Charlie Hustle will never be in the Hall of Fame. I, and probably the majority of other fans, don't agree that's right. Not because he didn't do something he shouldn't have, but because it is a much more stern punishment than some others receive.
OK, let's just get it out of the way first - my personal thoughts on the matter. What Pete Rose did was wrong. It is, from what I have heard, posted in every major league stadium that betting on the outcome of a game will result in banishment from the game. And I am sure it is in the contracts that he signed both as a player and as a manager. So, yes, having read that, he knew what he was doing and did it anyway. He was not punished unjustly.
But. That doesn't mean it isn't a STUPID rule. Banned from baseball? Really? A coach betting on a boxing fight or a football game for their guy to LOSE and take a dive, yes. I can see how it is detrimental to someone's career. Also, there's the fact that betting to lose guarantees an outcome. Betting to win? Well, aren't you trying to win anyway? You aren't changing anything (unless you get mean about it and threaten the players). So in Rose's case, he did NOTHING to affect the game, that we know of. (We do have the lying issue, but that's a whole different ball game, in my opinion, if you'll excuse the pun.)
So, Baseball. You don't like betting? I understand. Is gambling bad? Sure. Did it affect the game of baseball? It may have, on a small scale. Did it affect the game to the extent that the all-time hits leader needs to be forgotten from the game of baseball? No way! Let's let the punishment fit the crime. No one was hurt. Slap him on the wrist and move ON.
Do I feel the same way about those using P.E.D.'s? No. I believe those perpetrators affected the game to a much greater extent. The drug-users raised the standard of hitting in the game to a level that honest athletes cannot attain. That crime destroyed careers and people. Not just the ones of the users, but of the ones who could not be seen in their shadows.
Is my opinion biased? Does the fact that Pete Rose was the first Philadelphia "star" I ever saw in person make me want the best for him? Does having watched the 3000th hit make me think that clip should be played in Coopersburg? You bet it does! (Oops, poor choice of words… maybe.)
Now, as I said, I believe the commissioner of baseball will hold his ground. No matter how he actually feels about the subject - for that, we may never know - he will need to cling to the integrity of the game. A rule is a rule, and if you take away the punishment for one, thereby for all, the integrity has been compromised and the rule means nothing.
So what can be done for Petey? We'll just have to do it the old-fashioned way. Oral history. Those of us who were there need to pass it along. Take your kids to Coopersburg. But when they ask about the asterisks by certain names, explain about the rules and the rule breakers. It's a good time to let them know about actions and consequences. Make sure the kids know that the rules were broken intentionally, and the players were punished accordingly.
My kids know all about Pete Rose. They know more about him than they know about any other athlete from that time frame. They also know my opinion on the matter. Their opinions may even be a little stronger than mine, because I told the stories of base hits stolen from infielders and head-first dives into first. That's a work ethic I want to see in my kids too! (And a good reminder for me to run out every stupid pop up when I'm playing softball.)
So Pete Rose may never be in the Hall of Fame, but that does not mean he can't be famous. Those of us who saw him play should tell his stories. Phillies fans can't give up our 1980 World Series. We can pass down the legacy outside the walls of the Hall.
He gave us a lot more baseball history than baseball officials could take away.
T.C. Slonaker, Eagles fan
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