Pete, Tell us something we don't know...
January 6, 2004
"The banishment for life of Pete Rose from baseball is the sad end of a sorry episode. One of the game's greatest players has engaged in a variety of acts which have stained the game, and he must now live with the consequences of those acts. It will come as no surprise that like any institution composed of human beings, this institution will not always fulfill its highest aspirations. I know of no earthly institution that does. But this one, because it is so much a part of our history as a people and because it has such a purchase on our national soul, has an obligation to the people for whom it is played-- to its fans and well-wishers -- to strive for excellence in all things and to promote the highest ideals." - A. Bart Giamatti, August 1989
Pete Rose surprised no one Monday, in finally admitting that he had bet on baseball. We knew. We have known for almost fourteen years now. So finally the question moves from, "What did Pete Rose do?" to "What do we do with Pete Rose?"
First of all, the idea that Mr. Rose suddenly had an epiphany and realized, "Oh yea, now I remember, I did happen to bet on some baseball games after all," seems a little far-fetched. As does the thought that his conscious finally caught up with him. More likely, the need to sell a new book in order to feed a gambling habit that continues fits the bill (according to Rose, he has reformed and now only bets legally, and visits to the racetrack have become less frequent). Why not make the admission 14 months ago after your initial meeting with Bud Selig?
But it now begs the question. Is Pete telling us everything? After he has vehemently denied any accusations for the past 14 years, we are now asked to believe him when he says he bet on baseball, but not the Reds. I propose this: Here you have a man that is obviously addicted to gambling, and is accruing massive debt in the process. And give any gambler the chance to improve his odds, he will take it in a minute. So, by betting on his own team, Rose would have the opportunity to have some control over the outcome of his bets. Could he have passed that up? Some would say that his love for the game would have prevented it. I say his love for the game was obviously no match for his obsessive habit.
So the spotlight shifts back to Selig. What will he do? He is now surrounded on every side by prominent persons of differing opinions. Also at stake is his already troubled legacy as commissioner of baseball (e.g. ending the All-Star game in tie). Will he challenge a ruling made by one of the most popular and well respected commissioners of the 20th century, Bart Giamatti? Rose seems most interested in returning to management of a major league team, probably the Reds who are about the only, if not the only, team who would consider him. How this could ever be an option for baseball is beyond me. As Giamatti said in his statement on Rose, "Let it also be clear that no individual is superior to the game". In an era in which baseball has led the way in the ethics of its players over the NFL and NBA, allowing Rose to return to manage, with no clear indication of reform or remorse, would be one step forward, five steps back. And as for the Hall, let him in for all I care...put a big statue out front if you please. But if you do, get ready to review the ghosts of baseball's past, particularly "Shoeless" Joe Jackson.
In the end, I am ultimately reminded of the conclusion of Giamatti's speech: "The matter of Mr. Rose is now closed. It will be debated and discussed. Let no one think that it did not hurt baseball. That hurt will pass, however, as the great glory of the game asserts itself and a resilient institution goes forward."
After all is said and done, does anyone really care anymore? Giamatti was right, we have moved on and baseball has seen great moments since '89. The game will survive with or without Rose around. The generation which spent its childhood idolizing him has grown up to forget his greatness on the field, and become weary of his ineptitude off of it. Even his new book title My Prison Without Bars tries to paint him as the ultimate victim of unfair circumstances. How about turning back in the sports pages and reading about Phillies great Tug McGraw, who died of cancer at the age of 59 Monday. Then lets talk about unfair circumstances.
So go away Pete, we have no need of thee. Live out the rest of your life and be happy, just stop bothering us and the game of baseball.
Read Giamatti's entire statement.
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