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500 Words on Pete Rose

A friend of mine believes that Pete Rose should have gone into the Baseball Hall of Fame a long time ago, but he thinks this for a reason you might not expect: He despises Rose. He believes most of the bad things you can believe about Rose — that he bet on his own team to lose, that he bet as a player, that he probably used steroids, that at this point he wouldn’t even know how to tell the truth because the he lost the truth long ago.

In spite of all that — or, oddly, perhaps because it— he believes Rose should have gone into the Hall of Fame in the early 1990s.

“if he was in the Hall of Fame,” he says, spitting the words, “we could just stop TALKING about him already.”

Though this might sound somewhat silly, I can tell you that it’s actually a well-considered and powerfully held opinion. His point is that Rose was a good enough player to go into the Hall, and if he had been elected 20 years ago people could just forget about him the way people forget about many of the Hall of Fame’s less-evolved men.

“The Hall of Fame turned Pete Rose into a CAUSE!” he grumbles with utter disgust on the final word. “A CAUSE? I can’t think of anyone who deserves less to be a cause than Pete Rose. He was a great baseball player, fine, that’s why they call it the BASEBALL Hall of Fame. But now, because they didn’t put him in there, I’ve got to hear people like you [note: he means me] talk about forgiveness and how he’s served his time and whatever other nonsense you write about.”

At first, I found his thought to be dumb — and, sure, a little bit insulting — but the longer this goes on, the more I wonder if he’s right. I like Pete Rose because I find him entertaining, because I think there was a lot that was admirable about the way he played baseball, and because I think baseball mishandled just about everything about his banishment (admittedly, Rose mishandled all of it worse).

But I must admit: He doesn’t deserve to be a cause. And the Hall of Fame issue alone has artificially kept Pete Rose alive in the news. I know of very few people who believe Rose should be back in baseball as should recognize the game’s greatest players — flaws and all — and he was one of the game’s greatest players.

The new commissioner, Rob Manfred, has made it clear that he wants to slightly (or dramatically) shift the direction of baseball, and he will meet with Rose. I don’t know if they can come up with a compromise. And I absolutely don’t believe Pete Rose can get enough votes to get into the Hall anyway no matter who is voting. Pete Rose, for some, will remain a cause. The Cincinnati cheers echo. In a weird way, that was baseball’s gift to him.

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35 Responses to 500 Words on Pete Rose

  1. Marco says:

    Wait until he dies, put him in.
    Reward and celebrate the career, not the person.

    • Steve says:

      I was just thinking the exact same thing. After he’s dead and cannot claim any kind of vindication, let him in.

      I also like Joe’s characterization of Rose as “less evolved.”

    • hankgillette says:

      It’s a permanent ban, not a lifetime ban. I’d much prefer that Rose dies knowing that he’ll never be in the Hall of Fame.

  2. Byron says:

    How did baseball mishandle this? There are warnings in every locker room essentially saying, “Don’t bet on baseball. You’ll be sorry if you do.” There is precedent with the 1918 White Sox players who threw the World Series. And they still bent over backwards and said, “If you tell the truth, we’ll let you back in.”

    Rose said he told the truth to Giamatti and Vincent, but he (by his own admissions) didn’t in the 1989. Then he sorta told the truth in the early 2000s because he had a book to sell. Only he didn’t tell the whole truth then. Then this year ESPN came out with a story that further proved that Rose was lying about betting. The guy has lied so consistently for so many years, I’m not even sure if we’ll ever get the full truth.

    And during this whole crapshow, has Pete Rose showed an ounce of humility? Nope. He’s gone on TV and radio shows arrogantly and smugly proclaiming his innocence. For many years he showed up in Cooperstown during Induction Weekend to sign autographs in the shadow of the HoF. He essentially became the story with writers using the literary sad-trombone effect of “Pete Rose should be here with his teammates basking int he glow and adoration of his fans.”

    So please explain to me again, how MLB screwed this up. Pete Rose screwed this up on Day One when he thought that he was bigger than the game and that he’d fight and win. MLB isn’t Ray Fosse and life isn’t the All-Star Game.

    • I’m with you Pete. MLB and Rose made an agreement that Rose should be banished. MLB has simply honored its agreement. How is that handling something badly? Also, Joe’s extensive writing about Rose really proves his friend’s point.

      • Yeager says:

        +1 to this. + a million to this. Rose also defamed a lot of men that were of superior character than he is.

