Two days ago, Pete Rose applied to be reinstated to Major League Baseball. I’m sure you expect me to be one of those writers to condemn such a decision. But I won’t, and here is why.
Growing up, I admit I idolized Pete Rose. He was the hardest working baseball player who ever played the game. News of his gambling angered me, leading me to repeatedly condemn him. But I realize that my attacks on Rose were perhaps too strong. Here’s why.
Yes, Rose bet on baseball. It was illegal. Fans like me were shocked when the all-time leader in hits, the man who meant so much to the Big Red Machine, who had 44 straight games with a hit, who got the Philadelphia Phillies their first World Series title, was banned from baseball.
I had more reasons to be upset. While I was in college, a friend got involved in sports betting. One day, he disappeared. Was he running for his life? Was he buried somewhere in a shallow grave? We never found out. I just remember how terrified he was when he faced big losses.
Yes, I’ve written articles expressing my anger with Rose. But in reality, he was a public figure, an easy target. He wasn’t the reason my friend disappeared. He was probably just as much a victim, getting in too deep, making regrettable decisions.
According to Yahoo News, Mark Rosenbaum, a civil rights lawyer who submitted the petition on behalf of Mr. Rose, stated “Pete doesn't seek special treatment, but equal treatment to others who have violated the integrity of the game.
Unlike those known and unknown management and players who used and countenanced the use of steroids and engaged in electronic sign stealing, Pete’s transgressions did not affect the outcome of any game, let alone the World Series, or player performance.
And unlike Pete, those violators will not be banished from baseball for thirty years and counting. At stake here then is not just proportional treatment for Pete, but the credibility and stature of the game for all time.”
Believe it or not, there is a precedent. How many of you readers knew that Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were banned from baseball for working with casinos? But Commissioner Peter Ueberroth reinstated both of them, and both returned to become great ambassadors for the game.
But there’s one more thing that Rose did which should help his case. He actually admitted he bet on baseball. He did that, knowing it would seal his ban from baseball. It had to be painful.
We have to ask ourselves whether Pete Rose is more useful for MLB as a whipping boy, an object of repeated scorn by writers such as me, or maybe it would be better to have Rose as someone who can be a public spokesman for helping so many Americans trying to break a bad habit?
Which option would do more good for the sport, and this country?
I should have considered that in prior articles. After all, what if my friend reemerged from hiding? Would I want him permanently kicked out of my life, having nothing to do with him, or should I help him kick the habit? Having admitted his problem, couldn’t he help others do the same?
Today, I talked with a gentleman at a conference, who has a relative working for Baseball’s Hall-of-Fame. “Pete Rose will get into Cooperstown,” he informed me. “I’m sure of it.” I’m beginning to think it’s not such a bad idea.