by Kent Sterling
He broke THE rule when he bet on the Reds when he managed the team. There is no mistaking the importance of baseball’s ban on gambling – big and bold warnings posted in every major league clubhouse.
The 1919 Black Sox scandal may have occurred nearly a century ago, but the perpetual ignominy that enshrouds the lives and legacies of Buck Weaver, Joe Jackson, Lefty Williams, Eddie Cicotte, and the rest of those who were suspended from baseball for life for throwing the 1919 World Series as a response to the tight fisted, nickel squeezing ownership of Charlie Comiskey serves as a significant disincentive for players today who might otherwise choose to wager on their games.
Rose paid no mind to the posted rules and the lessons of others who screwed up before. He bet on baseball, consistently denied it until he needed to sell some books, and has been on the outside looking in for a quarter century.
That makes him a cheat, a dolt, and a profiteer.
What his self-serving behavior cannot do is erase a playing career of consistent excellence. In 24 seasons, Rose played in more games, came to the plate more often, and collected more hits than any man in baseball history.
Ten times Rose finished in the top 10 in MVP balloting – the last time at the age of 40 when he led the National League in hits, and finished second in hitting.
Rose was a 17-time all-star, and excelled defensively at every position but shortstop center field, and catcher.
The statistical justification for enshrining Rose as a player is beyond debate, so there is no point in continuing my little recitation of numerical based arguments in his favor. There is also no doubt that Rose bet on baseball, which continues to stand as the only reason to ban him from induction.
My argument for Rose isn’t about numbers – it’s all about what makes sense, and watching the introductions of Brooks Robinson, Ernie Banks, Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, Frank Robinson, Johnny Bench, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Billy Williams, Mike Schmidt, and the rest of the living hall of famers each July at the induction ceremony without Rose being among them simply feels wrong.
There can be no question among fans as to whether players gamble on games. Fans would see baseball as a rigged game, and that could kill it, as was feared in 1920 when baseball sanctimoniously brought down the hammer of Thor on the Black Sox. The disincentive must be profound, but a perpetual ban is beyond severe. It isn’t a lifetime ban, as no one has been welcomed back postmortem. Joe Jackson’s corpse has been cold for 62 years, and he still does not have a place in the Hall.
Jackson only hit .356 in what amounts to a decade of major league baseball, and in the 1919 World Series he supposedly helped throw, he hit .375 – including .286 in the losses to the Reds.
Rose is going to turn 73 shortly after Opening Day, and the time for him to enjoy hall of fame status is growing short.
A Baseball Hall of Fame without Pete Rose in it is not complete.