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For Pete’s Sake: Enough already

He was wrong. It’s been 23 years. Ease up.

By Art Stevens

Peter Edward Rose was born on April 14, 1941. He played from 1963 to 1989. His accomplishments on the field were considerable. I’ll try to cover at least most of them in a short space.

Pete was a switch hitter. He was the all-time Major League leader in hits with 4,256; in games played with 3,562; and in at-bats with 14,053. He won three World Series rings; three batting titles; one Most Valuable Player award; two Gold Gloves; the ‘Rookie of the Year’ award, and made seventeen All-Star appearances at five different positions, second base, left field, right field, third base, and first base.

Three years after he retired in August 1989, he agreed to permanent ineligibility from baseball amidst accusations that he gambled on baseball games when playing and managing for the Cincinnati Reds, including claims that he bet on his own team. The baseball Hall of Fame formally voted to ban those on the ‘permanently ineligible’ list from induction into the Hall. In 2004, after years of public denial, Rose admitted to betting on baseball and on, but not against, the Reds. The issue of Rose’s possible reinstatement remains a contentious one throughout baseball.

Rose, known to his teammates as ‘Charlie Hustle,’ made his Major League debut in 1963 with the Reds. He hit .273 and won the ‘Rookie of the Year’ award. In 1964, he slumped to .269, went to play winter ball in Venezuela, and then came back in 1965 to lead the league with 209 hits, the first of ten seasons with 200 plus hits. He hit .312, the first of nine consecutive .300 seasons.

1969 was his best offensive season with a .348 batting average, 218 hits, 88 walks, leading the league in runs scored with 120, and a .432 on base percentage. In 1978, he became the 13th player in MLB history to get his 3,000th hit, and he tied Willie Keeler’s 1897 National League hitting streak at 44 games. He then spent time in Philadelphia, and Montreal, where he collected his 4,000th hit, joining Ty Cobb for that distinction. In 1984, he returned to the Reds as a player-manager. In 1985, he broke Ty Cobb’s hit record with his 4,192nd hit.

In 1989, Rose was accused of betting on baseball. According to the ‘Dowd Report,’ “No evidence was discovered that Rose bet against the Reds.” Rose continued to deny the charges, alleging that Commissioner Bart Giamatti had prejudged the case, and that he could not get a fair hearing. Finally, Rose accepted a permanent place on the ineligible list. According to baseball’s rules, Rose could apply for reinstatement in one year. In 1997, Rose did apply for reinstatement. Commissioner Bud Selig never acted on it. Six years later, in 2003, Selig acknowledged that he was considering Rose’s application, but he took no action.

Rose, in an interview with Dan Patrick in 2007: “I bet on my team every night. I didn’t bet on my team four nights a week. I bet on my team every night because I loved my team. I did everything in my power to win that game.”

Pete Rose certainly did what he was accused of doing. He bet on baseball. So did millions and millions of baseball fans, and they continue to do so. I’m not trying to put them into the same situation. They obviously are NOT the same. Call it human frailty, some kind of gambling sickness or whatever. The only difference is that the fan’s gambling is within the law, and Rose’s gambling was against baseball’s law. Baseball has strict rules about betting on games. Rose was found guilty, and he was banned from baseball and entry into the Hall of Fame. I think everyone will agree that he fully deserves, at least by his play on the field, to be inducted into the Hall. It was the correct verdict and the correct sentence. My problem is with the length of time the man has to live with that sentence.

At first, he steadfastly refused to admit what he had done and refused to apologize for it. At that time, my feeling was to ‘keep him out- he doesn’t deserve to be let back in.’ John Dowd is the lawyer who set up the case against Rose for Major League Baseball. He said in an interview a couple of years ago that what is needed is “a full confession of what he did, as well as a full apology. He’s paid his dues, but he must come clean.”

On September 13th, 2010, Rose appeared in a gathering that included ex-teammates Tony Perez, Tim Browning, Cesar Geronimo, George Foster and Ken Griffey, Sr. He said: “I disrespected the game of baseball. When you do that, you disrespect your teammates, the game, and your family. I guarantee everybody in this room that I will never disrespect you again.” Isn’t this enough? Does he really have to grovel?

I would feel differently if he had bet against his own team. Even Dowd, when he prepared the case, said that they had no evidence of that. When a person is convicted of robbing a bank (with no weapon), the sentence is ‘not less than five years- nor more than thirty years,’ with 54 days per year taken off for good behavior. My rough arithmetic shows me that if you figure in all of that, that Rose has now been penalized for approximately 23 years without the advantages of good behavior. Isn’t that enough? Pete Rose WILL be in the Hall of Fame. After being punished for this length of time, does baseball really have to induct him posthumously through his family members? Enough!