pantheon of baseball greats. As for his impact on the game’s history, there’s still a lesson to be taught.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • Collage's RISE

      The energetic work of Collage Dance Collective takes center stage at the Cannon Center January 22nd.
    • All About Eve

      What to do this New Year’s Eve.

Blogs

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Memphis Comedy Bad, Bad Men Premieres on Amazon Video

Hungry Memphis

Cafe Brooks Debuts, etc.

News Blog

Redbirds Rebrand

News Blog

Memphis Pets of the Week (Jan. 19-25)

News Blog

Rape Kit Backlog Testing to Finish This Year

From My Seat

Inauguration Day: Then and Now

Politics Beat Blog

Cohen Won't Attend Trump Inauguration

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Music Video Monday: Valerie June

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Frank Murtaugh

Readers also liked…

  • Looking for a Leader

    Don’t cast your vote based on a candidate’s fund-raising abilities.
    • Jul 16, 2015
  • Clean Slate

    Just City provides funds to help felons expunge their records.
    • Aug 6, 2015
  • Passing for Black

    An “imitiation of life” becomes reality — in reverse.
    • Jun 18, 2015
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation