I could swear I heard this somewhere: “To err is human to forgive, divine…” I could swear I’ve heard that!
But, if we are going to get particularly solemn, here is a quote from 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Sounds good to me…
So, then, let’s take a look at the web site of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. It is (and I quote): “a nonprofit committed to preserving the history of America’s pastime and celebrating the legendary players, managers, umpires and executives who have made the game a fan favorite for more than a century.”
But wait! Rule 21 of Major League Baseball states: “Any player… who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.”
This emphatic Rule was affixed after the Black Sox scandal of 1919, when eight Chicago White Sox players were accused of throwing the World Series in exchange for money from gamblers. It has been on the books a long time.
And thus, and alas it is, that Peter Edward Rose Sr., born April 14, 1941, also known as “Charlie Hustle”, is banned forever and ever and ever more from the Baseball Hall of Fame. After all, it’s not just about the stats, and the level of intensity, and what the fans saw, felt, experienced, or what the player brought to the diamond…. damn it, we are moral and we only are going to have the best and as much as possible the best behaved in the HOF!
Oh, Ty Cobb maybe, you know, well, um… yea, beat a guy up or two or three, and Babe, the Babe, the Bambino, our wondrous myth and American icon, chased a few skirts, I mean, you know… well…. Commissioner Kenesaw Moutain Landis, a Judge no less, white haired patriarch of yesteryear who so forcibly presided over baseball’s segregationist era, and… um… Tris Speaker sure was a player, oh man oh man, so big deal he was implicated in a game-fixing scheme… I mean come on, Tris Speaker we’re talkin! Orlando Cepeda, graceful outfielder, agile player, is in the Hall of Fame since 1991. Not that significant he was imprisoned on a drug charge in the 1970s, right? Come on, that was years ago!
But… Pete Rose bet, and that’s it. He did the worst thing, or just about the worst. He gambled on baseball games he was in!!! STEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-RIKE THREE!!!!! He’s outtah here! For EVAHHHHHHH!
Except…. I don’t think so.
It is so ridiculous, at this point. It is not principle. It is hard core “screw you Pete… we don’t like you, we don’t like your attitude, and we are holier than you could ever hope to be!” And maybe Pete hasn’t apologized convincingly enough. Maybe he has to crawl on his knees from home plate to first base, get kicked or spiked on his way to second, take a ball in the gut crawling to third, and need a stretcher to drop him off at home plate where he weeps openly in front of a packed house in Cincinnati’s own Great American Ball Park.
Or maybe the Pope has to intervene. This is really really really serious business. Noted, he’s getting up there in years and could drop dead, but tough hard balls… He can make money signing autographs!
If, on the other hand, you would ask: Ok, show me what commends him to the Hall of Fame?
Here you go. Here’s a bit of it anyway:
1. Rookie of the year
2. 44 Game hitting streak
3. Most career winning games played, 1,972
4. Most career games played, 3,552
5. More career at bats, 14,053
6. Most career singles, 3,215
7. Most career hits, 4,256
8. Most career doubles by a switch hitter, 1,586
9. Most career total bases by a switch hitter, 5,752
10. Most seasons of 200 or more hits, 10 (this one is shared)
11. Most consecutive seasons of 100 or more hits, 23.
12. Most seasons with 600 at bats, 17.
13. Most seasons with 150 or more games played, 17.
This is not exhaustive but those stats seem exhausting.
His career batting average is 303. He was a 17-time All Star. He played for 3 World Series champions. He was National League Most Valuable Player in 1973. World Series Most Valuable Player 1975. Two time Golden Glove Award winner. Silver Slugger Award 1981. Roberto Clemente Award 1976. Wait…. wait a second! The Roberto Clemente Award? That’s given annually to the major league baseball player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to the team”. It is voted on by baseball fans and members of the media. Well, they better take it back, right? Charlie Hustle is sooooooooo scummy we can’t let him into Cooperstown!!!!! Think what it would mean to the integrity of the great Hall! Oh the stank!
On the other hand, there is a lot of movement to vote in players who seem to have used steroids to perform well. I have read about a separate wing for them. Can’t we create a Hall of Shame for some of the Hall of Fame? Stick Pete in there, but at least get him in?
I have another idea… Put an asterisk on his plaque, or drop a little note at the bottom: The MLB does not condone his corrupt gambling!
Oh oh oh…. I know! Make his eyes crossed eyed on the plaque! Or draw a line across his face… you know, let the public know there is scorn for him, but put his plaque up on the wall anyway.
Look, I have been a lawyer a long time. Most disputes resolve. Compromise is not frowned upon. Settlements of even the most vigorous conflicts invariably mean each side shares some misery.
For the love of baseball, a game brought to life again and again and again by a guy who at times seemed to be on rocket fuel, and then proved he was… the Hall of Fame should allow him in, at long, long last. Don’t wait until we have buried him. He is already quite a bit buried by this. Yeah, Charlie Hustle is brash. He still has that swagger. He did some funny antics with of all things World Wrestling Entertainment, but man was he a baseball player. Man did he bring it. And, he was an ok manager as well.
It hurts baseball not to honor him with induction. It’s way past time folks, fans, officials, writers, naysayers, Rose-ettes (is there such a thing)? It’s way past time.
He blew it. Gambling was stupid to the point of virtually no return. But, now for too many years the Hall of Fame has blown it as well. The Commissioner’s Office is not standing on just ceremony. Its standing on false bravado about morality. Rose has been contrite. He has said please, forgive me. And we should. We do not look the other way, nor have we, but even that impenetrable Rule has to relent. He means too much to our game, and he deserves to be in the Hall.
I hope I live long enough to either attend or watch the ceremony when Pete Rose finally is inducted. He is one of the truly greatest baseball players of all time.
If you love the sport, you have to love what he brought to it, what he accomplished, what he showed, and what he did on the field.
Guys can get suspended for a a game, or a bunch of games, or a season. Guys can get tossed out of the park for misconduct. Our own kids can be banished from the house. Tough love has its place, absolutely. But I am thinking and feeling that forgiveness is a good thing in this instance.
Please? The game has to be bigger than to tell Charlie Hustle you blew it so bad you can never be in Cooperstown. He hurt himself, now let’s show a bit of mercy.