Volume 2 , Number 10
Nov , 1997
Let's talk about Pete Rose.
Pete Rose was recently in the news again, this time for sending a letter to Interim-Commissioner-for-Life Bud Selig asking that his lifetime ban be lifted and that he be allowed to return to baseball. Selig gave the request all of about 0.4 seconds of consideration before refusing Rose's offer, citing the damage Pete Rose has inflicted on the game of baseball.
Now, let's recap the situation. In 1989 Pete Rose was accused of a number of rules violations by then-Commissioner Bart Giamatti. Among them were the allegations that he gambled compulsively on a wide variety of sports including college football, pro football, golf, etc, and that he bet on major league baseball games in general and his own team, the Cincinnati Reds, in particular during the time that he was managing that team.
Also at that time, Rose was under investigation by the IRS for failure to report income from his gambling winnings and from autograph signings. Facing damaging investigations from both Major League Baseball and the IRS, Rose decided to cut his losses and cut a deal with Giamatti. Rose would resign as manager of the Reds and accept a lifetime ban from baseball in return for an official non-finding of guilt from Major League Baseball. Rose would then be eligible to petition for reinstatement after one year. The deal was signed, Rose accepted his banishment and went on to serve a 5-month jail sentence for tax violations.
But then a funny thing happened. Giamatti screwed Rose over. He did this by stating publicly, to a battery of reporters, that Rose bet on baseball, even though he had signed an agreement stating that no such finding had ever been reached. With just a few words to the national media Giamatti had convicted him in the only courtroom that ever really mattered to Rose: The court of public opinion. Pete Rose, the all-time base hits leader, the man known as Charlie Hustle, was now Pete Rose, the man who tarnished the game of baseball by betting on his own team.
But Rose accepted his punishment. He served out his jail term and languished silently in exile, biding his time until he was ready to apply for reinstatement. He sold off many of his prized belongings and hawked his autographs on the Home Shopping Network to pay his legal bills. He was derided for this, of course, accused of being tasteless and money-hungry. But the bills had to be paid, and the only thing he had left with any market value was his signature, so what would you have done?
Now, eight years later, fully seven years after he became eligible for reinstatement, he has finally done what many of his fans have urged him to do all along. And after all that time, after serving what amounted to an eight year suspension for a first-time gambling offense, his petition was summarily dismissed on the grounds that the scars Rose inflicted on baseball are too deep, too ugly, too damaging to be forgiven so easily.
This from Bud Selig. This from the man who was the driving force behind the overthrow of the Commissioner's office, engineered a player strike which interrupted two baseball seasons and wiped out a World Series, and is currently pushing for a radical realignment which will render the landscape of Major League Baseball unrecognizable heading into the next century. This from the man who has been the most disruptive element to affect professional sports since World War II. Adolph Hitler didn't cause us to lose a single pitch of a single World Series game, but Bud Selig did. This is the man who says that Pete Rose, one of the most beloved and idolized players of his generation, is unfit to be included in the family that is professional baseball.
This makes the Professor sick to his stomach.
At the risk of treading on Commissioner Selig's over-blown ego, I would submit to you that on no playing field, in no small town in America, has there ever been a child who stood at the plate, faced an imaginary pitcher, hit an imaginary home run, circled the imaginary base paths before an imaginary crowd and said "Look at me! I'm Bud Selig!" Nor, on the day Pete Rose was banished, do I for a minute believe that even one little boy dropped his glove and marched off the field in disgust, never to return.
True, many of Rose's fans may have lost some measure of respect for him as a person, but his accomplishments on the field were and are no less revered. Pete Rose the idol may have been replaced in the eyes of many by the Ken Griffeys and Mike Piazzas of the current day, but to this day when a player legs out an infield single or dives headlong into third base, who does not think, even for a moment, of Charlie Hustle?
Rose's transgressions were sad. They were regrettable. They were punishable. But they were not unforgivable, or at least no more so than those committed by the drug abusers and wife beaters who baseball always seems to find a way to let back into the game so long as they have talents that can be exploited. Pete Rose hurt baseball for only a few brief moments and is ready to start helping again. Bud Selig, on the other hand, has done nothing to help baseball and in fact continues to harm baseball with every mindless, blundering move he makes.
You want the Professor's advice? Bring back Pete and ban Bud for life.