Friday, June 1, 2018

Come On Rob Manfred, Let Pete Rose Back in Baseball

Pete Rose is surely one of the most infamous characters in baseball history. It is widely known that Rose was banned from baseball for betting on games and for lying about it. Because he is on baseball's ineligible list, he is also not eligible for Hall of Fame consideration. Rose recently applied to Commissioner Rob Manfred for reinstatement; however, there is probably zero chance it will happen. Why does Major League Baseball need to punish Rose for life?
The standard answer is something to the effect of: Rose needs to be banned for life to prove that betting on baseball is bad for the game. I get that widespread betting could pose a problem with unscrupulous people. Such a thing could lead to corruption and people actively trying to affect the outcomes of games, like what happened with the 1919 Chicago White Sox and the World Series that season.
I have placed bets on baseball and other sports in Las Vegas casinos. It is perfectly legal to do so. What is not legal is placing bets through bookies or anyone not associated with a legal gambling establishment. Major League Baseball is against their people placing bets of any kind.  
In my opinion, if some player or manager tried to throw baseball games, it wouldn't be hard to figure it out. I doubt that anyone would try to do it, knowing the possible consequences. Attempting to throw games, and betting on games are two different things. The 1919 White Sox did the first; Rose did the second.
Bad For Baseball?
The contention is that Rose's betting was bad for baseball, and because of that he was banned for life.
Bad for baseball? How so?
In all of the years Rose bet on games, what actual effect did it have on the sport? Do you think that Rose threw games? Do you think he bet on his own team and then tried to lose on purpose?
Did you ever watch Rose play baseball? Anyone who ever saw him play knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he had one purpose – to win. Rose's goal was to win every damn game he was ever a part of.
Win every game.
This is the guy who sprinted to first base on a walk. I don't mean jogged, trotted, moseyed, or wandered. To Rose, the only acceptable way of getting to first base was for him to run like hell. To call Rose's manner of play intense is an understatement. Pete Rose was a fanatic about playing baseball. He was a fanatic about doing everything he possibly could to win.
Happy To Win
In 'Hustle made Rose respected, infamous', by Bob Carter on, Rose's Reds teammate Jack Billingham was quoted: "Pete might go 0-for-4, but if we'd win the game, he'd be the happiest guy in the clubhouse."
Carter quoted Rose's philosophy: "Somebody's got to win, and somebody's got to lose, and I believe in letting the other guy lose."
"Letting the other guy lose." That is as clear as it needs to be. Rose wanted everyone else to lose. That means he was not interested in losing. There is no possibility that anyone can ensure that his team wins. One can only try to throw a game so a team loses. It is obvious that Rose never did that – he wanted to win every game.
Charlie Hustle
Rose's nickname was 'Charlie Hustle.' It was hung on him in 1963 when Rose was a rookie trying to make the team, according to stories by Carter (mentioned above), Associated Press writer Joe Kay, and others. Those stories indicated that Yankee Hall of Fame pitcher Whitey Ford gave Rose the handle. Ford and Mickey Mantle watched Rose in a Spring Training game sprint to first base on a walk. Then they saw him make a futile attempt to catch a home run that was hit far over the outfield wall.
Rose said in 2013 on Blog Talk Radio, that either Ford or Mantle – he did not know for certain – had said that day in 1963: "Did you see that? Charlie Hustle beat us today!"
The name was not a compliment, it was intended as a slam. Ford and Mantle were ridiculing Rose because he was working hard in a game they felt was meaningless. For whatever reason, Rose seemed to piss a lot of people off by his manner of play (including, I think, a man who many years later would use his position to affect Rose's future in baseball).
Said Rose's former teammate, Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, according to the Carter story: "… he played every game like it was the seventh game of the World Series. He played hard every single day. And I've never seen anyone else do that."
"I don't know if anybody ever has played the game as hard as he has," Washington's Bryce Harper said in the Kay story, in response to being told that Rose had mentioned him as a hard worker. "I try to mirror my game after him every single day I go out there."
