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Monday, August 25, 2014

Reinstate Pete Rose to Re-energize Baseball

For you youngsters, a baseball history lesson is in order.

Peter Edward "Pete" Rose (born April 14, 1941), also known for his nickname "Charlie Hustle," is a former Major League Baseball player and manager. Rose played from 1963 to 1986, and managed from 1984 to 1989.

Rose, a switch-hitter, is the all-time Major League leader in hits (4,256), games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053), singles (3,215), and outs (10,328). He won three World Series rings, three batting titles, one Most Valuable Player Award, two Gold Gloves, the Rookie of the Year Award, and also made 17 All-Star appearances at an unequaled five different positions (2B, LF, RF, 3B, and 1B).

Pete Rose did something long ago that violated a set-in-stone rule. He made bets on games while still in uniform, which was (and still is) strictly prohibited. Rose did not bet against his own team, as some of the similarly disgraced 1919 Chicago White Sox did, but his gambling habits broke a code of conduct and earned him a "lifetime" ban after a Major League Baseball internal investigation in 1989.

In August 1989, three years after he retired as an active player, Rose agreed to permanent ineligibility from baseball amidst accusations that he gambled on baseball games while playing for and managing the Reds, including claims that he bet on his own team.

In 1991, the board of baseball's Hall of Fame placed the name of Pete Rose on the "permanently ineligible" list. His is the only name on it.

Complicating matters, Rose spent close to 15 years denying all allegations until fessing up in a book he wrote in 2004. Furthermore, he was slapped with a five-month prison sentence and a thousand hours of community service for two felony counts of evading income tax.

Why So Many Fans Associate with Pete Rose

After hustling his way through several sports in grade school and high school, Rose settled on baseball. As a young man, Rose was not gifted with outstanding physical attributes, but he became known for his intense, hard-charging style for which he credits his father. After graduating from Western High School in Cincinnati, Rose was not considered a top prospect, but his hometown Cincinnati Reds signed him to a professional contract.

Over the next few seasons, Rose steadily improved his game, hitting .330 for the Macon Peaches in 1962 and putting himself in position to be promoted to the Reds, should the opportunity arise. The following spring, when regular second baseman Don Blasingame pulled a muscle, Rose stepped in, and he never relinquished the position. His work ethic transformed a player with average skills into one of the greatest baseball players of all time.

I believe no one exemplified dedication and effort for baseball more than Pete Rose. He ate, drank, slept, and dreamed about playing the game. I've heard it said that Pete would play a major league game and then be able to recite every pitch of the game with lucid detail. I read once how after his game (before the advent of cable television), he would leave the stadium and search the dial of his radio to find another baseball broadcast. He simply loved the game, and the game loved him.

There are those who say Rose is a horrible ambassador for baseball because of his gambling addiction. And, granted, Pete broke many fans' hearts (myself included) when he committed the infractions and when he denied doing so for so long. How could he have jeopardized his lofty standing by doing such inexplicable acts? It seems so terrible.

Yet, excessive gambling is a sickness. When some people gamble, the develop an addiction like others do with liquor or drug abuse. Then, gamblers need help. Perhaps, Pete Rose had an overwhelming addiction that clouded his judgment as it took control of his brain. His personality points to vulnerability.

We could talk at great length about those who have broken Major League Baseball rules concerning substance abuse, particularly players linked to performance-enhancing drugs.

Here is small segment of a list linked to these drugs either through the 2007 report by investigator George Mitchell or by positive drug tests by Major League Baseball or Minor League Baseball (Note that this is not a list of players who have been proven to use performance-enhancing drugs.):

Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Ryan Braun, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Melky Cabrera, Marlon Byrd, David Bell, Antonio Bastardo, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Cameron, Lenny Dykstra, Jason Giambi, Yasmani Grandal, Kent Mercker, Manny Ramirez, Benito Santiago, Mike Stanton, Matt Williams.

Sportswriter Mike Downey wonders why Rose should still be banned from the Baseball Hall of Fame when others who commit major infractions are either given a second chance or not held to certain standards at all. Downey says of the hypocrisy:

"In the same breath, they tell us funny stories about the Hall of Fame baseball greats who bar-hopped all night, came to the park drunk, played with a hangover, hahaha, what a guy. Oh, that Babe. Oh, that Mickey.

"It is, of course, a Hall of Fame also occupied by an accused gambler or two, by a wife-beater or two, a philanderer or two, a racist or two, a cheater or two, a rule-breaker or two. Just as today's voters continue to debate who did and didn't demonstrate exemplary character, we could argue whether Pete Rose must be forever bound by 'rules are rules,' or if rules, as some have been known to say, are made to be changed."

(Mike Downey. "Let Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame Already. CNN Opinion. August 21, 2014) 

To me, 25 years is long enough for Rose "getting exactly what he deserved." I want him to be reinstated in order to contribute to the game he loves. A life sentence from the game and from the Hall is unfair. If you want to give this type of punishment to those who have contributed to damaging "the integrity of the game" (whatever your definition of that may be), you should apply the same ban to others who broke the cardinal rules.

If, on the other hand, you believe in repentance and forgiveness, you should look at the benefits of letting Pete Rose take part in Major League Baseball. I've heard many say, "Yes, he should be in the Hall of Fame, but he must never be allowed to manage again." I believe he should already be in the Hall for his performance as a great baseball player. This is merely a token of acknowledging his outstanding career.

Now, after serving a lengthy sentence away from the game, Rose should be reinstated. How else is he expected to serve Major League Baseball? After all, when Mark McGwire occupies a position as hitting coach for a major league team, I think baseball has already committed itself to forgiveness.

Here is what Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said this August about reinstating Rose:

"I'm going to do what I think is right," Selig said to a group of reporters in Cincinnati, according to USA TODAY Sports. "I have five months to think about it. So it is under advisement. I understand that this is the only place I go that they're going to ask about it. I understand that."

"You all know I was particularly close to Bart Giamatti," Selig continued. "He was really one of the best friends I've ever had in the world. I understand the feeling here in Cincinnati. I really do. I'm sensitive to it, as a matter of fact. I've said, because I am the judge, that it's a matter under advisement."

"I think it's inappropriate for me to say any more than that. But I've taken it seriously, talked to a lot of people. It's one of those situations in life that you wish didn't exist, but it does."

(Greg Archuleta. "Pete Rose Reinstatement: MLB Commissioner Bud Selig To Decide Before Leaving Office." Sports World News. August 23, 2014)

If Bud Selig feels Cincinnati is the only place that questions Rose's return to baseball, he needs to get a firmer grasp on the state of the fans. I believe most fans abhor the lack of hustle and mediocrity of dedication to the game today. I believe Pete Rose could have a major effect on instilling accountability in young players. He needs to be a part of Major League Baseball, where he belongs.

I have recovered from my broken heart, and I want a "Pete Rose" baseball intensity back in the game. I believe Pete deserves a second chance. What in the world would a continuation of the ban benefit?

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