Pete Rose: An American Tragedy

Scott EisenlohrAnalyst IMay 15, 2009

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MAY 14:  Pete Rose addresses the media at a press conference held to announce the 'Why Not?' campaign at the PONY headquarters in Beverly Hills, California on May, 14, 2002. The campaign questions why Rose has not been named to the Baseball Hall of Fame. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

I finally am writing about something I have believed since 2004: Pete Rose should not be allowed to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Rose was one of the greatest baseball players to play the game. He was a pretty darn good manager, too. He had a 412-373 record for a .525 winning percentage.

He managed from 1984 to 1989, with his team finishing fifth for his first and last year and second for five years in a row.

Second.

Now listen to me—that is key to my argument.

He was also a great player. According to Answers.com: During a 24-year career, he hit .303, had a record-setting 4,256 hits, and a 44-game hitting streak in 1978.

Rose had four appearances in World Series, twice with the Reds in 1975 and 1976 and twice with the Phillies in 1980 and 1983. Answers.com said three times, but I remember he was on the 1983 Phillies NL champs team.

In 1989, his last year as the Cincinnati Reds manager, he was banned from baseball as he was accused of betting on baseball as manager of the Reds. He denied the charges, and I was his supporter, until in 2004, in his book My Prison Without Bars, he admitted to the betting.

He went on to say that he only bet on the Reds to win.

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Poppycock. I ain't buying it for a minute.

I had a friend whose father spent time as a book maker. The one thing I remember he told me as we were going to an Atlantic City casino was: Whatever money you take, take it to lose. Don't go beyond your means.

The same thing that drove Rose to be a great baseball talent, without good speed or power, was what brought him down. And any good gambler knows, you bet on teams to lose, as well as to win. If he had the drive to win as a player, then why not as a manager.

It is said that a manager affects five games a year (out of 162 games) by the decisions he makes.

If Rose, as the manager, knew a closer or clean up man was banged up or off his game, wouldn't it be easy to let him get lit up or strike out with the bases loaded? Wouldn't that be a better bet than trying to figure out the "hot hand" and insert him into the game?

Finishing second is good and will keep you on as a manager for a few years. But doesn't finishing second five years in a row tell you something?

Wouldn't it be easier to put money on the Reds' opposition then playing the home team some nights? In essence, I state he was betting on the Reds to lose.

What was his main focus? To win a championship or keep the team good enough, collect his winnings, and continue in his "find the queen" card game?

You tell me. You think I am stupid and I didn't think this thing out?

Granted, I love what he did for the Philadelphia Phillies. If not for Pete Rose, the Phillies would not have won the World Series in 1980. When he caught Bob Boone's muffed foul catch, the play stood next to Tug McGraw's striking out of Willie Wilson for Phillies fans.

He was one of the greatest ever to play the game of baseball.

But he sullied the field when he accepted a lifetime ban and admitted in the action of his wrongdoings, even in silence.

Who am I to judge?

There are a lot of "bad" people in the Hall of Fame. Start with the racist Ty Cobb.

But to bet on your own team while you are the manager,—does that not sound like "inside information?" Can you say "Martha Stewart"?

I don't hate the man—I feel sorry for him.

He is a baseball tragedy, and if baseball is America's pastime, then he is an American tragedy.

A short, skinny kid with marginal talent fashions a 24-year Hall of Fame career, then falls by an admission of wrongdoing by accepting the lifetime ban from baseball. He then admitted as much to sell some books in 2004.

What a shame. I am sad to write this story, but I believe it to be 100 percent absolutely true.

He bet on baseball and on the Reds while managing; he admitted as much.

I am just taking it to another step. He bet on the opposition some nights while "trying" to win the game for the home team as its manager.

Say it ain't so.