While Rose was born on April 14th, he had his first and 4,000th hit on April 13th. Between 1963 and 1984, a lot of great history occurred in the life of Charlie Hustle. Despite the fact that I never was a fan of the Phillies or the Big Red Machine, I must say that there is something about Rose, like other ostracized players, that stands out for me.
It’s not the fact that he lied about betting on his own team. It’s not the wild party years. It’s not the Wrestlemania years. It’s not the times at Cooperstown begging to be noticed. It’s not the fact that he claimed Attention Deficit Disorder and Oppositional Defiant behavior as being the roots of his problem, and it might be said that they were, but it really doesn’t matter if they were. What really means something is that here was a man who gave it all up on the diamond and showed how great he was. Now, he stands outside the gate due to his having potentially thrown games for his career.
In short, gambling on baseball and throwing games were nothing new. Ty Cobb, the man who he overtook as the greatest and most proficient hitter of all time on September 11, 1985, was a rabid scumbag of the highest order. Cobb’s only defense in throwing baseball games was that he didn’t go against his team. Cobb was also the most foul-mannered of people inciting racist venom, on and off-field attacks on hecklers and opposents, and one time, he may or may not have killed a mugger.
In comparison, all Rose did was hang out in disreputable places where steroids were sold and lost a lot of money on games.
This is not to say that the isn’t guilty. It’s more to say that his onfield legacy is a history of the sport and shouldn’t be washed clean from the history of the sport. Especially in a time where many of the greatest accomplishing athletes aren’t in the Hall of Fame and won’t be voted in (Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds), is it not time to recognize Rose and Shoeless Joe for the baseball that they’ve played? After all, we’re a nation of second chances. In baseball alone, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays both were banned from baseball due to doing publicity for a casino. They both were reinstituted in the game, and it must also be said that Willie Mays (and Willie Stargell) was supposedly providing amphetamines to players (the steroids of the day). Gaylord Perry was famous for using a spitball. And in one of those moments in baseball that we’re still having to deal with the effects of, Adrian Cap Anson instituted the gentleman’s agreement that kept African Americans out of baseball for 60 years.
All of them sit in the Hall of Fame now.
I’m not saying that Rose is a good guy, but he was a hell of a ball player for Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Montreal. We’re not asking if he is worthy of marrying your daughter or running your Fortune 500 Company. We’re talking about catching the ball, hitting the ball, throwing the ball, and running to first base. That’s it.
Surely, that has to mean something.