Give Rose his right place in Gambling Hall of Fame
If you’re like me, you’re already tired of hearing about Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck. Show business’ latest fun couple is Pete Rose and Bud Selig, who were seen nuzzling each other at a trendy Milwaukee night spot last week, exchanging adoring glances and voluminous draft proposals, the latter aimed at getting Rose reinstated into Major League Baseball.
Call us cynical, but we don’t believe for an instant that Ben and JLo are really in love; it’s all marketing. It’s the same with Selig and Rose. Don’t think that anyone is thinking noble thoughts here about the integrity of baseball. It’s all about the moolah.
First, a little background. For those of you 20-somethings who weren’t around when Pete Rose was playing, he was a hard-nosed, haircut-challenged outfielder-turned-infielder for the Reds and Phillies who broke Ty Cobb’s career hit record and also set several marks in womanizing and closing taverns. His two most memorable moments probably occurred at second base and home plate, where he duked it out with Mets shortstop Bud Harrelson and collided with Indians’ catcher Ray Fosse, respectively (although not on the same play).
The latter occurred in the 1970 All-Star Game, and solidified his reputation as a player who would do anything to win. With what we now know about Rose, however, we must ask the question: Did he have money on the ’70 All-Star Game? Would Rose have been so intent on taking out Fosse — effectively ending the catcher’s promising career — if he hadn’t had a bundle riding on the National League to win?
The answers are shrouded in mystery. This much is on the record, however: While manager of the Reds in 1987, an official inquiry reported that Rose placed no fewer than 412 baseball wagers between April 8 and July 5 — a staggering total that remains a record to this day. To put that in perspective, the average Major League manager would have to place 5.2 bets per day to equal Rose’s output over that span.
Included in that total, according to the report, were 52 bets on the Reds to win. So when you thought you saw Rose on the dugout phone to the bullpen, he was really calling his bookie, with whom he apparently spent more quality time than he did with his wife and kids.
So Rose was banned from the game, sent to baseball’s Phantom Zone where he’s been playing pickup games with Shoeless Joe Jackson and Eddie Cicotte.
Pete has been lobbying ever since to be let back in. This is just our opinion, but we don’t think that Rose gives a fig about returning to the game for the sake of his place in history. If he was worried about his eternal reputation, would he have worn that hair style all those years? No, we think that something bigger is at play.
Financially, it would behoove Rose to get back into the baseball establishment. Perhaps he might even manage again. Since recent talks with Selig started, Pony Athletics jumped in with a big ad campaign featuring Rose. It’s good business, and pro sports is all about business.
As for Bud, he’s is a politician through and through, and politicians pay close attention to the polls. The public wants Rose back (by an 8-1 margin, according to most accounts), and Selig realizes the PR benefit there. Bud is not popular, to say the least, and bringing Rose back could make his coat a little glossier.
Now Rose and Selig are in negotiations. Some say that if Rose admits what he did, come clean about betting on baseball, that Selig will let him back in. It’s kind of like the thing with Iraq. Rose must fess up to his weapons of mass destruction — i.e. betting slips in his garage — or Major League Baseball will attack. Or something like that.
Former teammates such at Mike Schmidt and Joe Morgan have urged Selig to reinstate Rose, but we tend to take the view of former pitching great Bob Feller. When asked about the whole mess, Feller said: “I’m tired of the whole thing. He’s gone. Let it rest.”
We agree. Instead, let’s induct Rose into the Gambling Hall of Fame, where he can take his rightful place beside Michael Jordan and Jimmy the Greek. Rose’s record for hits in a career will eventually be broken, but that stretch of 412 bets in 82 days is a shining standard that may last forever.
— Rick Chandler’s interactive sports column, Capacity Crowd, can be found at NBCSports.com. Contact Rick at RickChand@earthlink.net
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