Burton on the Bay
A Rose with Thorns
Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.
Gertrude Stein: Sacred Emily, 1913
That, might I say, goes for Homo sapiens of that name, as in Pete Rose, as well as flowering bushes in the backyard garden. And while Im at it, might I also suggest that though the names are the same, not so with the aroma.
Few ever tire of the scent of the blooming rose Stein wrote of, but to put it plainly and bluntly, Im sick and tired of the stench from the other rose garden better known as Crosley Field where Pete Rose bloomed as a magnificent baseball player and manager. Methinks Im not the only follower of Americas national pastime who thinks its time the air surrounding the whole stink is freshened.
For the past 14 years, Pete Rose who gained fame as player, player/manager, then manager of the Cincinnati Reds of the National League has admittedly lied in his denials that he wagered on baseball games, including those in which his team played. Despite those denials, he accepted a lifetime ban from Major League Baseball.
On the diamond, its three strikes and youre out. Always has been; hopefully always will be. But for some peculiar reason, Pete Rose seems to think he is entitled to a fourth strike, and he has a hard-core corps of fans who are going to bat for him. Like their hero, curiously they seem to think records mean more than the integrity of the game.
Great Britains version of baseball is cricket, and somethings not cricket about this whole sordid mess. Im ignorant of what the cardinal rule of the game played on the other side of the Atlantic is, but in the one played on this hemisphere its Thou shall not bet on the game. One cant count the times Pete Rose from exile has said in various ways Me bet on baseball? No way. but within the past month, things have changed.
The former Reds superstar has taken a new tack in his thus-far fruitless efforts to become eligible for a slot in the lineup at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, above all, but also maybe for the opportunity to again manage a team or perhaps field a front office job with an MLB franchise. Somehow, he appears to think that after 14 years in no mans land, by finally admitting he gambled on baseball games, all will be forgiven and forgotten.
Thou Shall Not Bet
Hey, practically since as a West Point cadet in 1839 Abner Doubleday (later an officer in the Union Army in the Civil War) wrote the rules for an increasingly popular sport, betting on games has been a no-no. Now, 165 years later, Pete Rose, along with Rick Hill, has written the book My Prison Without Bars, in which he admits I bet on baseball. As if finally fessing up entitles him to a fourth strike.
No way; three strikes and youre out. Not out for 14, 20, 50 or 100 years. Youre out forever. Lets go back to 1919, when gamblers played games with the World Series, and among those called out at home plate was Shoeless Joe Jackson of the Chicago White Sox, almost as popular in his time as Pete Rose was to later become.
Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, then commissioner of baseball, thumbed out seven players. Jackson ranked in hitting up there with legendary Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker drew probably more sympathy than Pete Rose. Who can forget the tearful kid who pleaded Say it isnt so, Joe, as the disgraced player left the courtroom.
No jury convictions came in court, and there was no players union then, but Kenesaw Mountain Landis was determined to restore integrity to baseball. There were no fourth strikes or extra innings. For the eight of the Black Sox, a fix was a fix, and out meant for life including for Jackson, who rose from a Southern cotton-picking family to a .375 hitter in that series, which incidentally saw the Sox (Black or White) lose to guess who? The very same Cincinnati Reds for which Rose starred on the field, while on the side enriching the pockets of bookies.
For years, Shoeless Joe who his supporters claimed was illiterate and incapable of understanding what he was getting himself into pleaded with the commissioner for reinstatement. No dice.
The Hustlers Hubris
Pete Rose is literate, but unlike Jackson, he has yet to get around to saying hes sorry. In his book, he only says something like Ive accepted that Ive done something wrong. Lets move on.
Know what? In gambling, not infrequently he sometimes lost more in a week than Shoeless Joe was promised ($20,000 of which he was reported to receive only $5,000) for throwing a World Series. But then Rose, known for his hustle on the field, appeared to be a hustler of a different type off the field.
From what Ive read of My Prison Without Bars, Pete Rose comes off as a bit arrogant: a great man with the bat (he broke Ty Cobbs record), but damned inadequate as a representative for his cause. Nowhere did I find what one would call a real legitimate public apology. Mostly its like, Im Pete Rose, I broke the records, Im owning up to it, and that should be enough. Enough is enough, give me my just rewards.
I Rest My Case
Tell you what, Ill go along with those last five words: Give me my just rewards. Baseball is a game of records, hits, runs and errors, and Pete Rose has them all. But to one who cherishes the game, his big error overpowers the hits, runs, records, hustle and even his eventual confession.
What will become of baseball if it comes to pass that Commissioner Bud Selig, perish the thought, agrees with Rose that the on-field credentials of one player are above that of the credentials of the sport? If you know the answer, its not a question.
Sure there is some (only some) validity to any claims by Rose or his legion of admirers that he and his records should be enshrined at Cooperstown up where the Susquehanna originates. But sorting out this mess and its inherent stench goes beyond hits, runs and hustle.
As I understand the covenants of baseball, for eligibility to the roster at Cooperstown, Pete Rose must be reinstated to the sport. Reinstatement could open the gate to his returning as a manager or any other job in the game.
In a letter to the editor some time back, I read a solution proposed by a fellow who said induct him in the hall, but make him promise never to manage again. Huh? Sounds simple and easy, doesnt it? Until we appreciate that were being asked to take the word of a guy who, before publication of his latest book, fibbed countless times to everyone from sportswriters and fans to more than one commissioner of baseball that he did not bet on the game.
Enough said. I rest my case
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