    • dlf9 says:

      “How did baseball mishandle this?”
      With the giant caveat that Rose has mishandled his life and this situation 100x as badly, I’d suggest that Bart Giamatti did two things incorrectly. The minor one is that after signing an agreement saying there was no formal finding of betting, immediately coming out in the press conference saying that he was convinced that Rose gambled. (Minor because (a) Rose DID gamble and (b) the agreement said there was sufficient evidence under the specified provision that deals with gambling, even if it was worded to give wiggle-room.) The more significant one is one of due process: before hearing Rose’s side, Giamatti signed an affidavit used in federal court attesting to the truthfulness and character of one of Rose’s accusers (Paul Janszen, I think). Giamatti should have allowed Rose to present his case before making up his mind that Janszen, Peters, etc. were telling the truth.

      • “Giamatti signed an affidavit used in federal court attesting to the truthfulness and character of one of Rose’s accusers (Paul Janszen, I think)”

        I know that it doesn’t affect your larger point, but are you referring to Ron Peters? If so, I think that Giamatti only signed a letter to the judge on Peters’s behalf.

    • hankgillette says:

      They mishandled it by prematurely terminating the investigation and then letting Rose believe that he had a chance to be reinstated. If they had gotten all of the information at the time, they would have known that Rose did not deserve to ever be associated with MLB again. Instead, they tried to minimize the negative publicity, leading to the endless “let Rose back in” apologists.

      • While I don’t like to disagree with people who share my last name (we suffer enough with jokes about Gillette products), this criticism benefits from hindsight. By making the agreement, MLB was getting the punishment allowed by the rule: lifetime ban. Rose was agreeing to a win for MLB. It seems reasonable to stop prosecuting something once one has everything one could hope to get. At the time, few would have had the foresight to predict that some sportswriters would make misguided arguments about “forgiveness” for a guy who so flagrantly violated the rule and then lied about it.

  3. Jim G says:

    “I absolutely don’t believe Pete Rose can get enough votes to get into the Hall anyway no matter who is voting.”

    I think this is the reason why MLB should drop the ban. It isn’t a ban on Rose being in the Hall of Fame; it’s a ban on Rose being on the Hall of Fame ballot, as if the writers can’t be trusted not to vote him in if he shouldn’t be there. But the writers are currently, at least, showing that certain issues (i.e., PEDs) are enough to keep players out of the Hall who otherwise would certainly be there. So let the writers vote on Rose. Maybe they vote him in, maybe they don’t, but if they don’t, Rose can only complain as much as anyone else who doesn’t get voted in.

    • dlf9 says:

      Then shouldn’t the Rose cause be directed at the Hall? It is a separate, independent entity not controlled by MLB. They’ve changed the eligibility and voting rules time after time (see, for example, reducing the eligibility period from 15 to 10 years just this voting cycle). Rose need not be reinstated by the League to have the Hall allow him to be voted on.
      Wouldn’t the voting body be the Veterans Committee anyway rather than the BBWAA? The BBWAA only votes for players retired 5-15 (previously 5-20) years. Rose has been gone nearly 30.

  4. sanford943 says:

    This not the first time that some has said Rose should have been in the HOF years ago and then we wouldn’t be talking about him today. I don’t think the writers would have ever put him in. Most won’t wouldn’t vote for PED users so why would they vote Rose in. As far as I know the HOF was not started by MLB, but they are so connected that MLB is a big influence on what the HOF does. That is probably why Rose is not on the ballot and of course none of the Black Sox are either.

    • Although I agree with your sentiment, I don’t equate steroids with gambling. Gambling IS a morals issue and is CLEARLY prohibited by baseball. Steroids is less of a morals issue, though it is cheating. The biggest issue, however, with steroids is that it inflates the numbers & makes voters try to figure out how much the steroids impacted the numbers. The evidence of marginal players getting very large and suddenly hitting homeruns at unprecedented rates, i.e. Sammy Sosa and good players hitting ridiculous numbers of homeruns, i.e. Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds. So, to me, its the lack of believability of the numbers they compiled that’s the issue, more than the cheating aspect.

  5. I agree with your friend somewhat. I agree in his point, but not that he should be in the HOF. There was someone arguing in your comments section that Rose is not only a HOFer, but should have been one of the Top 4 Living Players, not just for the Reds, but for all teams. That’s patently ridiculous. Unless this was just a Reds homer, it points to what your friend was saying. Rose is becoming a cause and his playing career is being elevated beyond what it actually was.

    Rose was the best singles hitter in history (arguably) & got on base a lot. He was a good baserunner, but not a good base stealer. He was a poor fielder, didn’t hit with power and had a poor throwing arm. So, all of his value came from his ability to get on base & run the bases. He was far from the 5 tool player that should be considered for the all time greats. Basically, he was a 1 1/2 tool player. People need to keep his career in perspective & the fact that he would be in the HOF, if not for his gambling & lying, doesn’t mean he was anywhere near a Willie Mays or a Hank Aaron type of player.

