My mother and father always taught me: "Just tell the truth the first time and you will never have anything to worry about." And, if you lie just once, do not lie again to cover up the first one. Admit it and things will improve much more quickly. Apparently baseball’s former superstar Pete Rose was never taught such an ethic in childhood. He surely hasn’t learned it by the age of 65.
Since 1989 Rose has been banned from baseball for life. The reason? He bet on baseball games as a manager. He originally denied this accusation, and in fact vehemently denied it for well over a decade. Then a few years ago he openly admitted it. He even wrote a book and made a pile of money off his new version of the story. He told a little more of the truth at that time. Now, in 2007, he admits that he actually bet on every single game the Cincinnati Reds played when eh managed them but he says he always bet on his own team. (I feel quite sure he didn’t bet on every game but I have no real idea nor does anyone else.) Which version of Pete’s lies do we now believe? Like the famous Pinochio his nose is growing every day.
What a truly sad story this is for real baseball fans. I have never seen anyone play the game harder than Pete Rose. Sometimes, like when he ran into Ray Fosse in an All-Star game and ended the catcher’s career, I think he overdid it without good cause but no one would ever boo Rose for not playing every inning of every game with total intensity. And could he hit. Man alive, he was the most disciplined, persistent hitter I ever saw. He has the record for the most total hits in the history of the game. He clearly is one of the greatest all-time batters in baseball’s storied history.
So what’s the big deal about betting on baseball? Those who know the history of this game know about the famous Black Sox (Chicago White Sox) scandal that nearly destroyed baseball in its early history. Players took bribes in gambling schemes on the World Series and this required long-term strict rules that were put in place to protect the game from ever being tainted by corrupt players and managers again. Even if Pete bet only on the Reds he knows that he did wrong and he clearly knew the game’s long-time rules. Had he admitted this back in 1989 he would likely have suffered banishment for a time but not for an entire lifetime. Now there is next to no chance that he will be reinstated. He appears desperate to change this before he passes away. He says he wants to manage again but I do not know who would hire him.
It is likely that Pete Rose will die and never get to enter the Hall of Fame, clearly his lifelong ambition. This is the greatest honor this greatest of games gives to it greatest all-time players. No one doubts that Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame on merit and accomplishment. Many younger fans wonder why the game is so stuck on refusing him admittance sine many players were morally dubious individuals. Having been to Cooperstown four times I can tell you there is just something about the place and the greatness of this honor that eludes people who think Rose belongs there. It is not about electing saints. Rose does not belong there for one simple reason—he tarnished the game itself by his foolish actions and then lied and lied and kept on lying about it. Such lies have their consequences and every fan and player should remember that when they consider the sad case of this one great player, Pete Rose.
As I have said before, baseball is a lot like life itself. Americans will forgive a lot of stuff but perpetual lying is not one of them. Poor Pete Rose just seems to go from bad to worse, or maybe from very pitiful to extremely pitiful. I actually feel sorry for the man, at least on one level. I also pray that he will face himself and his past before he must face his Maker. If he would begin there he could experience forgiveness and something far better than Cooperstown. He might even leave a great blessing to many out of the huge mess that he made of the sport he so loved and cherished.