Being Clear on Pete Rose and the Hall of Fame

Hall OFLast week, I raised the greasy topic of Pete Rose, in fact defending Pete against the unethical efforts by Topps to avoid invoking his name on their cards, as if he were baseball’s Voldemort. Somehow, the comments morphed into debate about whether Pete deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, and I fear that my position regarding Pete’s qualifications was muddled in the various exchanges.

No, Pete doesn’t deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, for two very clear reasons. His conduct in betting on baseball games, including his own team’s games, while he was a Major League manager requires that he be banned from baseball for life under Rule 21 of Major League Baseball’s official rules, and the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown has its own rule that makes any player so banned ineligible for enshrinement. Rose is prevented from admission to the Hall by those rules, which were in place when his conduct brought them into play. He doesn’t deserve to be in the Hall, because the rules say so. Pete Rose broke a cardinal rule that potential Hall candidates cannot break. The ethical reason he should not be in the Hall is accountability, or as Tony Baretta used to say on the old TV show, “Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.”

Is there anything at all about Rose’s career record as a player that doesn’t qualify him for the Hall, indeed, over-qualify him? No. Unlike Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire, his statistics are beyond challenge or criticism. He didn’t cheat. He was a great and admirable player in every way.

Was there anything in his conduct as a player on the field, as a player off the field, or off the field as a retired player, that constituted such egregious misconduct that it would justify refusing his admission the Hall of Fame under its so-called character clause? [ “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contribution to the team(s) on which the player played.”]

Here is where I want to clarify my position. My answer to this is “No.” Again, unlike Bonds, Rose’s conduct during his playing career was well within ethical and  acceptable standards. He was a team player; he showed good sportsmanship, he played the game right, and he did not cheat. Yes, Rose was and is a low-life, but he didn’t embarrass the game as a player; he committed no heinous crimes; he represented the game well and didn’t betray his admirers. Unlike Barry Bonds, he didn’t corrupt the game or fellow players by being ostentatiously successful by breaking rules and laws. Applying the character clause shouldn’t, doesn’t, and in my view, wouldn’t disqualify Pete Rose from the Hall of Fame.

Pete Rose can’t get into the Hall because the rules he violated say so. He shouldn’t get into the Hall, because the rules against members of teams gambling on baseball are important and were promulgated for the game’s survival. They have to be enforced, and enforced no matter how great or famous an individual is who violates them, or how much his absence from the Hall of Fame will stand out like a scar.

Pete Rose the hustling player, unlike Barry Bonds the steroid cheater, should be in the Hall of Fame, but it is 100% his own fault that he is not. It damages the Hall not to have the game’s all-time hits leader there, and Rose was counting on that fact to get him leniency, just as a child who is threatened with no Christmas if he doesn’t clean his room figures that his parents won’t be willing to spoil the whole family’s Christmas by excluding one of the kids. Baseball, to its credit, properly decided that the integrity of its rules enforcement was more important than the completeness of its pantheon.

Rose is an unusual case, with the conduct that has kept him out of the Hall occurring after his impeccable playing career was over. If Major League Baseball were to make some accommodation with the Hall of Fame that would allow a player banned from the game only for non-playing rules violations to still be considered for enshrinement based on his playing career, I would advocate voting him in, and I think under those conditions, Rose would be voted in.

I would not support making such an accommodation, however. And Barry Bonds should never be allowed into the Hall of Fame.

Just to be clear.

39 thoughts on “Being Clear on Pete Rose and the Hall of Fame

  1. Well. Thanks for clearing this up for me. I had assumed there were only subjective reasons for Mr. Rose’s exclusion from Cooperstown. Now I know better.

  2. I agree 100%. Even someone such as I, who loathes the game of baseball, knows that everything Pete Rose did as a player makes him absolutely, 100%, without a single question a person who should be in the Hall of Fame.

    But he should never, ever be admitted to the Hall of Fame, for exactly the reasons you stated. I also think that regardless of what rules changes are made, he should never be admitted, because he absolutely knew the rules at the time he bet on games, and I personally think that he should be held to THOSE rules until such time as we experience the slow heat death of the universe.

    That does not mean that his record as a player should be purged. He earned every bit of it, and it is disgusting that Topps would attempt this.

    • But what I want to know is, how does a smart guy like you come to loathe the greatest sport mankind has ever devised? Were you mugged by Albert Belle? Did John Rocker spurn your sister? Were you frightened by a knuckleball as a child?

      • First, smart? I wish to thank you, and suggest that you give it time – the notion will depart soon enough…

        Second, I loathe the game because it is monumentally, mindbogglingly, unerringly boring. I have had more fun at the dentist’s office. If you have a drink in hand and take a drink every time nothing happens on a pitch, you will be drunk out of your gourd by the end of the first inning.

        The only exciting game of baseball was the one that had the LA Earthquake in the 90’s.

        • Baseball isn’t exciting the same way a character driven movie where the characters actually make choices isn’t exciting. The slow pace allows time for those that actually care about the game to debate possibilities and go over everything that’s happened.