    • EnzoHernandez11 says:

      I think that’s exactly right. While he was playing, Rose was vastly overrated because 1) he had a cool nickname; 2) we worshiped .300 and 200; 3) he took out Ray Fosse during an exhibition game; and 4) he had that 44 game hitting streak. Then he retired, and Bill James came along, and suddenly we realized that Rose, as great as he was, was nowhere near the pantheon (and was, depending on the year, no better than the third or fourth best player on his–admittedly great–team). And now, with this Hall of Fame business, he’s back to being overrated again. He’s not the most deserving player without a plaque. I’m not even sure he’d crack the Top 10. If someone wants to take up a cause on behalf of a misunderstood player, start with Dick Allen.

  6. Joe’s point that baseball has made Rose into a cause overlooks the fact that it is not baseball that’s responsible for that. It’s the media that cover baseball, by conflating steroid usage into a violation of the integrity of the game which is comparable to what Rose (and Jackson) did, and much of which seems to think that you can forgive Rose but not Bonds and Clemens. Which is why I think Manfred will hold the line on Rose, and should.

    What, you’re going to let Pete Rose into the Hall but not Jeff Bagwell??? Mike Piazza??? Even if they did the things we don’t KNOW they’re accused of, all they really did was try to be better ballplayers. Rose MAY have damaged his team’s long-term interests in the service of a bet — we don’t know that he did this but we do know it was possible. Before the whole steroid business became a cause, we might have been able to form a judgment about Rose which only affected Rose himself. Now it’s impossible, and will be, most likely, for another generation or two.

  7. Wilbur says:

    As I understand it, the HOF can put him on the ballot now if they choose to do so. The HOF has opted (not unreasonably) to make those on the Organized Baseball ineligible list also not eligible for election to the HOF. No Pete Rose, no Joe Jackson. We’re all free to induct them in the personal HOF in our minds if we want to.

    By most accounts, Pete Rose was a great teammate, exceptionally welcoming to newcomers and rookies. No one one was more respected by fellow players for his work habits and how he played the game. He is one of the few players whose worth clearly extends beyond just the numbers on the field. I’d want him on my team. I wouldn’t want him as a husband or a bank teller.

  8. Brian says:

    I disagree with the premise. I consume tons of baseball content, every day, in a variety of forms – online, print, TV, radio – and Rose’s name just doesn’t come up that much. I barely hear about him, I barely think about him, I don’t care about him. And I certainly wouldn’t put him in the HOF simply to silence that one story a year that has him sitting in some lonely booth in a memorabilia shop in Caesar’s Palace.

  9. DjangoZ says:

    It’s an interesting point your friend is making. People actually feel sympathy for Pete Rose now (which is crazy) and try to favorably compare him to a murderer (which is beyond nuts).

    If he had been elected to the HOF all those years ago I think that now when his name comes up people would mostly shake their heads and say “What a tool”, which is so much more fitting.

  10. Bonnie Grossman Burger says:

    My sons and I were at the Cincinnati ballpark on the day Pete returned from the Phillies. What a celebration! I thikn I’ll hang onto my certificates — “I was there when Pete came back” — just in case they are ever worth some money.

  11. Jennifer says:

    Discuss Shoeless Joe first. Supposedly he gambled too. His family has asked for consideration in the past and got nothing.

    • The only differences between Rose and Shoeless Joe are that, first, we know that Shoeless Joe did accept gambling money to throw the World Series. That’s a fact that’s hard to undo. We only suspect that Rose may have done the same, but there is no proof (though the story keeps getting worse throughout the years, so who knows?). We also are not sure if Shoeless Joe was smart enough to know what he was doing & whether he took the money and played hard anyway. He was famously illiterate, and probably not terribly smart. Rose, on the other hand, can’t use intellect as an excuse. Whatever he did, he knows exactly what he did & knows it was wrong. Which is why he’s lied about it many times. Plus, with all of his lies and changing stories, it’s hard to know the truth. I’m not sure even Rose knows it anymore.

  12. MikeN says:

    Joe will endorse any argument for letting cheaters into the Hall of Fame.
    Is this because Joe used steroids? Plagiarism?

  13. John Leavy says:

    Pete Rose is not living in squalor on Skid Row. He’s rich, he gets big bucks to sign autographs and do commercials, and he’s shacking up with a Penthouse Pet. Why, exactly, are we supposed to feel sorry for him?