Morgan also said: "But he never cheated the game." (Steve Wulf, ESPN, 2013, "Pete Rose Doesn't Deserve Sympathy.") There is no evidence whatsoever, any time, anywhere to suggest that Rose tried to throw baseball games. That is because Rose was all about winning.
The Precedent
The precedent for banning Rose was, of course, the 1919 scandal when a group of Chicago White Sox players were paid to lose the World Series. For their efforts, eight of them were banned for life.
Those men, including Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, and Chick Gandil, didn't actually bet themselves; they were supposed to be paid to ensure that the White Sox lost. Some of the eight actively and purposefully made bad plays in order to make their team lose. It isn't possible to ensure that your team wins, which is part of the reason why the gamblers involved in the 1919 scandal didn't approach members of the NL Champion Cincinnati Reds. No matter how much you offer to pay someone, they cannot make their team win at will. It is possible to guarantee that a team loses, and that is exactly what happened in 1919.
The question is, when Rose bet on baseball and on Reds games, did he have some influence into the outcomes? Sure he did. As we read from several sources, Rose was one of the hardest working men to ever play baseball. Does that suggest that he was trying to lose to win bets?
Winning Is The Only Thing
We have already established that Rose was out to win, not to lose. Which means there is no way Rose ever tried to lose a game to win a bet.
It then follows that whether he was betting on the Reds to win or to lose, the only effect he could possibly have on the outcome of the games was to do what he always did: as Morgan said: "he played every game like it was the seventh game of the World Series." You don't play that way if you are trying to lose; you play that way if you are trying to win.
Why is that bad? He played as hard as he could to win to get banned from baseball? What the hell kind of sense does that make?
Rose has never, to my knowledge, been accused of attempting to throw a game. He was banned because he placed bets on baseball games and, when confronted about it, he lied repeatedly. No one has ever explained to me the logic behind this – how what Rose did equates to what Cicotte, Gandil, and the other guilty members of the 1919 White Sox did to incur their bans.
A Theory
My theory is that Giamatti did not like Rose and wanted him out of baseball forever. From that perspective, as with Ford, Mantle, and who knows how many other baseball people, it is possible that Rose's manner of play somehow riled Giamatti. Three prior incidents suggest that Giamatti did not much like Rose and at least two other men in MLB; so much so that he levied excessive penalties against them.
In 1988, Giamatti, then President of the National League, suspended Rose, who was by then retired as a player and was managing. Giamatti suspended Rose for thirty days for pushing umpire Dave Pallone during a game. It was an exceptionally long suspension for such an act. It was, according to John Schlegel of, "up to that point the longest such punishment for an on-field incident."
Then, during the playoffs that season, Giamatti also suspended Jay Howell of the Dodgers. Howell was caught using pine tar to help him throw pitches, an illegal substance for a pitcher. Howell was suspended for three days, prompting then Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda to say:
"But in my opinion, this decision was unjust. It was too severe a decision." (Ronald Blum, Associated Press in the Victoria Advocate, October 10, 1988.)
Not only that, but Lasorda noted in the Blum story that had Howell appealed the decision, it would be Giamatti – the man who suspended him – who would rule on the appeal. For any reasonable person, such a situation is a clear conflict of interest.
More From Giamatti
Giamatti wasn't yet finished. Later that same season, Pallone, the same umpire Rose had shoved, also ran afoul of the NL President and axe man.
According to Pallone's book, Behind the Mask: My Double Life (with Alan Steinberg), and the 1998 article 'Gay Baseball Umpire Tells Story At Lehigh * Dave Pallone Urges Respect For Self And Tolerance Of Others', by Daryl Nerl, of The Morning Call, Pallone insists he was fired after ten years as an MLB umpire because he was gay.
"Major League Baseball fired him, alleging the league had evidence he was involved in the [teenage sex] ring, which was never produced," wrote Nerl in the Morning Call piece.
