I’ll be up front here. If it were up to me, I would have lifted Major League Baseball’s ban on Pete Rose in a minute.
I know that he broke the rules. I know he bet on baseball. I know he even bet on games when he was managing the Reds. I know he continues to bet. I know he promised to quit even after his ban in 1989.
On the surface it looks like Pete was banned for his gambling. That’s a cardinal sin if you want to be associated with the majors or the minors of baseball. It should be a cardinal sin.
It’s true that other greats of MLB have been banned for less – Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and many others.
I have to say poor Pete. Even recently, when he met with Commissioner Rob Manfred, he changed his story. Yes, he got his facts mixed up. No doubt, his attorney had him rehearse his account many times before the Manfred meeting.
The truth is that Pete’s 1989 ban isn’t being continued because he can’t get his story straight. I’m not sure I’d agree that he’s still out of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., for getting fuzzy with details. After all, he is 74.
I think Pete remains banned for life mainly for having an serious addiction. I believe that you’d have to call a gambling addiction a mental illness. I do. I’d guess Pete has been self-medicating by placing bets. Of course, it doesn’t help that he apparently lacks even a thimble of common sense.
Nevertheless, his behavior even after the ban appears simply irrational. Only an affliction with mental illness accounts for it.
For me, here’s the real story. This guy’s career record of 4,256 hits puts him in a class of his own. It’s a shame the commissioner couldn’t see fit to bend the rules in honor of this champion without peer.
In the early 1960s, when I was in graduate school in Cincinnati, I often saw Pete sitting at the counter with his coffee at Frisch’s restaurant on Glenway Avenue, near my apartment. He grew up in that neighborhood. He graduated from nearby Western Hills High School where I did student teaching in one of my early careers.
Pete got his haircuts at Bob’s Barbershop on 8th Avenue. Bob was my barber.
So yes, I do feel a connection to this baseball star. I not only admired his hitting prowess. I don’t think I ever witnessed another big leaguer dive so often into second base to stretch a single into a double. They didn’t call him “Charlie Hustle” just for taking to the field running. Which he did.
Personal feelings aside, though, his record of hits is not my imagination. His 26 years now into the ban surely is punishment enough. He deserves to be reinstated to a place of honor. If anybody deserves to have a plaque in Baseball’s Hall of Fame it’s Pete Rose.