He said that when he was growing up he rooted for the Cincinnati Reds just like every other kid in the area. In the summertime of most of his childhood years he played baseball constantly. He also played in high school, however he thinks that he was a better football player than a baseball player in school. He said that he liked to play football more because many people would attend the games, and not many showed up for baseball. “You could throw a bomb into the stands at our (high school) baseball games, and you wouldn’t kill anyone”. If it wasn’t for Pete’s uncle, who was a scout for the Cincinnati Reds, he would never nave played baseball. His uncle saw him play in high school and signed him to a contract with the Reds farm system. Pete started out at the class “A” level. He rose up quickly making the starting roster for the Reds opening day team in the same year, 1963. On opening day Pete said he wasn’t nervous at all until about 10 minutes before the game. It hit him that he was now starting for the Cincinnati Reds, when not more than a year ago he thought football was his life. He walked in his first at bat, on 4 straight pitches. He said it wasn’t because of nerves though, he just didn’t want to swing. He got his first hit in the majors three games later, against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Pete played with the Cincinnati Reds from 1963 to 1978, and then he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. He played in Philly from 1979 to 1983, and then he went to the Montreal Expos for 1984. He stayed only one half year in Montreal, having a desire to retire in his hometown Cincinnati. He played his final two and a half years, 1984-1986, in Cincinnati, and then he retired. He then went on to become the Reds manager from 1987 to 1989.
During his career Pete Rose was called “Charlie Hustle” because of the way that he played. He played a “blue-collar” game of baseball, running out everything, and diving headfirst into bases with regularity. Few players can or will ever match the passion that Pete Rose played with.
Rose was the leadoff hitter for Cincinnati’s “big red machine” which was a force in baseball in the 1970’s. Pete proved that he could be counted on to hit .300 every season, and play wherever he was needed. Pete’s skill and longevity showed through when he broke the 3000 hit barrier, off Steve Rogers in 1978. He was playing for the Reds at the time. 3000 hits is something that a player dreams of getting during his career. It is a milestone that is not reached by about 99% of all baseball players, but it was just a stepping stone for Pete Rose. Since he was not nearing retirement yet, he knew he had a chance at something that was unheralded, the 4000 hit mark. There was only one other person who ever played the game that had 4000 hits, Ty Cobb. To get 4000 hits, and have your name up there with Cobb was probably the best thing that any player could hope for. Rose got to 4000 in the Montreal Expos home opener in 1984. The next mark for Rose was to break Ty Cobb’s career hit mark. He did this on September 11th, 1985, in the first inning off San Diego’s Eric Show. Rose was playing for Cincinnati at the time. He admits that when he went into the dugout after that hit, it was the only time he ever cried on a baseball field. “I’m a tough S.O.B., but I just couldn’t take it” said Rose following his crowning achievement. There are now only two players that have over 4000 hits. Ty Cobb and Pete Rose are the two, and it will be a long while before a third name is added to that list.
It is very clear when you look at the stats and the records that Pete Rose owns that he is truly one of the elite players in the history of Major League Baseball. This statement was confirmed by the induction of Pete Rose to baseball’s All-Century team (1999). Pete Rose’s name is now listed with 30 other baseball greats on that team. When you consider how good all of the other players on the team are, you realize what kind of career Pete Rose had.
Of the 30 people that are on the All-Century team, 26 of them are in the hall of fame. The four players who aren’t are Roger Clemens, Ken Griffey Jr., Mark McGwire, and Pete Rose. Clemens, Griffey, and McGwire can’t get in until they retire, but when they do, there is no doubt that all of them will get in the hall. But what about Pete Rose? Why isn’t he in there? Didn’t the nominating committee see his stats and records? Don’t they know that he leads the majors in career hits? How could someone that is so good and clearly one of the elite players of all time be left out of the hall of fame? When you consider the personalities of some of the men in there, Ty Cobb who was a wife beater, and Babe Ruth who used to drink alcohol all the time, you wonder what Rose would have to do to not get elected. He would have had to do something extraordinarily bad, something that nobody would even think about doing, something so repulsive that it got him thrown out of the game for life. That something was gambling. Betting on baseball was ultimately what got Pete Rose banned for life from the game that he loved so much. Betting? That’s it? He didn’t kill someone or bomb a small country or something? Nope. But betting was enough to force Commissioner Bartlett Giamatti to ban for life maybe the best hitter baseball had ever seen. On August 24th, 1989 Pete Rose was expelled for life from baseball for “off field activity that was contrary to the best interests of baseball”. There is much evidence that supports Giamatti’s suspicion and actions.
