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Out of Bounds: Can Pete Rose come home?

by Derek Clarkston, Sports editor

Known as “Charlie Hustle” on the field and “Charlie Hustler” off the field, Pete Rose has finally made it clear that he gambled his life away on the game that gave him everything as a player and bitter disappointment as a manager.

After denying for nearly 15 years that he bet on baseball, Rose finally let out the truth when he told ABC news reporter Charles Gipson, in an interview on Primetime, Jan. 8, that he bet on the game of baseball and his own team the Cincinnati Reds, while he was the manager.

 

“I am terribly sorry for my actions and for my bad judgment in ever wagering on baseball, and I deeply regret waiting so many years to come clean,” said Rose on the ESPN Website.

The interview with Gipson coincides with Rose’s new autobiography My Prison Without Bars, which contains the whole story of his betting and his regrets over what he did.

Will Rose’s confession be enough for one of baseball’s greats to finally have his name removed from baseballs ineligible list and his accomplishments recognized so that his plaque may be placed in the Baseball Hall of Fame? Or will his confession still leave Rose without baseball’s highest honor, Cooperstown?

Rose was placed on Major League Baseball’s permanent ineligible list by the commissioner at the time, A. Bartlett Giamatti, on August 23, 1989 on the grounds of allegations made in a 225-page report done by John Dowd, an investigator hired by MLB. That report stated that he bet on 412 baseball games including 52 games played by his own Reds team, though he never bet against his own team.

During Rose’s 13-year career he became one of the greatest baseball players ever to step onto the diamond. He established himself as the all-time hits leader in baseball history with 4,256 hits, surpassing the great Ty Cobb on Sept. 11, 1985. He is the only player in MLB history to start more than 500 games at five different positions. He played on three World Series teams and six pennant-winning teams. He was the MVP of the National League in 1973, won three batting titles, and has the National League record for the longest hitting streak, which stands at 44 games.

If those numbers don’t speak for themselves what does?

The fact that Rose finally came out publicly reassures the baseball world that he finally realizes what he did tarnished the game and his name. Nonetheless, no one can ever take away the numbers that Rose put up as a player, and no one in 19 years has had as many hits as he did. The only way baseball and its fans can honor that record is to forgive him for what he did as a manger. Coming out with the truth was belated, but the important fact is that he finally did come out with the truth.

There is no evidence Rose ever gambled as a player, only as a manger. MLB honors players and managers, but no one is considering honoring Rose as a manager. So isn’t the Hall of Fame a place where players are to be honored for their accomplishments on the field, rather than what they do off the field? That is why it’s called the Baseball Hall of Fame, not the good citizen’s Hall of Fame.
Rule five of the Hall of Fame states that “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”

Rose demonstrated all of the above during his playing career. It’s what he did as a manager that hurt him and MLB. But he is not going to be going into the Hall as a manager.

It’s unfortunate that Rose became addicted to gambling. If he had have been addicted to drugs, instead, the 15-year debate might have never started.

Baseball has a drug rehabilitation program for any player who tests positive for drugs. Once a player tests positive, he is suspended from baseball until he goes to the rehabilitation center. Once he is released, he is free to come back to baseball for a second, third, or fourth chance. But there is no gamblers unanimous with meetings to go to if you get caught gambling. No second chances for gamblers. Is that fair?

For example Steve Howe, a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers during the 1980’s, was suspended during the 1984 season. A year later, Howe, resurfaced in the majors where he stumbled from team to team until June of 1992. That year MLB commissioner Fay Vincent gave Howe a lifetime ban from MLB for violating a drug aftercare program, when Howe was caught purchasing a gram of cocaine in Montana. Howe was reinstated back into baseball five months later when an arbitrator argued that the pitcher depended on cocaine to help him with his Attention Deficit Disorder.

If that’s the case, Rose should have hired an arbitrator to say that gambling helped him solve his money problems off the field.

Rose’s case is simple. He just wants in the Hall of Fame. He is not asking to become a manager again: he doesn’t want to be actively involved in baseball again. He just doesn’t want to be forgotten for what he did on the field.

Cooperstown already has 28 Rose items on display Now all the Hall is waiting for is the final piece to the collection, the plaque of “Charlie Hustle.”

Rose has done all that he can do to help his case in the reinstatement process. Now the ball is in current MLB commissioner Bud Selig’s hand.

 

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