Every Rose has its Thorn: Why Reinstating Pete Rose Would Be Good for Baseball

By Michael Reistetter

Courtesy of TheOdyssey.com

4,256: the total number of career hits for legendary baseball player Pete Rose. Despite holding the record for most hits in a career, “The Hit King” has still never been elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

There is a reason for the former player’s omission from the hall. In 1989, a few years after Rose retired from playing, he was given a lifetime ban for betting on baseball games as a manager for the team he also spent over 20 seasons with, the Cincinnati Reds.

The gambling scandal would forever taint the legacy of a man affectionately dubbed “Charlie Hustle,” by his peers and admirers. He played the game with such a fierce, competitive drive, which led to him collecting a fair amount of enemies over time. But those who hated him the most during his playing days would still contest today that his skill was undisputable, his poise was unmatchable, and his exclusion from and lack of recognition by the hall of fame is unacceptable.

“I would walk through hell and back in a fire suit just to play baseball.” These words by Pete Rose suggest a literal fire exists in him which yearns for the game in an extraordinary way. Given his violation of Major League Baseball policy and subsequent punishment, his story is extremely comparable to the great “Shoeless Joe” Jackson’s.

“Shoeless Joe” was one of eight members of the Chicago White Sox, “Black Sox Scandal” who were dealt the lifetime ban for allegedly accepting bribes to throw the 1919 World Series. Those who know the plot to  “Field of Dreams” know why Joe deserves to be recognized by the hall, and how punishing a man for his mistakes can take away his self-respect and dignity, but could never take away the impact of his achievements.

The Black Sox and Rose are the only players in history to be served the lifetime ban after violating rules against gambling. Despite this notion, the latter is still not technically banned from the Hall of Fame.

Yes, Rose is unlikely to be elected as long as the board of writers who submit a ballot each year have forbade their own from ever submitting his name for entry. But if Rose were to ever be officially reinstated, the writers may endure a liberal shift in protocol, and finally allow Rose to see himself up for election.

Despite recent news surfacing of alleged proof Rose also bet on baseball games as a player, Rose continues to swiftly deny ever betting on his team or any other as a player. It took him until 2004 to finally come out and admit he had illegally gambled as a manager, so, why would he go through all the trouble of reversing his stance, only to continue and deny another truth?

In an era plagued by the awkwardness surrounding the many talented former players being denied access to hall because of their association with steroids and performance enhancing drugs, it raises the interesting question how a man like Pete Rose, with his impeccable work-ethic and demeanor as a player, could be disregarded and written off so easily. He did not cheat to enhance his level of play.

His reinstatement would absolutely benefit the game, for since his ban, he has appeared in two MLB-sponsored functions: The 1999 All Star Game at Fenway Park in Boston, for the All-Century Team induction ceremony, and the 2015 All-Star Game, in his hometown city of Cincinnati, as a recipient of the fan-elected “Top Four” Cincinnati Red’s players of all-time. Both times he was met with universal applause and standing ovations, as it seemed fans do not wish to deny history as much as MLB Executives assumed they would.

It’s time to do right by the man who once said he’d walk through hell and back in a fire suit just to play baseball. Well, he’s been in baseball purgatory for years, a living hell he’d love to abandon while he still has his health. Rose is prepared to walk through the pearly gates of Cooperstown, but in a business suit, to see his name and achievements enshrined on a plaque rightfully residing amongst the plaques of fellow baseball legends. And the ghosts of Baseball’s past can’t wait to greet Rose, as the long over-due “rookie hazing” he’ll receive will officially cement for him, a place in acknowledgeable history, signifying sweet redemption for his old, but long repented baseball life.