Five months earlier on March 20th of the same year the Commissioner’s office said that it was conducting a full investigation into serious allegations about Rose. Two days later, the 22nd, the Dayton Daily News (Ohio) quoted a source in the Commissioner’s office as saying, “If he only gets a year (suspension), he’ll be lucky”. On March 30th, former baseball security chief Henry Fitzgibbon gave a statement in which he said that baseball had been investigating Rose ever since the late 1970’s, when the Cincinnati post reported that Pete Rose owed bookmakers as much as $500,000. April 5th, a man known as “G-1” (bookkeepers will give you a number like that so that they can keep track easier) was identified as Pete Rose, and was said to be betting between $8,000-16,000 daily on baseball games. April 13th, the Boston Herald and the Providence Journal both reported that a check for $27,000 was given by Pete Rose to Joseph Cambra, who was a convicted bookmaker, and also had possession of Rose’s 1975 World Series ring. April 21st, Ronald Peters told federal investigators “that he took bets over a period of two years from Mr. Rose that could very well amount to in excess of a million dollars”. There is clear evidence that Rose bet on baseball, and even though he denies ever doing it, that evidence was enough for Giamatti to ban him for life.
Betting directly challenges the integrity of the game, while murder or something like that only challenges the integrity of the person who does it. If Pete Rose was betting on baseball while he was a player or manager, he easily could have manipulated scores and results so that he would win his bets. If that happened, then the integrity of the Reds and even the integrity of the league would have been in question. The bets that Pete Rose placed off the field had consequences that related directly to on the field play or managing. Let’s say for example that Cincinnati is losing to Atlanta 3-2 in the 9th inning and before the game Rose bet on Atlanta. Rose could send up a sub par pinch hitter with the game on the line to purposely try to lose. There is no way that this type of situation should ever occur, and that is why Rose received the punishment that he did.
Whether Bart Giamatti wanted to keep Rose out of the hall of fame, or just away from the game of baseball altogether is a question that will never be answered. Giamatti died of a heat attack on September 2nd, 1989 just nine days after he suspended Rose. Logically one would think that he wanted him out of baseball for good. Meaning no hall of fame, no managing, and no everything having to do with baseball. But, one could argue that letting him into the hall of fame doesn’t lift his banishment from the game, so why wouldn’t they just let him in? Taking him away from baseball made him lose the guaranteed salary of $500,000 a year for managing the Reds, and probably another million in endorsements. Why would Rose agree to this ban when he emphatically denies that he ever bet on baseball? With all of the money that he could lose, and all the love he had for the game itself, one would think that he would fight the punishment a little harder than he did. He just accepted what was given to him. That is something that a guilty man would do, it is not something that a person who believes that they are innocent would do. Pete Rose has said “I earned the public’s love and respect by busting my ass for 24 years in baseball I love baseball. Everything I’ve gotten is because of baseball Not having a chance to be there (the hall of fame) is the biggest career blow ever dealt to me.” well for someone who loves the game so much, and has worked hard to earn respect, an appeal of the decision would have made sense.
Now, ten years later, Rose has started a website with intent to gain the public’s support, and maybe get the suspension overturned, and also let him into the hall of fame. It’s amazing that it took him ten years to do this.
