While the glacier of truth about steroids melts slowly in globally warmed seas fed by toxic leaks, a clamor has once again risen to reconsider Pete Rose for Hall of Fame induction. The most recent plea for Charlie Hustle’s glorification appears on today’s editorial page of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Don Harrison, a former deputy editor at the Philadelphia Daily News, lays out the following argument: “Maybe” Rose should remain ineligible for “active participation” in Major League Baseball, presumably as a manager or general manager, but “to keep him out of the Hall of Fame is unthinkable.” He further argues – for those worried about “the integrity of the game” – that Rose “showed” young people “how the game should be played.” He doesn’t invoke Rose’s career hits record or his World Series credentials and allows that he probably isn’t a very “nice guy.” In fact, that allowance actually becomes his principal point: He suspects that Rose has been “barred from the hall” because of his unpopularity with peers and the news media. He also tiresomely repeats that Rose “insists” that he never bet against his own team. (We’ll return to that.)
Well, yes and no, Don. The technical reason Rose is not in the Hall of Fame is that the organization’s by-laws currently block that. As laid out on the HOF’s own website (“Rules for Election to the Hall of Fame,” 6.D.), “
Here’s a thought: To be fair, how about Bud Selig declare both Jackson and Rose eligible, allowing votes on both players? My guess is that neither would be elected, and that would be that. Currently, all the Steroid Kings are eligible to be elected, so why not these guys?
But wait – there’s a hand in the back of the room – you say Rose and Jackson are entirely different in kind? Jackson threw The Holy World Series? Rose only tried to make a few bucks on his confidence about his own team’s chances of winning?
Consider these points carefully, as well as Harrison’s praise of Rose as a role model on the field and the alleged fact that he never bet against his own team.
First, Jackson did not throw anything as far as can be definitively determined. It is fairly well-established that he took money to do that, but then – as the records show – he went out and basically shamed everybody else on the field during the 1919 World Series, hitting .375 and clubbing the series’ only home run. This sounds to me as though poor “dumb” Joe Jackson, who couldn’t even read, took the gamblers to the cleaners, something Pete Rose might admire because he so rarely did it himself.
Second, there’s the matter of being a role model. Harrison praises Rose’s hustle, citing the well-known play in which he grabbed a foul pop-up out of the air after his catcher muffed it in the 1980 World Series. Well, Jackson exhibited consistent excellence on the field, which would certainly include hustle, as long as he was allowed to play. Let’s call that one even although Jackson’s lifetime batting average, slugging average, and throwing ability say he was the better player. (To return to the matter of Pete’s hustle briefly, though – let’s recall Pete’s sprinting to first on walks and his late-career habit of slamming a third out catch at first onto the turf as though dunking a basketball into a little, two-foot high basket – where I played baseball we had a term for guys who did things like that. That term is seven letters long, begins win an “a,” ends with an “e,” and is frequently spelled with three asterisks by the press. Also, Joe Jackson never posed for photographers in his underwear…um, like a hustler.)
Finally, is a gambling manager who doesn’t bet against his own team “better” than one who does? Not really. It takes about five minutes thought to come up with five game situations that are dangerous to players managed by someone betting on them: 1) “Hmm, I’ve got $15,000 on this game, but my closer’s been in four straight games…too bad.” 2) “My shortstop has a tweaked groin and it’s muddy out there, but I’m down 10K this week….” You get the idea. The problem with Rose’s very late admission that he bet on his own team is that he never specified which games he bet on. When that all comes out, if ever, the press will have a whole new avenue to run down, matching up those games to injury records.
So, I’ll let you know where to send your money for the bumper sticker I’m designing: NO ROSES FOR SHOELESS JOE?!?
“Baseball Hall of Fame.” Indopedia [www.indopedia.org]. 10 August 2009.
“Brian.” “Pete Rose, Ethical Barometer.” Depressed Fan [www.depressedfan.com]. 10 August 2009.
Harrison, Don. “Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame.” The Philadelphia Inquirer 10 August 2009: A7.
“Joe Jackson” & “Pete Rose.” Baseball-Reference.com. 10 August 2009.
“Rules for Election to the Hall of Fame.” The National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum [web.ballbasehalloffame.org]. 10 August 2009.