JANUARY 3, 2004
Free Rose From The Prison Without Bars
By Steve Lombardi, NetShrine.com

The rampant speculation in the general media now is that, with the release of his book “My Prison Without Bars” on January 8th, Pete Rose will offer a confession that he bet on baseball games while he was the manager of the Cincinnati Reds.

The major issue for some with this admission is that Rose has been adamant for the past 14 years or so that he “never bet on baseball.”  (It is somewhat ironic that it has taken Pete 14 years to offer this declaration of guilt – considering he wore #14 as a player.)

In any event, is this “switching of gears” a really big deal?  Our present culture has already set an acceptance/tolerance level precedent for allowing such a move.  Do you remember the President who, while in office, swore to the public that he “never had relations with that young woman” when accused of an encounter with an intern?  He later followed that declaration with an admission of “Well, she did put her mouth on my, well, you know.  And, I did put a cigar in her, well, you know.”  And, now, for the most part, when the public looks back at this, they just shrug.  Why not allow the same reaction for Rose’s reported forthcoming admission?  Fessin' up should be seen as a good thing.

The other issue that many have with the Rose confession is that they feel he will use this act as a springboard to earn reentry into baseball (from which he was banned) and then eventually be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown (from which he is presently barred as a result of being banned from baseball).

The cry occasionally offered is that “If Joe Jackson was banned from baseball and he cannot get into the Hall, then Pete Rose should not be allowed back in either!”

But, there is a huge difference between the two.

Joe Jackson was a player who helped throw a series of baseball games.

Pete Rose was a manager who bet on baseball.

This is the difference between a person who walks up to someone and then breaks that individual’s leg and a person who walks up to someone and then says to them “Based on how well I know people and bones, I’ll bet you five bucks that you’ll break your leg.” 

Granted, to that, some will say that Rose was a baseball manager, and in that position, he had an opportunity to influence a game on which he bet – therefore, it is the same as committing a misdeed (and different than "just betting" that something good or bad will occur).  However, is it true?  

Did Rose influence a game which he bet on?  The Rose “betting” situation has been investigated heavily in the last decade or so - as much as the Lindenberg kidnapping case and the legend of the Loch Ness Monster.  And, to date, no one has offered a specific example of a game that Rose “threw” as a manager.

The ability of baseball research is at the highest level of all-time.  Some organization somewhere can tell you (with ease) the efficiency of the elastic waistband in the boxer shorts of a particular pitcher, on average, when he pitches from the stretch, at home, in day games, when the temperature is between forty and fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit - back in the year 1936!  Yet, no one, to date, has come up with the games, or a single game, that Rose threw as a manager.

Why is that?  Could it because Rose “only” bet on baseball and did not “throw” a game (like Joe Jackson did)?

Lastly, on the Hall of Fame issue, remember, if Pete Rose makes the Hall, it will be as a player and not as a manager.  Anyone who saw Pete Rose play the game of baseball could tell you that the man played for one reason – to win.  There was no question there – at all.  As a player, Rose’s passion for the game and his uprightness towards it was easily self-evident.

Why is there an issue with allowing such a player in the Hall of Fame?  Is it because he committed a transgression after his playing days?  To that, suppose the following:

Assume Pete Rose did not manage a baseball team after he was no longer an active player.  He would have gone straight into the Hall of Fame after the minimum election waiting period.  If he had been convicted of a crime after election, would he have been disqualified from the Hall?  Has anyone ever been subsequently removed, after being elected?  The answer is no.  And, the answer will always remain “no.” 

Think about it.  If, now, after his death, it was discovered that Joe DiMaggio bet on baseball after being a player (while as a coach for the Oakland A’s) – do you think he would be removed from the Hall of Fame?  How about Kirby Puckett?  If he were found guilty of betting on baseball after being a player (when he was a Twins V.P.), would he be removed from the Hall?  How about Sandy Koufax?  If they dug out something on him, that he bet on baseball, after being a player (as a Spring Training instructor for the Dodgers), would he be removed?  The answers here are “No. No. And, no.”

In all likelihood, if “something” was found on a current Hall of Famer (that he bet on baseball after his playing days and while employed somewhere in baseball), the odds are that there would be substantial consideration towards downplaying the findings in order to ensure the protection of the enshrined player. 

Seems silly to punish Rose “The Player” for just having bad timing in being caught as the gambling Rose while being “The Manager”, no?  If Rose getting caught had happened just 3 or 4 years later than when it did happen, Pete would have already been placed in the Hall.

The scrawling on this scorecard says that we should allow Cracklin' Rose to play it now – accept the confession from the “manager;” and, more importantly, allow the “player” with 4,256 hits into Cooperstown. 

Steve Lombardi is the Creator & Curator of NetShrine.com.  Scrawling On The Scorecard appears regularly during the baseball season and sporadically during the off-season.  Steve can be contacted at sots@netshrine.com

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