By Sweeny Murti
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Some of my earliest baseball memories are of Pete Rose. For the longest time, my image of what a ballplayer should look like, how he should play the game — it was all Rose.
I was eight years old in 1978, and it was maybe the first baseball-crazy summer of my life. That’s when I put my new reading skills to use by checking the box scores every day to see if Rose got another hit, and he did for 44 games in a row.
Then in my baseball-crazy years of ages 9 to 13, I got to watch Rose play for my favorite team growing up, the Phillies. I watched him lead the Phillies to the World Series in 1980, making one of the most heads-up plays of all time on a foul pop in the ninth inning of the Game 6 clincher. Every time my friends and I dove headfirst into a base we said we “did a Petey.”
Even my grandfather — born and raised in India and visiting the U.S for the first time ever in 1981 — knew Rose.
“There he is! There he is! Petey Rose! Petey Rose!” he yelled with excitement when we took him to see his first-ever baseball game in person and he spied No. 14.
All of this is a long way of saying that Rose was one of my favorite players ever. And then this other stuff happened. What’s followed is more than 25 years worth of one of the greatest barroom arguments of all time. Should Rose be allowed back into baseball?
There has always been plenty of public support for Rose’s reinstatement — the people’s choice against the establishment. But Bud Selig wasn’t going to be the one to loosen the chains. Rose was going to stay in baseball jail as long as Selig was in charge. Now for the first time in over 25 years, it would seem that Rose is as close as he’s ever been to reinstatment, his fate now in the hands of new commissioner Rob Manfred.
Here is what I would like to happen to Rose: I want to see him in the Hall of Fame, but I don’t want him employed in the game ever again.
Let’s be honest: There isn’t a man alive who doesn’t think Rose was a Hall of Fame player. All those hits, all those wins, all those Octobers. That was Rose the first-ballot Hall of Famer.
But as far as seeing Rose back in a uniform, that’s something I don’t think should ever happen. Truthfully, even after a potential reinstatement, 73-year-old Rose isn’t getting a managing job anytime soon. That time has come and gone. And that’s a good thing, because Rose shouldn’t be in a dugout ever again.
The price that Rose has paid for his gambling is a steep one, a deterrent if there ever was one. But the point has to still be made. For sports in America this is not a compromise. Gambling by the participants of the game cuts to the credibility of the game, the integrity of the game, and that is an ideal that has to be upheld no matter how popular the player who’s caught in its web is.
In 1991, the Hall of Fame determined that anyone on the banned list could not be eligible for the Hall of Fame. This was in direct response to Rose’s impending entrance to the ballot. And this is where the conflict really lies. Rose the player belongs in the Hall. Rose the gambler belongs banned from baseball. They should not be tied hand in hand.
I don’t know if this is a solution that Manfred could even consider. I suppose anything is possible. But, for me anyway, the two issues have been separate ones. And when the Hall of Fame changed its voting policies to make them one and the same, we ran into this problem that still has no satisfactory solution more than 25 years later.
Even my foreign-born, first-time-at-a-baseball-game grandfather knew there was something special about Rose the player. That’s the Rose that deserves his day in Cooperstown. The other Rose — well he’s the cautionary tale, and he deserves the sentence he received.