Pete Rose, the sight of you makes me sad, and a bit angry

As all of baseball returns to the diamonds across America today to commence the races for division titles and wild cards and the playoffs that will lead us to the World Series, I’d like to take one more deep All-Star Break breath and ponder Pete Rose with you all.

Yeah, the American League team will once again have the home-field advantage, thanks to Tuesday night’s victory over the NL squad, a beat-down that’s become all too familiar to fans of National League squads. (But, oh, how great my New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom looked striking out all three batters on 10 pitches in his lone sixth inning of work in the 6-3 defeat.)

The fans in Cincinnati cheered through the night nevertheless, for their hometown Reds, steady starting third baseman Todd Frazier, who had won the Home Run Derby the night prior, and dizzying relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman, a lefty who brought it to the stunned AL batters in the ninth at more than 100 mph. And they witnessed more good plays for the AL, from Angels’ outfielder Mike Trout’s leadoff solo homer to right off Dodgers’ starter Zack Greinke to Minnesota Twins’ second baseman Brian Dozier’s eighth inning insurance solo shot in the eighth off Pirates’ closer Mark Melancon.

Before the game, the fans were introduced to baseball living legends. Baseball honchos brought out whom they consider their sport’s big four: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax and Johnny Bench. I saluted them on the flat screen from my recliner in the Little Bitty in the Syracuse city neighborhood of Eastwood, for each gave this 57-year-old lifelong baseball fan a thrill, from little kid to young adult.

All franchises were able to introduce their own four greatest living players.

Pete Rose at the All-Star Game (Elsa/Getty Images)

Pete Rose at the All-Star Game (Elsa/Getty Images)

One of the Reds’ choices was Pete Rose.

Many reports say that Rose received the biggest ovation of the night.

That bothers me.

I understand that Pete Rose is Major Leage Baseball’s all-time hit leader, and the majority of those hits came in front of these Cincinnati Reds fans or previous generations of said passionate followers. I know how important he was to the The Big Red Machine, the World Series titles, the glory, the fun, the thrill, the success. He played like no other, running to to first base after drawing a walk. His nickname was Charlie Hustle. Swagger? If an opposing player had a chip on his shoulder, Pete would just knock it off somehow, because his chip was way bigger, even though he wasn’t a tall man.

He managed the Reds, too, even while he still played.

Reds fans love him even at the Mets' stadium.

Reds fans love him even at the Mets’ stadium.

That love I get.

But there’s the flip side of Pete Rose, the gambling scandal that’s kept him out of the Hall of Fame down the road from me here in Cooperstown. That ugly mess is well chronicled. A guy named Dowd made a report for a Commissioner named Giamatti. Pete denied the findings.

Then he said he only bet for his team, never against it. Then he said he never bet when he was a player-manager, only a manager.

Evidence over the years kept coming out pointing otherwise, right down to a month or so ago, and Pete keeps wiggling and changing his story.

Now, that’s what makes me sad.

If all those decades ago he just would have said, yeah, I had a problem, I did it, I’m sorry. Well … A manager who bets for his squad … That’s bad, but nobody’s perfect … America’s forgiving. A commissioner probably would have pardoned Pete Rose by now and let the voters decide if he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame or not.

Pete, though, he chose to stick to his story until he couldn’t. And even though he wasn’t eligile to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, well, he could go there induction weekend each summer and set up a table in a souvenir stand and sell his autograph and make money off his name and his fame and maybe thumb his nose at authority in the process.

A couple of decades ago, my father Frank was up from Long Island visiting me, his step-grandson Michael in tow. We drove the 50 or so miles from my house in Morrisville to Cooperstown, so father and son could relive some New York Mets baseball glory together, and, oh, 10-year-old Michael could soak up some of the glow, too.

Our stroll outside the official Hall of Fame took us to that store where Pete Rose had his table set up, and my father and I mentioned his name and looked over at the guy.

Pete Rose! Michael shouted and jumped. That was the autograph he wanted. My father peeled off a twenty, Michael went up to the table and handed it over, and Pete scrawled his name on a pre-printed photo and completed the transaction. Not a word. Hardly looked up. Oh, but I heard what Pete Rose said after Michael ran back to my father. What a funny-looking kid, he declared to his young and pretty female assistant at the table. That’s another twenty. Or words to those affects.

That makes me angry. Still.

I directed a dirty look toward Pete Rose, shook my head and made my way back to my father and Michael. I asked the kid what made Pete Rose special to him, feeling him out, hoping he hadn’t heard the aside.

