TWO WORDS. Two syllables.
Utter them around baseball fans or aficionados and get ready to run for cover.
Any sportswriter covering baseball or knowing anything about baseball has written a column about Rose.
So, why would I tackle what I consider to be a controversial topic? Because two things occurred in mid June, thrusting Rose back into the spotlight.
The baseball hall of fame upheld Rule 3E, and the Cincinnati Reds unveiled a statue depicting Rose’s legendary headfirst slide.
In the early 1980’s, I played baseball in the small town of Morristown, Tennessee. Buddy Gresham, a standout baseball and football player at both Coosa High School and later Carson Newman, was my coach. During those days, baseball was king or at least it was in my world.
One day during practice, I took a big lead off first base, and the pitcher didn’t pay any attention. When he delivered the ball, I took off for second. I don’t know if I beat the throw from the catcher. I can’t remember if I was safe or out, but I do remember launching into a headfirst slide into second base a la Rose.
During and after practice, all of my teammates commented on the slide. When I told my dad that night about the Pete Rose slide, he smirked and commented that there were a lot more players than Rose who slid headfirst into bases.
I respect Rose. I tried to emulate Rose during my brief baseball playing days, but I stand opposed to any and all that wish him to enter the hall.
For many fans, Rose exists in an ethereal realm. Yes. He’s baseball’s all-time hits leader. But many people also recall the almost frenzied way he played the game.
He earned the nickname Charlie Hustle, be- cause every time he was on the field he hustled. Hit a routine grounder, and he sprinted to first as if the Devil himself was chasing him.
Coming into a base and knowing the ball is ahead of him, well that headfirst slide made him look more like a freight train. He might be out, but the fielder would pay for making the tag.
Google Pete Rose and headfirst slide, and sit back and marvel at the images.
When the inning ended or began, he sprinted to or from the field. The man loved to play baseball. I’m not so sure pine tar and resin didn’t ooze from his pores instead of sweat.
The man deserves to be in Cooperstown. The problem lies in the rulebook.
Pete Rose bet on baseball, and two rules keep him from joining the greats enshrined in upstate
Major League Baseball’s Rule 21D (I’m shortening it here) states any player or manager betting on a game in which they are playing or managing receives a lifetime ban from the game.
Hall of Fame Rule 3E states any player on baseball’s ineligible list is not an eligible candidate. During the late 1980’s, it’s been reported that Pete Rose bet on teams he managed. He got busted and then lied to investigators.
In every Major League clubhouse, there is a notice on the wall reminding players not to bet on baseball. At spring training every year, players must sign forms saying they won’t bet on baseball. It’s not some obscure rule hidden in the back corner of the baseball rule bible. It’s right there to be seen every single day in every clubhouse. Rose saw this and signed these forms for more than 20 years and chose to ignore it.
While Rose portrayed so many great player traits, he also allowed hubris to get the better of him. He knew the rules. He broke the rules, and he now pays penance. Many people believe it’s unjust. Many people believe it’s just.
I enjoyed watching Rose play baseball. I tried to emulate him on the field, even if it was a pale comparison. He broke what has to be considered one of the toughest records in all of sports when he passed Ty Cobb on the all-time hits list.
For 23 years, I’ve avoided putting my thoughts into writing. I’ve learned talking about this is akin to lighting a firecracker and tossing it into an oil refinery. Except in that case, you at least have a chance to run fast and escape the explosion.
I believe Pete Rose deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but I believe his actions preclude him from consideration. Rules apply to us all, even Charlie Hustle.
If Major League Baseball wants to reinstate Rose, my opinion changes.
Sportswriters pen columns across the country trying to pull a fast one, pleading to allow the hall of fame voters to decide about Rose.
The issue most outside of the profession don’t realize is those same writers hold the votes and if allowed, would put Rose in the Hall if allowed to vote for him.
In a day and age when we tell ourselves rules matter and we pine for players who work hard, put their bodies on the lines for their teams and emulate hard work and hustle, the best thing we can do is uphold those ideals.
If you break the rules, you pay the price no matter how hard it may be.