If you were one of the best ever at your profession, wouldn’t you expect some type of recognition? If there was a lifetime achievement award given out to people who excelled in you profession, you’d deserve it. If you tried harder than anyone else, and succeeded more than all of your peers in certain aspects of your career, you’d have earned such recognition. Do you think mistakes you made after you retired from your job should prevent recognition of all you achieved during your career? No reasonable person would. Unfortunately, Bud Selig has never been, and will never be a reasonable person.
Today is Pete Rose’s 71st Birthday. Instead of bashing him for his addictions, mistakes, and lifestyle choices, I’m going to celebrate the accomplishments of the most passionate athlete ever to play Major League Baseball.
Rose was a workhorse, playing 24 seasons in 3 decades from 1963-1986, beginning and ending his career with the Cincinnati Reds, and playing in more games and taking more at bats than anyone else in the history of MLB. He played with passion and heart, always giving 100% and going above and beyond on every defensive play, at bat, and base running opportunity. He played harder than anyone else and did whatever it took to win games, earning him the nickname “Charlie Hustle”. Pete Rose was truly a gamer, playing with a love for the game most modern athletes completely lack. He was a loyal player, spending 18 ½ of his 24 seasons with his first love, the Cincinnati Reds, and managing them from 1984-1989. He has a career batting average of .303 and finished 15 seasons with a .300 or better average. He is the all-time Major League Baseball hits leader. He and Hall of Famer Ty Cobb are the only two members of the 4,000 Hit Club.
Pete Rose has quite an impressive baseball resume, holding many MLB records: hits (4,256), games (3,562), at-bats (14,053), singles (3215), runs by a switch hitter (2,165), doubles by a switch hitter (746), walks by a switch hitter (1,566), total bases by a switch hitter (5,752), most seasons with 200+ hits (10 tied), most consecutive seasons with 100+ hits (23), most consecutive seasons with 600+ at bats (17), most seasons with 600+ at bats (17), most seasons with 150+ games played (17), most seasons with 100+ games played (23), and most winning games played in (1,972). Rose is also the only Major League player with 500+ games played at each of 5 different positions. He holds the National League records for years played (24), consecutive years played (24), runs (2,165), doubles (746), games with 5+ hits (10), consecutive games hitting streak (44), and consecutive games hitting streaks of 20+ games (7).
Rose’s trophy case includes 1963 Rookie of the Year, 3 World Series Rings (with the Reds in 1975 and ‘76, and with the Phillies in 1980), 1975 World Series MVP, 3 NL batting titles, 1 NL MVP award, 2 Gold Glove awards, 1 Silver Slugger award, 17 All-Star appearances at 5 different positions (2B, LF, RF, 3B, 1B), and being named to the 1999 All-Century Team.
The game winning play of the 1970 All-Star game showcased Pete Rose’s passion for the game. After singling to lead off the 12th inning, Rose advanced to second on a single by Billy Grabarkewitz, then charged home on a Jim Hickman single. The throw to the plate went past catcher Ray Fosse, and Rose barreled him over to score the winning run, playing with heart and putting his body on the line even in a meaningless All-Star game. After the play, the classy Rose checked on the injured Fosse even as his National League teammates ran onto the field to celebrate his winning run.
Pete Rose was one of the key players of Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine dynasty of the 1970’s. In 1973, Rose led the league with 230 hits and a .338 batting average, winning the NL MVP award, and leading the Reds to the 1973 NLCS. Cincinnati lost the series 3–2, despite Rose’s .381 batting average, his game-tying home run in game one, and his 12th-inning game winner in game four.
Rose led the Big Red Machine to back-to-back World Series wins in 1975 and ‘76, with 9 straight playoff wins and going undefeated the entire 1976 post season. Rose won the World Series MVP award in 1975 with a .370 batting average.
In 1979, the Philadelphia Phillies were sick of being perennial bridesmaids by winning the National League East three years in a row, but remaining unable to make the World Series. Believing he was the one player they needed to get over the hump, the Phillies signed Rose to a four-year contract. The decision paid off, as Philadelphia won 3 division titles, won their first ever World Series in 1980 (Rose’s 3rd), and made it back to the World Series in 1983. Rose hit .312, but the Phillies lost the series 4-1. That was also the time period when Pete Rose’s heart, dedication, and love of the game caught the eye of a little boy in Pennsylvania. His heroics with the nearby Philadelphia Phillies in the early 1980’s won Rose a place in my heart as the sports hero of my youth, beating out other greats like Muhammad Ali and Dr. J.
After a brief stint with the Montreal Expos, Pete Rose returned to the Cincinnati Reds as a player/manager, retiring from playing in 1986, and managing until being removed in August of 1989 as a hero fallen from grace.
In February 1989, Rose was questioned by Commissioner Bart Giamatti about betting on baseball, allegations Rose immediately denied. Lawyer John Dowd was hired by MLB to investigate the charges. He documented Rose's alleged gambling activities in 1985 and 1986, and Rose's alleged betting on baseball games in 1987, including 52 Reds games, although there was no evidence that Rose bet against the Reds.
On August 24, 1989, Rose voluntarily accepted a permanent place on baseball’s ineligible list. In return, Major League Baseball agreed to make no formal finding with regard to the gambling allegations. Rose was allowed to apply for reinstatement after one year. In 1992, Rose applied for reinstatement, but Commissioner Fay Vincent never acted on the application. In September 1997, Rose again applied for reinstatement, but controversial Commissioner Bud Selig also took no action, as is the trademark of his regime. Selig said he saw no reason to reconsider Rose's punishment.
The true conflict of interest that did have the ability to affect the outcome of baseball games and front office transactions had nothing to do with Pete Rose. Bud Selig was still the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers while serving as the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Many of Selig’s most controversial decisions benefited the Brewers, while hurting other teams. But Bud only likes to discuss other people’s flaws, being the man who has done the most to keep Pete Rose out of baseball.
In his 2004 autobiography My Prison Without Bars, Rose finally admitted to betting on baseball games. He admitted to betting on Reds games, but said he never bet against his own team. He always bet that they would win, meaning he did not throw games. He did what players and managers are supposed to do, try to win every game. Rose was quoted as saying, “I bet on my team to win every night because I loved my team, I believed in my team. I did everything in my power every night to win that game.”
Despite there being no proof that Pete Rose’s gambling addiction ever compromised his position as Manager of the Cincinnati Reds, he is still banned from Major League Baseball. Despite Rose statically being one of the greatest baseball players of all time, he is still not in the Hall of Fame. I can see banning him from managing again, and keeping him out of the Hall as a manager, but he belongs in Cooperstown based on the on the field accomplishments of his playing career. Along with not being in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Rose's ban has also prevented the Cincinnati Reds from formally retiring his No. 14 jersey. Despite being ostracized by baseball’s Commissioners’ Office and being denied the formal accolades due him, his passion, love of the game, and on the field heroics earned him a place in the heart of most true baseball fans. No hero is perfect, but the exciting memories he provided will last a lifetime.
Pete Rose joined Shoeless Joe Jackson and Buck Weaver of the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, as players banned for life from Major League Baseball and its Hall of Fame, despite their impressive stats making it obvious that none of them never threw a game.
Happy 71st Birthday Pete Rose. For what it’s worth, you’ll always be in the sports hall of fame of my life.
©2012 Denim McDemus