Well, Michael said, what a cool name! Turned out, Michael had never heard of Pete Rose before that day. I wish Pete had caught that exchange. Might have done him some good. Ah, probably not.

Do you think Pete Rose should or should not be in the Hall of Fame, and why? Have you ever paid for an autograph, and why? Who are you rooting for as baseball begins again, and why?

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48 thoughts on “Pete Rose, the sight of you makes me sad, and a bit angry

  1. We may have had more respect for him if he had come clean Mark, but he would have been permanently banned from any ball functions – he would have lost more money. I think he balanced off the desire for money and the need for truth and found he wanted money more – of course that was obvious from the beginning. I honestly think there are a lot of pro athletes that would come to the same conclusion. I am not overly enamored of the ethics and morals of our athletes. I am sure Rose is just one that got caught. In all honesty Mark, the owners are no better in my experience (which is very little – just what I see on TV and in the media).

    You were much, much closer to the people themselves in your career Mark, what do you think?

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    • I think athletes and owners in general reflect the population as a whole, Paul. We can’t expect them to be holier than us or worse than us because they’re in the spotlight or have more money.

      But I do think others may have confessed it all from the start, gotten therapy, and hoped for absolution and therefore another avenue into the riches. But his actions reflected that Pete did not think that his betting was wrong, so he went on doing what he did, and the money was more important than the fame, until he realized he wanted both.

      Sure, there are a lot of currs in the Hall of Fame from years past, bigots and bad actors and such. Agreed. They got in at a time when those things were tacitly accepted by baseball. Bad marks for everybody involved. But betting on baseball wasn’t, and Pete just crapped all over that golden rule, and thumbed his nose about it. Bad on him.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I would not pay for an autograph. Ever.

    I have to admit I paid very little attention to what happened “after” the Big Red years. I know I watched baseball for a few seasons as a young child. Because my entire household did. I remember the names of THAT time. But that is really what I love. THAT time. My childhood. When my parents and siblings and everyone talked about Johnny Bench (come on, how cute is he!) Charlie Hustle, Joe Morgan. That’s what I remember fondly when I think of Pete Rose. Apparently I never really cared for baseball. But back then? I cared that it was part of my growing up. Now? I can’t remember the last time I watched a game.

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  3. Great interesting reading on a subject I know nothing about Mark, sorry, but I have heard of Willie Mays, supposedly one of your greats in Baseball.
    Sad finish for Pete Rose, an attitude he may have carried throughout his baseball career.
    Cheers.
    PS Didn’t Ted Danton, the Barkeep out of Cheers play Baseball ?

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  4. I’m totally with you on the anti-Rose bandwagon. The guy signed his HoF eligibility away just to keep the investigation from going any deeper, and now we’re to feel sorry for him that the succeeding commissioners haven’t offered him any leniency? Like you, I don’t think he’s earned it. Gambling on the game is baseball’s one holy rule thou shalt not violate, clearly posted in every clubhouse since the days of Keenesaw Mountain Landis, and Rose got busted for doing it. It angers me a lot when those who support the PED crew’s cold shoulder they unfairly get from the Hall try to bring up Pete Rose’s situation as a comparison…. there is no comparison.

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  5. Nice piece Mark. I think you catch the totally commercial concerns that drive Rose and his quest to be reinstated, not any “love of the game” or personal concerns. As such, it makes it even easier to ban Rose. He committed the cardinal sin against baseball–gambling compromises the basic integrity of the sport. As such, it is a much more damning an offense than PED’s. And he continues to lie about the extent of his gambling–he has no response to the latest bombshell that he bet as a player. He’s out.

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  6. I know nothing about Pete Rose, other than what I have read in this post. He sounds like a totally money-grubbing, obnoxious schmuck!!!!! But I guess it goes to show you, just because someone is a really good at a sport, does not necessarily guarantee they will be good as a person.

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  7. I was always a Bench fan, but I loved Rose too. Bob Costas reminded us it isn’t called the Hall of Angels. If Rose were a possibility, I’d say so what. He’s the all-time hits leader and that makes the collection at Cooperstown incomplete. There are some terrible people in the HOF, look into Ty Cobb’s deeper history. It’s almost like a sword collector saying “no thanks” when someone offers to give him Excalibur.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I couldn’t agree more. He hasn’t been the least fit remorseful, is completely arrogant, and as someone who lives in Cincinnati, it really annoys me. He let our city down as far as I am concerned.