"Major League Baseball found out I was gay," Pallone is quoted in the Nerl story. "They took away my job... They took it away for one reason and one reason only - because of who I was."
It was Giamatti as National League President who approved firing Pallone.
Giamatti's Folly
Giamatti was the author of, in just one baseball season, two excessive suspensions, and the questionable firing of a reportedly competent MLB umpire. These incidents suggest to me that Giamatti did not like certain people, for the way they lived their lives and/or conducted themselves. At least three times, he took excessive action against such people, suggesting a propensity for overreaction and abuse of power.
When viewed in that light, Rose's eventual permanent ban begins to look like a Giamatta vendetta. Oddly enough, as Baseball Commissioner, eight days after he banned Rose for life, Giamatti suffered a fatal heart attack.
That sounds a little suspicious. Should we start investigating Rose, Pallone, and Howell for possibly conspiring to commit foul play? Giamatti probably would, assuming they were out to get him, much like he appeared to be out to get them.
Rose was banned, in my opinion, because A. Bartlett Giamatti, in his stuffy, Ivy League arrogance, decided to use his position and his power to make moral judgments on Rose, Pallone, and Howell. It seems obvious that he did not want a known gambler and liar, or a gay man involved in Major League Baseball.
I don't know what he had against Howell, Lasorda, or the Dodgers to suspend the pitcher during the playoffs. It appears that he did not like Pallone's lifestyle, and he did not like the blue collar Rose or the way he played baseball. And because they didn't fit into his personal moral 'code', he decided to ban both of them.
That is my opinion.
Landis' 1919 Decision
The eight men banned in 1919 by Kennesaw Mountain Landis, the first Commissioner of Baseball, were banned because, in Landis' words (from ESPN):
"Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ball game, no player who undertakes or promises to throw a ball game, no player who sits in confidence with a bunch of crooked ballplayers and gamblers, where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball."
Although some feel that Landis' actions were excessive, we can fully understand what led him to that decision. The men he banned obviously (with the possible exception of Jackson, whose participation has long been questioned) tried to throw baseball games and to lose the World Series. In short, they cheated.
Rose never threw a game, and he never cheated, according to Morgan and others. He clearly sat "in confidence" with gamblers, but not for the purposes of "throwing a ball game", as Landis wrote. As I have pointed out, it is a reasonably good bet that Rose never did any of the other things for which Landis banned Jackson and the others. The bottom line is, Rose bet on games to make money, and he played and managed baseball games to win.
My Conclusion
What this comes down to is, in my opinion, Pete Rose's lifetime ban is a sham. It was a sham imposed by a man (Giamatti) who had a history of overreacting. He did so at least four times: Rose's 30-day suspension, Pallone's firing, Howell's suspension, and Rose's lifetime ban. Giamatti used his position and power to preach his brand of morality and to impose it on all of Major League Baseball. He did it because he did not like those men and how they chose to live/conduct their lives.
In the 1997 book, 'Collision at Home Plate: The Lives of Pete Rose and Bart Giamatti', author James Reston, Jr. wrote: "To Rose, Giamatti revealed himself as an inflexible moralist…" (University of Nebraska Press, p. 233).
Succeeding Baseball Commissioners, Fay Vincent, Bud Selig, and Rob Manfred have perpetuated the sham, to the detriment of baseball. It is long past time that the man who holds many baseball records, including the most hits all time – things that have nothing whatsoever to do with gambling and lying - should be forgiven his indiscretions.
Do the right thing, Rob Manfred: rescind Rose's ban, making him eligible for Hall of Fame voting.
Larry Manch is an author, teacher, guitar player, freelance writer, and columnist. His books include: 'Twisted Logic: 50 Edgy Flash Fiction Stories', 'The Toughest Hundred Dollars & Other Rock & Roll Stories', 'A Sports Junkie', 'The Avery Appointment', 'Between the Fuzzy Parts'. His books are available in paperback and e-book.

He also writes about sports for Season Tickets, food and travel on Miles & Meals, and music/guitars on The Backbeat.

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