Time To Lift The Lifetime Bans On Pete Rose And Shoeless Joe Jackson

By Jared Max
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Dear Major League Baseball,

Stop playing God. Play ball!

It’s time to dismount from your two-faced high horse and open the door for Pete Rose. Shoeless Joe Jackson, too.

As the governing heads of America’s pastime, you expose yourselves as historical revisionists by not including two of baseball’s richest contributors in your hallowed Cooperstown halls. You come off in negative light: bitter, jealous control freaks taking yourselves too seriously. And you’re duplicitous.

Unlike football, basketball and hockey’s ultimate trophy cases, baseball’s hall distinguishes itself as a museum. It is called the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. By denying the back of Pete Rose’s baseball card — erasing pages of critical text from important volumes of your heritage — you continue to attempt to revise history. Fortunately, most baseball fans are not young schoolchildren in a foreign land who get taught selective, dogmatic history. We have been around the block and know the score. You have conveniently chosen which elements of your game’s bible are worthy to enforce and ignore.

Ninety-four years ago, baseball’s first commissioner bulldozed a jury’s verdict that one day before had legally acquitted the Black Sox. On August 3, 1921, baseball’s boss, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, stated, “Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player that throws a ball game; no player that undertakes or promises to throw a ball game; no player that sits in a conference with a bunch of crooked players and gamblers where the ways and means of throwing ball games are planned and discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.”

Landis used half of this statement to address one of eight men, Joe Jackson, whose .375 batting average was higher than any starting player on either team in the 1919 World Series. By these standards, every player who knows that a teammate is using PEDs should be bound to spill the beans. Any player who knows, or has known of another player that has cheated but failed to report the unscrupulous actions to the authorities, should not, as Judge Landis stated, “ever play professional baseball.”

By this measure, if you believe that you are the gate keepers of the sport, you must acknowledge that you have failed.

Time and again, Alex Rodriguez has thumbed his nose at Major League Baseball and still been allowed to continue his playing career. How can a cheater like Rodriguez be granted one second chance after another while Rose is denied leniency?

Judge Landis foresaw that players might seek seek clemency. “I don’t know that any of these men will apply for reinstatement, but if they do, the above are at least a few of the rules that will be enforced … baseball is competent to protect itself against crooks, both inside and outside the game.”

How might Landis feel about baseball’s softening stance against gambling?

As I detailed five weeks ago, rookie commissioner Rob Manfred opened the door to MLB altering its century-old stance against betting when, on February 5, he stated, “Gambling in terms of our society has changed its presence on legalization, and I think it’s important for there to be a conversation between me and the owners about what our institutional position will be.”

What is your position?!

Today in Philadlephia at the 3rd U.S. District Court of Appeals, representatives from MLB joined others from the NFL, NBA, NHL and NCAA in a legal fight against the state of New Jersey in its wish to offer legalized sports gambling at casinos and racetracks. Yesterday, Commissioner Manfred responded to Rose’s latest formal petition for reinstatement, saying, “I want to make sure I understand all of the details of the Dowd Report and Commissioner Giamatti’s decision and the agreement that was ultimately reached. I want to hear what Pete has to say, and I’ll make a decision once I’ve done that.”

Manfred reminds me of a potential base stealer, noncommittal, two to three steps off the bag: “He’s made a request. Part of my obligations under the major league constitution is to deal with those requests, and I’ll deal with it.”

Question: Who do you admire more? He who plays for the love of the game, or he who plays to win a trophy?

Rose was driven by his passion for baseball and competition. He did not commit his life to the sport to gain others’ acceptance. Rose was everything that Derek Jeter was as a player — and more. As a manager, though, Rose ruined his name when he got caught betting on the Reds.

Pete Rose waves to the crowd during a ceremony celebrating the 25th anniversary of his breaking the career hit record on September 11, 2010 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Pete Rose waves to the crowd during a ceremony celebrating the 25th anniversary of his breaking the career hit record on September 11, 2010 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Any true sportsman would agree that if Rose had bet against his own team, a lifetime sentence would be appropriate. He insists he did not bet against the Reds, though. Regardless, Rose’s absence from a museum that chronicles baseball is sadly laughable. It makes a mockery of a game that does not realize its own actions constrict its progress.

If the truth shall set one free, why is Pete Rose still in baseball prison?

At 73 years old, he has allowed himself to appear a sad, pathetic figure — still pleading with Ma and Pa Baseball to rescind his draconian punishment. Rose admitted to his wrongdoing. He has signed thousands of baseballs, inscribed, “I’m sorry I bet on baseball.” He has poked fun at his own misfortune in a TV commercial. What more can he do?

When you get your house in order and decide on rules that apply to all, that uphold the law of baseball’s first ruler and that are consistently enforced, you will advance to the next base. Until then, stop playing God.

Play ball!

Jared Max is a multi-award winning sportscaster. He hosted a No. 1 rated New York City sports talk show, “Maxed Out” — in addition to previously serving as longtime Sports Director at WCBS 880, where he currently anchors weekend sports. Follow and communicate with Jared on Twitter @jared_max.


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