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Why Pete Rose Doesn't Belong in the Hall of Fame

James Leroy Wilson changes his mind.

by James Leroy Wilson
January 12, 2004

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Why Pete Rose Doesn't Belong in the Hall of Fame_James Leroy Wilson-James Leroy Wilson changes his mind All it will take for future generations to forget Pete Rose the baseball player is to get a few players to average two hundred hits per year for twenty-two years while playing for great teams. No big deal. Then, he will finally be forgotten.

Otherwise, like Shoeless Joe Jackson, he will never die. No one is alive today who knows exactly what happened in the 1919 World Series dive by the White Sox. But the illiterate star of the team has been seen as a victim by many for his permanent banishment from major league baseball for being in on the conspiracy. The legend of Jackson persists, if not grows. But Pete Rose ought to be put to rest, the sooner the better.

Rose, the all-time hits leader in base hits, isn’t in baseball’s Hall of Fame because of his conduct as a manager. As we all know now, by his own admittance, he bet on games when he was manager of the Reds. And that he bet on his own team.

This can be forgiven on one condition: if he had begun to bet on his own team as a manager, he should have bet either at least the same amount, or ever-increasing amounts, on his own team for each and every game he managed. For, as sports-radio host Jim Rome put it, with all the “inside” information Rose had on his team, any day in which he didn’t bet on his own team, was itself a message to the gambling community to bet against the Reds. That is the serious breach to the integrity of the game. Although Rose denies it (and he has no credibility anyway), there is no way to know the degree to which his gambling interests affected his managing decisions, whether consciously or unconsciously.

For most of these years, however, I thought Rose still deserved to get into the Hall of Fame for what he did as a player. One of the games’ greatest players ought to be recognized as such, I thought. Why have a Hall of Fame to honor greatness, if the all-time hits leader who was a valuable player on three World Series champion teams, isn’t in it? If Rose had tarnished the integrity of the game as a player, I could understand why he’d be prevented from induction. But his misconduct was as a manager, after his playing days were over. I thought he should be honored as one of the all-time greats for what he did as a player. For he was not only a great player, but a great competitor who earned the nickname “Charlie Hustle.”

I’m beginning to “get it” just now. Ultimately, this is the Baseball Hall of Fame. Not Hall of the Best. Not Hall of the Toughest Competitors. There are many other places, besides the Hall of Fame, to learn of baseball’s history and greatest players. No one has suggested removing Pete Rose’s records from the record books. He will always be an integral part of the Big Red Machine and that rare Phillies championship.

And I’m probably the youngest person left on earth who still, when he hears the name “Michael Jackson,” thinks of the Billie Jean video, where we see Michael as the coolest cat who ever walked the earth instead of today’s creepy freak who sleeps with little boys. When I hear the name “O.J. Simpson,” I think of the man-gazelle in the Buffalo Bills uniform sliding on wet astro-turf in a Monday Night Football highlight. I think, 2003 yards in 14 games. I don’t think “murderer.” And when I hear “Pete Rose” I think, all-time hits leader. I don’t think “gambler.”

But, since I am the youngest person to still think this way, the Hall of Fame has a responsibility to think of the future. Pete Rose, not just by his initial crimes of betting on baseball, but on his 14-year’s worth of lies, has placed himself out of Baseball’s Hall of Fame and into America’s Hall of Infamy. Bob Uecker, for crying out loud, is in baseball’s Hall of Fame, because of how he’s helped the sport not as a player, but as a broadcaster. A generation from now, Pete Rose’s accomplishments as a player will fade from memory (they always do) and he will be known mainly as the guy who bet on his own team and lied about it.

And I’m beginning to see how this matters. Many who have not swung a bat in a major league game: Branch Rickey, Bill Veeck, Harry Carey, have advanced the interests of the sport of baseball as a whole and Major League Baseball in particular. But the Pete Rose “situation” which is going on fifteen years, inverses the whole equation. The tremendous good Rose did for the sport as a player made him famous. His desire to gamble, even on baseball games, even as a manager of a baseball team, is not, in reality, his biggest crime against the game. It is rather the fifteen-year campaign of denial, and now, after finally “coming clean” and being at least somewhat honest about the gambling on baseball, still revealing no remorse and admitting that he still gambles.

He was placed on the “permanently ineligible” list. He has provided no reason why he should be taken off of it.