  14. James Ball says:

    Nobody is feeling sorry for him. He shouldn’t be allowed back in baseball in any capacity whatsoever other then as a possible ambassador for the game and to talk to other players about the ills of gambling. Without a doubt he should be in the HoF, no ifs, ands, or buts! Yes I am a Reds fan, so I know that anything I say will come across as biased. Pete is not my favorite Red and he can be overwhelmingly arrogant at times, but all that aside, his stats should be the deciding factor! Same with Shoeless Joe, he may or may not have taken money to throw the 1919 series, we may never truly know. But his stats say “it ain’t so”, he was batting at a .375 clip through the 8 game series, his fielding percentage was right up there with Eddie Roush, the star center fielder of the Reds and he hit the only HR of the series in the waning years of the “Dead Ball” era. Yes Pete “mishandled” this uber bad, but to say baseball was free from screwing things up just because they put signs up in dugouts across america is a little much. MLB isn’t doing itself any favors either by promoting its gambling site Draftkings or whatever it’s called, but then trying to come across as holier than thou on the whole gambling issue when it comes to Pete or Joe. Ty Cobb was an admitted murderer, Babe Ruth was a jovial but womanizing drunk, Mickey Mantle was wasted 2/3rds of the time, yet was idolized by millions of kids in the ’50’s and ’60’s. All are in the Hall and if we go by the puritanical standards set forth by MLB, nobody should be in the Hall! End the hypocrisy now, Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe should be in the Hall, end of discussion!

    • Brook says:

      I can’t agree with this at all. How could he possibly discuss the ills of gambling when he has never indicated that he understood what those ills were? The rules regarding gambling have been made clear to every baseball player for nearly 90 years, yet he chose to disregard them. It was the cardinal rule. It makes no difference that Babe was a “womanizing drunk” or that the Mick was “wasted” for games – there never has been a rule in baseball against those activities. Pete knowingly damaged and disrespected the game. I hope the Commissioner publicly reiterates that it is a permanent ban.

    • Karyn says:

      “Yes Pete “mishandled” this uber bad,” doesn’t begin to cover it. While a manager, and likely as a player, Rose bet on baseball. He bet on his own team. He involved himself with low-life criminals and put himself at risk for blackmail and extortion. It’s the cardinal sin of baseball, and he knew it.

      He lied and schemed and covered his ass and never once has taken responsibility for his actions.

  15. Bonds and Clemens too. Vote them in, and we can stop having these stupid PED debates.

  16. Squawks McGrew says:

    I’ve maintained that not making the Hall of Fame has made Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson more famous. If Shoeless Joe made the Hall way back when, only die-hards would have ever heard of him. (Would he have been in “Field of Dreams”?) Now, he and Rose get mentioned semi-annually.

  17. duffy01 says:

    The argument that the HOF exists to tell baseballs history, and therefore Rose should be in it, is bogus. Rose’s story is told more than adequately in the Cooperstown museum and countless books. He does not need to be voted into the hall of fame to tell baseball’s history. Lots of important stories are told in the museum and in history books without someone’s inclusion into the hall of fame. See Roger Maris as an example. Rose thought that the rules don’t apply to him. He still thinks they shouldn’t. He was and is wrong. I hope the commissioner feels that way. Rose should not reinstated.

  18. Jonathan Doe says:

    Former pitcher/broadcaster Jim Kaat, who recently failed to make the Hall Of Fame
    by just two votes, has always humbly spoken about himself as not being one of the
    all-time greats (those voted into the H-O-F) or even the all-time goods (283W – 237L)
    but as one of baseball’s all-time survivors specifically in terms of career longevity.

    Even though he briefly served as Reds pitching coach under Pete Rose’s managerial days,
    he wasn’t in favor of Rose’s enshrinement because of Pete’s initial failure to admit
    to his gambling guilt.

    Kaat had suggested in his 2003 book “Still Pitching” that he always thought
    about having a way to recognize Pete Rose for his accomplishments but at the
    same time not officially induct him. Like have a Pete Rose exhibit or a plaque
    detailing his playing career and stating the reason why he wasn’t inducted. This
    would give him his due as a player but make an example of him as a lesson to
    youngsters and warning to other players.

    That idea could also be extended to Shoeless Joe Jackson and his seven 1919 White Sox teammates
    as well as Bonds, Sosa, Clemens, McGwire, Palmiero and other PED abusers who would otherwise be
    worthy of candidacy to Cooperstown.

    This so-called Cheating Wing may even include an exhibit in support of Double Duty Radcliffe, Dave
    Barnhill and Chet Brewer as Negro League pitchers who deliberately cut baseballs to alter their flight.

    Gaylord Perry threw spitballs and/or used petroleum jelly yet he’s in the Hall Of Fame.

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