June 18, 2014 by gregrabidoux2013
On April 8, 1963, Peter Charles Rose took the field for the first time ever in a big-league baseball uniform for his beloved Cincinnati Reds. It was a true local boy makes good story. Rose was born April 14, 1941 in Cincinnati and the Reds, the future “Big Red Machine” of which he would serve as its spark-plug, were the only team he ever wanted to play for.
And play he did. En route to being named Rookie of the Year he also earned himself quite a reputation, some of it good, some not. He would race down the first base path on what veterans and fans saw as a sure out. He would slide head-first into bases to beat throws as a runner. “Charlie Hustle” they called this kid from Cincinnati. Many meant it as a compliment. He clearly was a winner with an unbridled passion for the game. Some saw him as too arrogant for his own good. True to his name the guy had thorns.
Fifty-one years later, we are still divided over just what to make of Pete Rose.
Some things of course are undeniable.
Pete Rose is the all-time major league baseball hits leader with 4,256 hits. He has also played the most games (3,562) and been at-bat the most (14,053) of any big-leaguer in history. He has 3 World Series rings, 3 batting titles, 1 MVP, 2 Gold Gloves and 17 All-Star selections at (of course) a record 5 different positions.
He also bet, gambled on the game he loved countless times.
And so, despite putting up undeniable Hall of Fame numbers Charlie Hustle remains at Third Base waiting for his Lifetime Ban to be rescinded and the “Come on Home” signal to be given.
At this point, Rose would gladly walk home to the Hall of Fame let alone slide in safely head first.
Recently, Rose told ESPN that “I’ve waited 25 years but I’ve done so because I was the one who screwed up. And if I were given a second chance I would be the happiest guy in the world.”
But does he deserve to be granted a second chance?
Man, there is a lot of bad blood and hurt feelings under the “Three Rivers Bridge.” The accusations stung, the denials were adamant, the strong words and feelings on both sides ran deep. This wasn’t a little friendly bet here and there. This was an addiction. And not by some casual fan. Rose bet on baseball, on his beloved Reds. While he played for and managed the team.
The official ban came down in the summer of 1989. And Rose took it like well, no wilting wallflower. He was contentious. Combative. He tried to hit MLB harder than they hit him. It was Rose nearly decapitating catcher Ray Fosse in a “meaningless” All-Star game all over again. In other words, Rose was just being Rose. But this time the stakes were higher than any one game, any one hit, any one series.
This was about the Pete Rose legacy. And that mattered. More than he cared to admit.
Finally, after years of full and partial denials, Rose re-applied for re-instatement and Hall of Fame eligibility in 1997. The application still sits on then and now MLB Commissioner Bud Selig’s desk. Ignored.
Mr. Selig is set to retire this coming January of 2015.
Maybe the new baseball boss will turn over a new leaf for this Rose.
Maybe it’s time.
A lot has changed since 1963. Ironically, that same year NFL’s star QB Paul Hornung of the Green Bay Packers along with his buddy Detroit Lions legend Alex Karras admitted to betting on NFL games and “consorting with undesirables.” NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle banned both from the game for that year. By 1964 both were back in uniform and all was forgiven.
But then they were no Rose.
Philly legend Mike Schmidt says “Pete Rose is the most likable arrogant person I’ve ever met.”
Baseball in America has endured a rigged world series by the Chicago White Sox, riots over civil rights and segregation with the great Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier and the more recent PED scandals with the likes of guys not named Rose but Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, McGwire and Braun.
It will endure even thrive with or without Rose.
But the Hall of Fame sure doesn’t seem complete without its all-time hits leader being invited to slide home one last time.
Pete once said that “I’d walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball.”
Today he admits he “screwed up.”
Is it time to let this Rose stop burning, put the suit down and let him Bloom?