Ah, Pete Rose.
Like Donald Trump and the pandemic, just when you think they’re gone, here they come again. Rose’s latest headlines are like so many others: accompanied by an aroma that’s unbecoming his surname.
Yes, they smell. At a celebration of Philadelphia’s 1980 World Series, which Rose helped the Phillies win, a reporter revived a five-year-old lawsuit (settled out of court) about his alleged sexual misconduct from 1975.
Rose’s response was typical: “It was 55 years ago, babe. I’m here for the Philly fans. I’m here for my teammates. I’m here for the Phillies organization. And who cares what happened 50 years ago?” Babe? Aware he may have offended the female reporter, Rose asked: “Will you forgive me if I sign 1,000 baseballs for you?”
Pete Rose never has had a filter, which made him endearing because he always said what he thought. Well, maybe not always. Years passed before he confessed to betting on baseball, a sin likely to keep him from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown forever, yet a “sin” now advertised on major-league TV.
‘Charlie Hustle’ is a player with more hits than any other. His teams won three World Series (Cincinnati’s in 35 years and the first ever for the Phillies). His career batting average is .303. The greatest of his Hall of Fame statistics is the hit total — 4,256 — and the first “hits” milestone (3,000) happened May 5, 1978, a game I covered as a Montreal baseball writer.
At 9:22 that night in Riverfront Stadium, Rose slapped a fastball from Steve Rogers into left field for the second of two singles that gave him 3,000 hits. At 9:21, he’d asked plate umpire Jerry Dale for a new baseball — smudged ones are tougher to autograph. The first person to congratulate him was his old teammate Tony Perez, the Expos’ first baseman, who was touched: “You get close. You become friends. You care for him.”
Later, Rose lamented: “It would have been nice if I’d had only one single and then hit a home run to win it 5-4.” Rogers, who pitched a complete game, just shrugged: “I can’t worry about 3,000 hits. Somewhere else he got 2,998.” Behind Rose at his locker was a self-portrait, framed by these words: “Hustle makes it happen.”
Known for running even when he walked, Rose’s career was betrayed by the other “hustling.” Eventually, he admitted betting on the Reds, not once but every game. Eventually, he apologized to Tony Perez, and others. But like Shoeless Joe Jackson before him, and Barry Bonds, Roger Clemons, Alex Rodriguez and others after him, the hallowed halls of Cooperstown remain behind locked doors.
I’ve covered games Rose played during the season, and two World Series. I’ve seen him peddling autographed photos on The Strip in Vegas. And I’ve seen a long-standing supporter, my brother-in-law, abandon Rose because of his despicable off-field behaviour.
Yet he belongs in Cooperstown, for being the great player he was. My theory is they should create a dungeon and put all the bad-guy Hall of Famers in it.
On their plaques should be a description of exactly why they reside in the dungeon.