A Tarnished Star

There are any number of different beliefs when the subject of Pete Rose comes up. Put him in the Hall of Fame, but don't reinstate him. Keep him banned from the game and the Hall. All is forgiven, reinstate him with all the perks that it would allow. No matter how the situation plays out, there will always be different sides and even devout fans of Charlie Hustle have differing opinions. For some, the image of a superstar is forever tarnished.

Let me say for the record, I am a fan of Pete Rose, the baseball player. When I was younger, he was my favorite player, even though he played for the Cincinnati Reds. In 1979, when he signed to play for the Phillies, I was ecstatic. When he led the Phils to the World Series title in 1980, I was overjoyed. When he left to join the Expos, I was saddened. And when he was banned from baseball in 1989, I was heartbroken.

I was so much a fan of Pete Rose, the baseball player, that when I got the chance to attend Phillies Phantasy Camp in 2003, I chose #14 as my uniform number. But Pete Rose, the person, doesn't compare to Pete Rose, the baseball player, right now.

Monday's confession that Pete Rose did indeed place bets on Major League Baseball games in the mid-1980's, and even bet on the Reds to win 42 times while he managed them, has left me with mixed emotions. I was firmly behind Pete for these 14 ½ years since the ban was announced. I was 100% behind him being reinstated, and 200% behind his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. But after reading what came out on Monday, I don't know what to think.

For years, Pete denied betting on baseball. Everybody who has followed this saga knows that all the evidence points to the contrary. Even so, people - I being one of them - were willing to look past what they saw as true and push to give Pete his due, a spot in the Hall of Fame. I still believe that a player should be judged on what he did on the field as a player, if he was looking for enshrinement as a player. Rose has said that he only bet while he was a manager, and did not bet on his team to lose. Well, he was a player-manager for two years before retiring; did he bet on the Reds at that point, or only after he retired? And since he lied to the public for 14 ½ years about his wagering (or non-wagering), why wouldn't he be lying about when he began betting? Was he betting while he was a member of the Phillies? It is for this reason that I cast doubts about Pete Rose.

In Pete's defense, there is no evidence showing that he ever "threw" a game, either while playing or managing. The same cannot be said for "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, although the book "Eight Men Out" and Jackson's statistics from the 1919 World Series point towards Shoeless Joe being an "innocent participant". But even if Rose's assertion that he "only bet on the Reds to win" rings true, what does that say about the games when he didn't bet on the Reds at all? Does that mean that he wasn't confident enough in his own team to bet on them to win? With that scenario, that's almost as bad as betting on them to lose; you're not sure they can win. So again, I have doubts about the validity of his statements.

The argument has been raised that there are a few unsavory characters in the Hall of Fame; Ty Cobb, a blatant racist, being the most prominent. Fergie Jenkins was busted for marijuana possession in the 1980's; Orlando Cepeda spent time in prison; and Leo Durocher was suspended for a year for associating with gamblers. Even this year's enshrinees, Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley, have had problems with drugs and alcohol, respectively. But gambling on baseball is seen in many minds as a grievous offense, and should be treated as such.

For the record, let me say this: I believe that Pete Rose, the player, should be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. 4,192 base hits, the most in major league history, is singly enough to warrant induction. His plaque should have something noting that he was banned from baseball in 1989. I do not believe, however, that he should be reinstated to allow him to hold a job in Major League Baseball; not as a manager, coach, or in the front office. He has proven in the past that his own self-interest comes before the welfare of his team, and that is unacceptable. I do believe, though, that Bud Selig should allow him to participate in baseball-related ceremonies, such as stadium openings and closings, "all-whatever" teams, and things of that sort. I know that the closing of the Vet, as spectacular as it was, was incomplete without him.

The events of this week have tarnished the star of Pete Rose for me, and for that I am very saddened. My boyhood idol has become just another ex-player.

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