Stop the Haughty Madness, and Put Pete Rose in the Baseball Hall of Fame

by Kent Sterling

imagesThere is no doubt that Pete Rose was a self-entitled jerk who said and did things that it seems only professional athletes can get away with.

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.

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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.

7 thoughts on “Stop the Haughty Madness, and Put Pete Rose in the Baseball Hall of Fame

  1. Jeff Gregory

    I agree with you. Pete Rose has been shady and he broke the rules. However, there is no evidence that he ever manipulated himself or the games that he was involved in to change the outcome. He was a gambling addict and couldn’t resist feeding his sickness by betting on his own team (and that is what separates him from the Black Sox). He was too much of a competitor to ever bet AGAINST his own team. So, he tried to win the games he bet on – which makes him, like other managers that are worth their salt that didn’t place bets.

    I don’t excuse his behavior, but I think it should be put in perspective.

    The steroid guys, well, that is another story.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      Totally agree. It’s fundamentally different. Different times, different level of understanding of the sickness of addiction. It deserves a different response.

  2. Tom Snape

    Well put. Mr. Sterling. You’re correct: seeing his contemporaries being introduced at Cooperstown every year without him feels wrong. Like something’s (or in this case, someone) missing. Yes, he felt he was entitled. I saw that many times growing up in Cincinnati and seeing him in public both during and after he left the Reds for the Phillies. But the stats don’t lie. And top of that, they weren’t artificially produced.

  3. David Latta

    I agree that his gambling was wrong. Gaylord Perry is in the Hall, yet he admitted to throwing spitballs during his career in at least one book. Spitballs have been illegal as long as I can remember.

    I saw Pete Rose play. His Reds were big rivals with my Los Angeles Dodgers. He was known as “Charlie Hustle” because of his constant all-out efforts on the field. I remember what Joe Morgan, a former Reds teammate of Rose, baseball commentator and Hall of Famer–“I have seen better players than Pete Rose, but I have never seen anyone else play each game like it was the 7th game of the World Series.”

    I think the Hall of Fame needs to remember that players are human beings, not gods.

  4. kurt p.

    Pete Rose obviously has the numbers to be in the hall of fame but he doesn’t deserve to be in the hall of fame. The no betting rule is far and away the most important and for the reasons you have given, ‘fans would see the game as rigged’. Pete Rose didn’t give a crap about baseball, he only cared about himself. He virtually thumbed his nose at baseball and then when he gets hit with the same penalties as previous gambling ballplayers, he whines and cries. He knew what would happen if he got caught betting on baseball but he did it anyway, thinking that what, ‘they’d never do that to him’? Well, guess what, they did. Now, if they decided that the so-called black sox, would be forgiven for their actions (decades too late but…) then you could make an argument to put Rose in the hall of fame. It may sound ridiculously simple but the same rules should apply to everyone and until all of baseball’s gamblers are given a shot at the hall, Pete Rose should wait outside.

    1. Jeff Gregory

      I disagree for the reasons I listed earlier. Since you didn’t address any of those points, I will just assume that you didn’t read the comments. Rose’s gambling is a universe apart from the Black Sox scandal. I don’t think anyone could intelligently argue otherwise.

    2. kentsterling Post author

      Can’t argue with any of your arguments because they were mine until about eight years ago when I watch the introduction of the hall of famers at the induction ceremony for Ryne Sandberg. That Rose wasn’t among them just seemed wrong. Something was missing without Rose.

      Not sure why our penal system is comfortable with 25-to-life for murder, but baseball insists upon punishing someone who gambled far beyond the end of his life. I’ve never seen Rose accused of betting on baseball while he played. Why not induct his as a player, while banning him as a manager? That way, he can never work in baseball, but is eligible for the Hall.


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