I finally get it. The Hall of Fame isn’t about who were the greatest players, or greatest managers, or greatest executives, or greatest broadcasters or journalists. The Hall of Fame honors the greatest ambassadors of the sport of Major League Baseball, the people whose net contributions to the game are overwhelmingly positive. People who receive “honors” like this are, generally, honorable people, people of integrity.

The tremendous good Pete Rose gave to the game is outweighed, not just by his unethical behavior as a manager, but his own inability to own up to and apologize for that behavior for all of these years. Pete Rose is a distraction to Baseball, an embarrassment. Pete Rose is now only “infamous” and not worthy of the Hall of “Fame,” of those who, by whatever means, advanced the best interests of baseball.

Rose has not, in any way, shape, or form, advanced the best interest of baseball, but has provided, through his own will and intention over the last fifteen years, the exact opposite. Most Hall of Fame elections are now distracted by the very real presence, but official non-presence, of Pete Rose.

Rose has harmed the game more in the last 17 seasons to a far greater extent than he helped it in the his 24 previous years as a player. It is not Pete Rose aka “Charlie Hustle” who gets into the Hall of Fame. Nor is it Pete Rose the gambling-addicted manager who gets into the Hall of fame. Nor is it Pete Rose the two-faced, lying, autograph-selling, money-grubber who gets into the Hall of Fame.

It is Pete Rose, the ambassador of baseball, who gets in, or not. And he does not belong. The good he did for the game as a player is offset by the damage he did later, and future generations will remember him more for the latter. And this is not good for baseball.

Comments (3)

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Tim McGinnis from Chicago, IL writes:
January 18, 2004
James Wilson has every right to have the belief that Pete Rose does not belong in the Hall of Fame.

I have also gone back and forth on this issue a number of times over the past 14 years, and have come to many of the same conclusions that Mr. Wilson asserts in his article.

However, I don't believe I am in any position to decide that Pete Rose should pay for his crimes against the integrity of the game by banishment from baseball and, as an extension of that ban, the Hall of Fame. Neither is Mr. Wilson, any of the many pundits that have written exhaustively about the subject, or, in my opinion, Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Baseball himself.

I believe that the decision should go to the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee. Let Hank Aaron, Ozzie Smith, Yogi Berra, Bob Gibson, Cal Ripken, Jr., and the other living members of the Hall of Fame decide whether Pete Rose's accomplishments as a player outweigh the damage he did as a manager.

All Bud has to do is delay a reinstatement for another year and a half (a probationary period of some sort?) and, by rule, Rose won't be eligible to appear on the baseball writer's ballot. He would have to wait until 2007 to appear on the Veteran Committee's ballot.

It's their Hall. It's their honor. It should be their choice whether Pete Rose gets to join them.

David from Charlotte writes:
February 12, 2009
I used to be upset about Pete not being in the Hall of Fame. What he did in no way reflects his number and contribution to the game WHEN HE PLAYED. Now, I understand not putting him into the HoF as a coach, but the player portion still baffles me.

However, I feel TODAY, it's a non issue. Who cares now? The HoF is nothing but a building which will either be filled with drugatic loosers, or no current generation players, due to their drug use, etc..... Which, UNLIKE Pete, did reflect their contributed numbers. Personally, I think Pete is better than this, and I would be ashamed to be associated with these same players that the idiots at HoF will probably induct anyway.

So just to say, withen 10 years, nobody will care about the HoF and it will be a non factor. Because it has nothing to with the game, but just a handful of old fuddy duddies opinion about someone else's integrity.

Who cares about that?

Chris Pieper from west chester, oh writes:
March 7, 2011
The arguement made in this arguement that Pete's contributions to the game will eventually be forgotten, is fallacy. It has been well documented that Pete was not blessed with raw talent, strength, agility, or even intelligence. What he did have was heart, and a will to compete that far surpassed anything he lacked.

Sprinting to first base on a walk, running flat out to get to his defensive position at the start of an inning, and then back off are all common place. He hustled. He gave everything he had on every play, every day of every season. His play on the field as a player has served as an inspiration to players of his generation and those that came after him.

This alone I feel far outweighs his actions as a manager. Which brings me to another point. If what he did as a manager, nullifies what he did as a player; why do managers get into the hall if they had a sub par player career? Why do broadcasters get into the hall for their contributions? If your answer is at any given point during your career (whatever capacity that may be player, manager, broadcaster, etc) is worthy of recognition and earns you your spot in the hall, then why isn't Pete's player career getting its recognition? Where is his spot in the hall?

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