I bet you didn’t know that Pete Rose was more than just a great ballplayer who loved to gamble on sporting events. Since his ban from baseball, people rarely talk about him anymore, and if they do its in hushed tones behind closed doors as if he is some type of pariah.
The truth is, he was the personification of what any athlete who loves their sport should aim to be. He received his nickname “Charlie Hustle” when opposing manager Whitey Ford watched him sprint to first base after drawing a walk in a preseason game before his rookie year. Ford meant it as an insult. Rose wore it as a badge of honor throughout his career.
“I’d walk through Hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball.” Is how Rose explained it.
He went on to win Rookie of the Year that season, which would be the first of many awards in what would turn out to be a very illustrious career.
He holds the Major League record for most hits, 4256, games played, 3563, most at bats, 14053, singles, 3215, and outs,10,328.
He made seven All-Star teams, at five different positions (something no one else has ever accomplished), won three batting titles, two Gold Gloves, one MVP award, and has three World Series rings.
He definitely left his name imprinted all over the statistical side of Major League Baseball. However, what impresses me even more than the numbers, is the way he played the game, head first, full speed ahead, and with a reckless abandon unequalled by anyone.
“Sliding headfirst is the safest way to get to the next base, I think, and the fastest. You don’t lose your momentum, and there is one more important reason I slide head first, it gets my picture in the paper.” Rose explained.
Critics like to think there should be an asterisk next to his hits record because he played more games and had more at bats than anyone else, and spent the last two years as a player/manager, resting and only playing when he wanted to.
I find those accimplishments impressive in there own right. It means that he laced up the cleats and stepped into the batter’s box more than anyone else in league history, and is a testament to the type of determination this dude played with, and that he was hell bent on owning Ty Cobb’s record no matter what measures he had to take.
Cobb had a reputation as one mean human being on and off the field. That means Rose had to out nasty the nastiest to get the record, and he did it with his own type of class.
Rose saw it a bit different then I do. “When I get the record all it will make me is the player with the most hits. I’m also the player with the most at bats and the most outs. I never said I was a greater player than Cobb.”He said.
He also said. “I’m just like everybody else. I have two arms, two legs, and four-thousand hits.
It’s that kind of humility and humor that endears me to this man who was known for his grit on the ball diamond. He had a honest perspective on life that very few athletes share. He knew he wasn’t perfect, that he was going to make mistakes, but he forgave himself for it and refused to come up short.
Major League Baseball seems to think that the mistakes Rose made are big enough to just delete him from its memory. The man who defined what “America’s Pastime” is all about, gone with one click of the button. His memory stolen from generations of sports fans to come.
He’s never been convicted of using illegal drugs, steroids or ever even appeared in a erectile dysfunction commercial, and yet he is shunned from the sport he sold his soul to.
“During the times I gambled as a manager, I never took an unfair advantage…I never bet more or less based on injuries or inside information. I never allowed my wagers to influence my baseball decisions. So in my mind I wasn’t corrupt.” Rose explained.
Can we forgive a man for being human enough, to risk his health and well being to play the game the way it was meant to be played? Who was just reckless enough that he risked his reputation to live his life to the fullest and to leave us with a legend we should never forget?
“I never gave up as a player and I won’t give up as someone who wants to go to the Hall of Fame because it’s the ultimate goal for a baseball player or a football player or a basketball player.” He said.
So do I think Peter Edward Rose should be inducted into the Hall of Fame? Hell No! I think we should erect a Casino in Cooperstown with his name splashed all over it that overshadows every other building in the town, just like he overshadowed his peers in his day, and deny access to anyone associated with pursuing his demise.
It’s okay that he made mistakes. His humanity makes his accomplishments even more god-like. His failures are just an intriguing part of his legend.