In November of 2002, baseball’s all-time hits leader had the following conversation with the commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig:
“Yes, sir, I did bet on baseball,” Pete Rose said during the meeting, which concerned the lifetime ban that prevents him from assuming what many think is his rightful place in baseball’s Hall of Fame. “But I never bet against my own team, and I never made any bets from the clubhouse.”
“Why?” Selig asked.
“I didn’t think I’d get caught.”
One, Two, Fourteen Strikes
Can we get a standing ovation for Pete here? And his graduate degree from the Bill “I Think That Stripper Liked Me” Clinton School of Ethical Rationalization?
Rose’s birthday is April 14; he wore number 14 throughout his long and illustrious career; and for 14 years he lied and lied and lied about breaking Rule 21. You know, that rule they post next to the door of every single Major League clubhouse in North America. The one that reminds every single person who passes it that gambling equals lifetime banishment.
“Players don’t read the fine print,” he said in a recent interview when ABC’s Charlie Gibson asked him about that annoying little rule. Rose wore a tiny 14 stitched on his collar, a bodily reminder of who he once was, and who he wants to be again.
We Cincinnatians love our baseball and we love our own, and Rose was both. And he humiliated us, first when the accusations surfaced, then when the denials continued, and now?now that he has a book to sell?with a tacit admission, minus an apology.
Understand, I grew up with this. The gambling allegations broke when I was a twelve year old girl, the official crux between makeup and make believe. They still flow through the town like the very river that carved it.
Does Rose deserve admission to the Hall of Fame on the basis of his performance as a player? Absolutely. He embraced the bases, embraced the game to his very self. “See that?” dads would say to sons, pointed from the upper echelons of Riverfront Stadium. “That’s how you play baseball.”
Should he be punished for breaking the rules? Yes, to the fourteenth power. What I want is a plaque of Pete in the Hall, hair and all, enshrining his flying leaps and his power-mad swing and his West Side lumbering run. And on that plaque I also want engraved the fact that he was banned from baseball for betting on it as a manager of the very team from the very city that loved and nurtured him, so that what he gave to baseball as a young man would never be remembered without what he did to baseball as an older one.
Yer Outta Here
As an avid horseracing fan, I learned early on that Rose is now messing with Thoroughbred ownership. He would like to, he recently told the Thoroughbred Times , manage in baseball again, and manage our Reds while owning horses with his players.
Oh Pete. So stupid, and yet so dense.
Perpetually angry as I am with Rose, often as I shake my head and say, “He did this to himself,” the intensity, the pain in his eyes gave me pause has he described to Gibson his utter agony at seeing a brand-new, state of the art, half-empty ballfield on the banks of the Ohio. “Seats are for asses,” he said fervently.
Indeed, my son. That’s why your involvement with baseball has been confined to one all these years.