The Case Against Pete Rose

Over on Facebook, a friend has started a discussion of whether Pete Rose should be allowed into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In this age of chemically-enhanced, steroid-juiced heroes, the simple act of placing bets in favor of your own team seems simple and understandable. Why should Pete Rose be singled out for making a phone call to a bookie while other major leaguers were shooting up?

So far, I’m the only vote against Pete Rose in my friend’s informal survey.

Let me be clear. There can’t be any legitimate argument about whether Pete Rose’s baseball playing deserves the honor. It does. His hitting, his longevity, his versatility and, most of all, his hustle made him a true great. His play at the plate in the 1973 All Star game remains one of my favorite baseball illustrations of toughness and determination.

But he bet on the Reds. Strikes one, two, and three. He’s out.

I’ve only been in a couple MLB clubhouses. Besides benches and lockers, there’s one other thing always in them, though, and I would find it in every single clubhouse in Major League Baseball. Rule 21. “Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, 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.”

Pete Rose has admitted that he violated that rule. He lied about it for years, denying it at every turn, but I’m not here to judge the moral worth of the guy – only whether he has a legitimate claim that he should reside in the Hall of Fame after he violated the most prominent, crystal clear rule of the sport.

Everything else you or I can say about the situation is simply argument over details. Pete Rose supporters can point to his performance as a player, and his detractors can point to his decades of lying about his betting, and his time in jail for tax evasion (ironically, in the hometown of the catcher he demolished at the plate). Neither is relevant. We can argue about whether the penalty for betting on your own games is too harsh, but it is what it is (and, in my opinion, what it should be).

I appreciate the way that “Charlie Hustle” played baseball. He was one of the greatest. But he violated the rule posted on every clubhouse door. He should not be allowed to reside in the Hall of Fame.

4 Responses to “The Case Against Pete Rose”

  1. Chimpotle says:

    Ineligible for what? I would take that to mean play again, manage again, participate in a baseball game or operation ever again.

    However, it should not effect his eligibility to be in the Hall of Fame. I'm fine with banning the man from the game, but his accomplishments should not be ignored.

  2. les says:

    His play at the plate in the 1973 All Star game remains one of my favorite baseball illustrations of toughness and determination.

    Sorry, ruining another player's career to score a run in a meaningless game, for personal pleasure or glory, says everything to me about what was wrong with Rose. And his numbers, except for total hits (padded with a career extended well beyond the days he was an asset to a team), aren't that great. I'm with ya on the gambling thing.

  3. Brian Rules the World says:

    You make a good point, but my opinion is that at the end of the day, the Hall of Fame is just a baseball museum. As such, it seems like a very big piece is missing not to have the hits king enshrined there.

    Of course if Pete Rose wasn't such an unlikable character, it would be a hell of a lot easier to get behind him.

  4. Brent says:

    I almost echo Chimpotle's comments word for word. It is fine to keep him from being a part of the on-field game again. But when people go to the Hall of Fame, they should be able to spend the time there and get the complete history of the game of baseball….including all of the star players. The story of baseball is incomplete without Pete Rose.

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