Pete’s in my Hall of Fame

Pete Rose
Pete Rose

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.

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Grace for Pete Rose

Pete Rose
Pete Rose

I forgave Pete Rose years ago. Forgiveness can be such a cleansing experience.

I remember him not only from watching him dive head-first into second base at the old Crosley Field. I also observed him often at Frisch’s restaurant on Glenway Avenue. He was always glad to visit with other customers at the counter.

I lived in Cincinnati at the time, attending graduate school and teaching.

Pete and I shared the same barber in Price Hill, Bob’s Barber Shop on 8th Avenue, although I never ran into Pete at the shop.

No doubt he gambled on baseball – including Cincinnati Reds’ games when he was the Reds’ manager.

For years he lied about the betting. Then, with sales of his 2004 autobiography riding on it, he finally admitted to the repeated lying.

Pete, to be sure, is no saint. But neither was Babe Ruth or DiMaggio or certainly not the racist Ty Cobb. What distinguished them all was the statistics in that great record book of Major League Baseball.

Pete Rose belongs right up there with those immortals. He got more career hits than anybody else in the majors – 4,256. That includes a whole bunch of guys who are in the Hall of Fame and whose admission has never been open to debate.

Now, despite banned from baseball for life, he has made a few public appearances. He showed up at the Reds’ Great American Ballpark on the 25th anniversary of his hitting record. Last year, he was there when they unveiled a bronze sculpture of Hall of Fame member and long-time Rose teammate, Joe Morgan.

Outgoing baseball Commissioner Bud Selig never has ruled on Pete’s application for re-instatement. I suppose most Reds fans would welcome it. But I’m not sure about other die-hard fans of Major League baseball.

Nothing will ever expunge the humiliation of the exposure and Pete’s ban from baseball. Re-instating him wouldn’t change that. But I’ve always assumed Pete’s gambling was an addiction – a serious illness. People have lost fortunes to the gambling addiction. Pete has lost a great deal more than that.

He’s 73 now. I hope Selig will do the decent thing and welcome Pete back into baseball. Next year’s All-Star game is in Cincinnati. Pete belongs there. Forgiveness doesn’t cost a thing.

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