The story of Pete Rose might say a lot about the psyche of U.S. citizens and perhaps a bit about how they are different from Canadians.
Rose has once again asked Major League Baseball for reinstatement. He has been wandering in the proverbial wilderness for decades now, ostracized by the game to which he gave so much, because he gambled on games that involved him as manager of the Cincinnati Reds.
His success as a player is not in doubt. In a sport more fixed on numbers and statistics than any other, Rose holds one of the game’s most important records: he recorded more hits than anyone else who played in the big leagues.
On the field, Rose’s play was about much more than numbers. Nicknamed Charlie Hustle, he would bowl over anyone who stood in his way on the base paths, even famously running over a catcher in the supposedly easy-going exhibition called the all-star game. He was an all-out player everyday, an inspiration for youngsters who weren’t the fastest or the biggest or the strongest.
Rose showed that effort mattered.
The Baseball Hall of Fame is a lessor place without Rose. Yes, he gambled on games he managed. Yes, that needed to be dealt with harshly, as it can undermine the legitimacy of the sport. It has been dealt with harshly and it’s time to put a bust of Charlie Hustle in Cooperstown, NY.
People forget who Rose surpassed to earn the hits record. Ty Cobb, like Rose, was a take-no-prisoners player who fought for every inch of space. He was also a horrible racist, but that’s OK in the minds of those who decide who can and cannot be enshrined in the Hall.
It’s a confusing stance, much like the one employed by American censors when it comes to what they deem acceptable for network TV. Blowing each other’s heads off with guns, blood gushing everywhere, is OK, but don’t dare show even a hint of a woman’s breast.
Gambling can ruin the integrity of sports. Baseball knows it from the 1919 Black Sox scandal. We suggest the prolific use of steroids has put a worse tarnish on the game. But it’s gambling that keeps Rose out of the Hall, much like it has kept professional leagues from placing a franchise in Las Vegas. It’s not surprising the Canadian-led NHL will likely be the first major sports league to welcome a team in Sin City.
The Baseball Hall of Fame is something less than legit without the sport’s all-time hits leader. Put Charlie Hustle in the Hall.
— Editorial by John Harding