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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

No Hustlers in HOF!
by Hal Vickery

It is really fairly easy to tell when a people have lost their moral compass.† It has become the norm to make excuses for those who commit transgressions against societyís rules.† It is an era of moral relativism.†

In families we see parents knowingly lie for their children when they get in trouble at school or with the law.† In business we see heads of corporations cheat their employees and stockholders out of millions and then make deals with the government that minimize not only their punishment but also the restitution deserved by those who were wronged.† In government Presidents obstruct justice and are pardoned or commit perjury and go through an impeachment process that is governed by partisanship rather than whether or not a crime was committed.†

And then there is Pete Rose.† Rose is an interesting character.† Known as ďCharlie HustleĒ for his take-no-prisoners approach to the game, he could have been regarded as a combination of a couple of White Sox players.†

Like Walt ďNo-NeckĒ Williams, Rose hustled every second he was on the field.† He ran to first base when he walked.† Like Nellie Fox, Rose was a player whose natural ability regarded as average at best but through hard work made himself into an All-Star.†

But Rose is also the man who in an All-Star Game jeopardized the career of a fellow player, Ray Fosse, by crashing into him at home plate to score the winning run.† Probably the only people who complained at the time, though, were Indians fans.† Most regarded it as just another manifestation of Roseís work ethic.†

Rose, a native of the Cincinnati area, came up with his hometown team.† He was a hometown boy made good.† When he decided to make more money by signing as a free agent with the Phillies, no one raised an eyebrow.† No one complained of being just another money-hungry ball player.† Rose appeared to be above that sort of thing.† He epitomized all that was good about the game.†

But Rose, especially late in his career, had a dirty little secret.† He loved to gamble.† In fact by the time he came back to the Reds in 1984 after a brief stint in Montreal, his gambling was getting out of hand.† Rose had a problem.† He was addicted to gambling, but he wasnít very good at it.†

We all think we know the rest of the story.† It was written in great detail by John Dowd, who was employed by the Commissionerís office to investigate Roseís gambling activities.†

Roseís defenders scoffed at the report.† After all, Rose denied everything, going so far as to sue MLB Commissioner Bart Giamatti to prevent his being thrown out of the game.† How could Charlie Hustle bet on the game?† Everyone knew he gambled, but betting on baseball?† That was unthinkable.†

Then Rose signed The Agreement.† In it he excepted his permanent banishment from the sport he loved.† Rose liked to point out that he had the right to apply for reinstatement in one year written into the agreement.† Rose waited until 1997 to apply.† Rose liked to point out that MLB did not find that he had bet on ball games and that he did not admit guilt.†

Baseball had its own reasons for signing the agreement.† Any lawsuit like this could end up as a challenge to baseballís antitrust status.† That is something MLB wants to avoid at all costs, even at the cost of not accusing Rose of betting on games, and in particular on Reds games.†

But they had the evidence in Dowdís report.† People as notable as writer Bill James have questioned the factuality of the report.† For those of you reading this who doubt the report, let me refer you to an article by Derek Zumsteg at Baseball Prospectus.Com.† Zumsteg basically turns almost of Jamesís defenses of Rose and attacks on the Dowd report to hash.†

However, the Friends of Charlie Hustle werenít buying these arguments as long as Rose said he didnít bet on ballgames.† One can only imagine their shock when they found out their hero not only bet on baseball games, but on Reds games.†

So their arguments for Rose took a new tack.† Now we are all asked to separate Rose the player from Rose the manager/gambler.† After all, they say.† There is no evidence that he bet on games during his time as player.†

They are wrong again with this argument.† If one reads the Dowd report, there is evidence that Rose bet on ball games as early as 1985 in which he played in 119 games.† His betting continued, according to the report, through 1986 in which he played in his last 72 games.† Pete Rose the player-manager bet on baseball games.†

There is a sign in every Major League clubhouse that states that if anyone connected to a club bets on ball games, he will be suspended for one year.† If anyone bets on games in which they participate in any way, they are permanently ineligible.†

Rose started betting on games when he was still a player.† Rose got exactly what he deserved.† But in this age of moral relativism, apparently the integrity of the game (i.e. the fans knowing that the fix is not in) doesnít mean as much as honoring a man who broke itís cardinal rule.†

Rose not only lied.† He took every opportunity he could to besmirch the names of Bart Giamatti, Fay Vincent, John Dowd, and even Bud Selig.† †

Last week on WSCR morning co-host Fred Huebner asked how Pete Rose hurt the game.† Thatís just one way.† But let me ask this of Mr. Huebner, if he didnít hurt the game, what do you call what he did by going to Cooperstown every year during induction week to sign autographs and direct that spotlight away from the players being honored and focusing it instead on himself?† And what do you call it when the release of his book is timed so that it comes out the same week as this yearís inductees are named, taking the spotlight of Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley.† Iíd call it a slap in the face.†

In his first Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James commented on Joe Jackson.† In it he said he would support Jacksonís entry into the Hall on the day that every last honest player who ever played the game, down to the Little League level had been inducted.†

I conclude this column with a paraphrase of Jamesís final comment about Jackson:† Then we can all hold our noses and let Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame.


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

Have a Thought about
No Hustlers in HOF?

You Can Put it on the Board -- Yes!



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