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  9. This is a tough one. If you are basing it on the stats alone, yes he should be in the hall. We all know getting in the hall is not based on being a good person, if so then Ty Cobb would not be in the hall, he killed a man,,, that being said you would think the guy would be more humbled by the experience, but obviously he just isn’t a good guy…this is coming coming from a Phillies fan, and he of course was a Philly too ; )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Pete was a Phlly, too, Danielle, so I know you must have a special place for that part of his career. Thanks for pitching in with your thoughts on baseball’s Rose dilemma, my friend.

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  10. I get that Cincinnati wants to honor him, and his stats, his record. But his behavior…that would have knocked a few legs off of that pedestal for me.

    And…showing up at Cooperstown to charge for autographs…just tacky. The way people treat children…like that 10 year old…says a lot about a person’s character. Ugh. I vote no.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Terrible man! He could learn a lot from former catcher for the Orioles, Rick Dempsey.

    About 2 years ago, I stood in line for over an hour to get his autograph and a photo with him. Just as it was my turn, the handlers said time was up. Being a rule follower, I started to leave. Dempsey said, ‘Wait,’ and signed an Orioles cap for me. My friend whispered, ‘Ask him for a photo.’ I nudged her to keep quiet. He looked up at me and asked, ‘Did you want a photo?’ I told him the handler said I should move along. He stood up from the table, said ‘I’m in charge here, not her,’ and put his arm around me and posed for the photo.

    What a class act!

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    • Hooray for Rick Dempsey, Kate. He was a delight when he played for your Birds under the Earl of Baltimore. I’m so glad he’s carried that love for the game on in his retirement. That what his treatment of you and all fans now must stem from, right? Love of the game. Do you remember back in the 80s when he went out at Memorial Stadium diuring a rain delay and slid around the tarp with the grounds grew? It made all the hightlights shows!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I do remember! He now does commentary after the games on TV. He loves the game, the Orioles and the fans. He is one of the good guys.

        I am pretty repulsed by Rose’s comment as related in your story.

        Liked your Earl of Baltimore comment. Now there was a character!

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  12. Is the Hall of Fame to honor the best or to tell the history of baseball? I don’t think that they know and there in lies the problem. I think baseball history takes care of itself and that the Hall should honor the best and you can’t be the best if you cross the gambling line. While I appreciate how he played, I can’t get past the line, THE LINE that he crossed. His lack of remorse is irrelevant to my point, but pathetic.

    So no Hall of Fame for Rose. Sorry Charlie. And no access to MLB decision-making, although there might be a compromise available to show reality, affiliate him with the Reds (or Phillies) officially.

    As a fan of the game and of the All Star Game (I’ve attended 2), I was bummed that he got so much attention, so much air-time. It took away from a great city and a great event. The All Star Game wasn’t about him, or at least shouldn’t have been. I say, give more attention to Paul Goldschmidt πŸ˜€

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      • Thank you for this compliment, Mark! I’m a relatively new baseball fan, since moving to AZ so the Diamondbacks are my first and only baseball love 😍 My sons brought baseball into my life and I couldn’t be more grateful. Having said that, I do love the city of brotherly love. As for NY, which I love too, I’m with your Mets, Mark πŸ‘That other team shall go unnamed πŸ˜‰

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      • I think some Philly-ness must have filtered in growing up in Scranton, Angie McFly, because you are very fluent in the Pete Rose mess. πŸ™‚ Thanks for your Mets support over those other guys, too. ❀

        Liked by 1 person

      • When studying baseball up front, I focused on a few teams from my fave cities so, yes, Philly ❀️. Plus, like I mentioned, I feel that baseball history takes care of itself. A student of the game knows Pete Rose, thee good and bad. Baseball is like family, full of characters. And like all families, we need healthy boundaries (don’t bet on the game) and lots of love and forgiveness while setting each other up for success. Pete Rose is akin to my crazy uncle from Jersey, love him but don’t trust him to choose well 😜

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  13. Now, you know I usually refrain from sports related opinions, but in this case, I’m speaking up, Mark. No, I don’t think Pete should be in the HOF… because as a sports star, he was a leader and an example to our nation’s youth, and I think he should have to have consequences for his bad choices. (Of course I am also the one who wrote a letter to the Olympic commission telling them how disappointed I was that Michael Phelps was allowed to compete again last time after being caught with marijuana for the same reason.) Done with my soapbox now. πŸ˜‰

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