Visiting Cincinnati this weekend brought back a lot of great memories from my childhood. To the right is the scorecard and the bat from the night that Pete passed Ty Cobb for the most hits in baseball. That moment will always be etched in my memory. The picture to the left of Pete at the peak of his career really shows how much he loved this game. As a kid my father pointed out Pete Rose as a player who I should emulate. Heck he even bought me the book ‘Pete Rose on Hitting’ which I still have on my bookshelf today. His nickname said it all. “Charlie Hustle” played the game hard. Who can forget his headfirst slides into various bases? Or bowling over Ray Fosse to win an All Star game? Pete Rose has more hits than any other player in Major League baseball history (4256). He also made more outs than any other player (10,328). Pete had a profound effect on the game, and was a sure fire lock to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame if their every was one. Pete Rose was a man that played the game the right way. This man knew how to do only one thing. That was to win. He was part of perhaps one of the greatest teams ever. He had the world on a string. What went wrong?
In 1989 the luster started coming off of this man. Rumors started swirling that Pete had bet on baseball. He refuted these rumors to any and all who would ask. When Bart Giamatti became the Commissioner of baseball he kept the pressure on Rose. Sports Illustrated ran the now famous story about Pete later in 1989 that shocked the baseball world. Did Pete bet on baseball? If he did bet on baseball was his own team involved? I was still a young kid, but I did not want to believe any of this. For years I denied it despite the evidence. Pete could not have done such a thing. In August of 1989 Pete accepted a ban from baseball in return for baseball not making a formal finding of his actions. In 1990 he was placed in jail for income tax evasion. In 2004 fifteen years after initially denying betting on baseball he released a book in which he admitted betting for his team every night. By then it was like the recent finding that Sammy Sosa tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. We all knew he did it, we just wanted him to come clean. He did come clean, but so far has not been reinstated. Last year at the Hall of Fame I couldn’t help but look at the class of 1992 and wonder what could have been? He was a first ballot Hall of Famer that has now missed his window entirely. His only chance would be to someday be voted in by the Veteran’s Committee. Before that happens though he would need to be reinstated by Major League Baseball. The Reds cannot retire his number 14 because of that ban either. Well they won’t formally retire it. The only Red to wear that number since Pete left the team was his own son Pete Jr. If Pete wanted to enter the Reds Hall of Fame or Great American Ballpark he would have to pay his way in. It makes me sad to see such a great player fall so hard. The Reds clearly still love Pete by the way he is shown in their Hall of Fame. They would love to honor this man I am sure before he leaves us. His own arrogance though may make that impossible. I would like to think that sometime in my lifetime he will get his just due. He has made some enemies in high places in baseball right now though. It would take something short of a miracle to get him reinstated. Maybe someday down the road Pete will have the public behind him much like ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson does today. Even support like that has not helped Joe get into the Hall. It seems as if this was only the begining of players that I looked up to in baseball that would not gain entry into the Hall despite having the numbers to do so. As the full extent of the steroid issue becomes public knowledge I have a feeling I will lose a lot of faith in many players I loved to watch growing up.