There are mixed sentiments about Pete Rose’s possible return to baseball. Frank Robinson, who is a hall of famer says “He (Rose) deserves to be in the hall of fame, but he has that strong will that he just doesn’t want to admit maybe he did something wrong.” Joe Morgan, another hall of famer says “Pete, in my opinion, owes an apology to all of the hall of famers, the players in the hall of fame itself, you know, for bringing a black mark against baseball”. Aaron Brown who works for ABC news says “He refused to admit gambling on baseball 10 years ago, when he was banned for life, and he refuses to admit it today. If anything, he thumbs his nose at the game.” However, Brown goes on to say “baseball has been just as stubborn. It allowed his name on its all-century team ballot, a concession to his achievements, but didn’t invite him to last month’s All-Star game, where the greatest living players were honored.” The new Commissioner Bud Selig also gave his opinion “I have seen no new evidence that would get me to even think about changing Commissioner Bart Giamatti’s decision.” Peter Gammons who is a baseball expert, and works for ESPN says “If Pete says he’s sorry, shows remorse and does admit that he had problems and does admit that he did bet on baseball games, I think the wind will blow so strongly that Bud (Selig) would go along with it”. This sounds the truest. If Rose owns up to the fact that he did bet on baseball, instead of denying what is clear evidence against him, then maybe the new Commissioner will start to look into the possibility of letting him back into the sport. However, if Rose continues to deny all of the accusations, then Bud Selig should not even give him a chance.
Kevin Cook and Mark Mravic are writers for Sports Illustrated, which is probably the biggest sport magazine in the country. They both think that Pete Rose is getting hustled by baseball. They start out by saying that right from the start baseball was against him. An agreement was signed by Rose that banned him from baseball; this agreement said that nothing in the agreement “should be deemed either an admission or denial by Peter Edward Rose of the allegation that he bet on any Major League Baseball game.” However, the day that the agreement was released, Bart Giamatti told reporters that he had concluded that Rose bet on baseball. This shows that the Commissioner did not believe that agreement, and that he thought that Rose was guilty. In 1991 the year before Rose would have been eligible for the hall of fame, the hall’s board of directors passed a new rule. This new rule stated that no player under suspension would be allowed into the hall of fame. Board member Fay Vincent said that the ruling had nothing to do with Pete Rose. Pete responded by saying “I’ll kiss your ass if that’s true.” Rose says that he has formally applied for reinstatement, but the league gives him no reply. The way that baseball feels about Pete Rose can be summed up by Nolan, a writer for the Boston Globe “The on-field Pete Rose belongs in the hall of fame, even though the off-field Pete Rose does not even belong in the game.”
During the 1999 World Series Pete Rose was asked to do an interview with NBC’s Jim Gray, after the all-century team was honored. Gray used the interview to ask Rose questions about his gambling and how it got him banned for life. Rose responded by saying “I’m surprised you’re bombarding me like this, on what is supposed to be a great night I’m very surprised at you.” Rose charges Gray with using a “prosecutor’s” line of questioning, and the public agreed. Right after the interview NBC headquarters received over 600 complaints about the interview. The public were not the only ones disappointed by Gray; “I thought it was uncalled for, and I’m very disappointed” says Joe Torre, the manager of the Yankees. The Yankee players followed suit. After Chad Curtis had hit a tenth inning home run to win game 3, Gray tried to interview him, but got shunned. Curtis told Gray that “Because of what happened with Pete (Rose), we’ve (the Yankees) decided not to say anything.”
It is clear that people loved Pete Rose when he played. He was a hero to many people throughout his career, and many people still love him as the player he once was. But, ever since August 24th, 1989 people have seen him in a different light. His ability to play the game and the prestige that his unbelievable career brought to him were overshadowed by his addiction to gambling and his betting on baseball. Many people think that induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame should be based on what happens on the field as opposed to what happens off the field. One would normally agree, however, when a player gambles he challenges the integrity of himself, his team, the league, and even the sport. However you want to look at it one simple fact remains. What Pete Rose did off the field scarred the image he had built on the field, and that is something that he may have to live with for the rest of his life.