          Football’s incredibly exciting, but if I watch a game by myself, I spend as much time paused between plays figuring what happened and what should happen than I do watching it live. Baseball has real time pauses.

          • Good…I’d also say that it isn’t interesting to a casual observer the same way a sporadic viewer of Downton Abbey or Lost would find a single episode less than compelling. Baseball is a season-long epic with each game contributing to the whole, and hundreds of side plots–careers on the rise and wane, individual team crises, random events and strokes of good and bad luck with long and short term consequences. The more you know, the more there is to appreciate. A rooting interest helps, but serious football knowledge isn’t necessary to enjoy a single game. I often quiz self-proclaimed “huge” Redskins fans about players. An amazing number of them can barely name anyone other than the quarterback and the kicker.

  3. Thank you, Jack. I can’t believe that this keeps coming up. You understand that baseball, as well as being the greatest sport, has a special place in our society. It requires fair play. It requires that all who participate follow the rules. Some rules are more important than others. In baseball there is one rule so important that breaking it results in lifetime banishment from the game. Pete Rose broke that rule.
    The no gambling rule is the only rule that is carefully explained to every single baseball recruit. It is explicitly agreed to in every contract, from the biggest star to the lowliest prospect. It is the ONLY rule prominently posted in every single professional baseball locker room and clubhouse, from the Arizona Instructional League to Yankee Stadium, and every A, AA, and AAA League stop in between. The rule is simple and clear, as are the consequences. There are no exceptions; no paroles, no ‘rehabs’, no extenuating circumstances, no discussions, no, no, no. Never. I hope this helps clear up any confusion non-fans may have.
    Go Mariners.

    • Yes, a DATED and ignorant statement, mainly. The term would have meant what he intended any time before the gambling allegations—hustle, hard work, dedication. After the scandal, however, Pete’s name doesn’t evoke those things first, but rather gambling and lying, not exactly conduct college basketball wants to encourage.

        • At least one study shows that Shoeless Joe was just clever about his sabotage, getting hits when they didn’t matter, blowing bunts, not taking extra bases, misplaying fly balls, missing cut-offs. Besides, he knew his team mates were throwing the games, and said nothing—and he accepted and kept the bribery money. He was a co-conspirator by any definition.

      • I disagree with admitting Rose after his death – his ESTATE could still profit, and I couldn’t accept that.

        He was banned for life, yes, but what is the rule in Cooperstown? Is it “A player is ineligible for the Hall of Fame while under the effects of a ban” or “A player is ineligible for the Hall of Fame once they have been subjected to a ban”

        There is a difference between the two, and while the former would allow for Rose to be inducted after his passing, I still wouldn’t like it.

        A Hall of Fame is for exemplars of the sport – placing bets on the game your team is playing in negates that entirely in my mind.

        • I cant argue with your reasoning. Although I think that once he has passed away and the market for his memorabilia has settled putting him in the HOF isn’t going to spike the value that much.

  4. The Hall of Fame actually voted to make those subject to lifetime bans ineligble for induction in 1991, after Rose was banned.

    The best evidence (e.g., Eight Men Out) is that Joe Jackson believed he was throwing games 1,2, 4, and 5, but not games 3, 6, 7, or 8.* He batted .250 in the former group, .500 in the latter.

    *Dickie Kerr started games 3 and 6. Cicotte won Game 7, known as the “double cross game,” in which the Sox competed because they had not been paid per agreement. It seems that the Sox also intended to compete in Game 8, but that the gamblers got to Lefty Williams himself and he threw the game on his own.

  5. Just to be clear, it has never been proven Barry Bonds took illegal drugs or steroids or hgh. He was found guilty of one count of obstruction of justice. that he put on weight and obviously sizee as he aged is hardly a touchpoint of proof of drug injestion. Until and whn he admits it or proof positive is given, then he is eligible and should be voted into the Haoo of Fame along with several otthers whom i am sure you suspect. suspicions without proof are allegations about whiich it is unethical to render a final judgment.

    • Not clear. Yes, it has. He has stated that he never knowingly took steroids, but he tested positive, and told a grand jury that he was tricked into taking them, which absolutely nobody believes, nor should. And it has been proven, albeit via circumstantial evidence, but circumstantial evidence strong enough to send a man to the electric chair in an analogous murder trial. Your assessment of what constitutes “proof” is neither logically, legally or ethically correct. The evidence that Bonds used steroids is overwhelming in every way. Even the half-baked criminal verdict against Bonds supports that conclusion. Nobody seriously believes he’s not guilty; there are just people who like to argue that he hasn’t been found formally and technically guilty, neither of which are required to keep him from stinking up the Hall.

      • Actually grand jury testimony is sealed and confidential, but in the case of Bonds was illegally leaked and made public and therefore was a clear violation of privacy, unethical and unfair and and the prosecutors in their eagerness to get a Bonds conviction did not prosecute the leaker. The government spent literally millions on this case and could not get a conviction on knowing utilizaation over any period of time. Bonds performance prior to any whisper period of time clearly is fame justifiable and with no proof positive he deserves it for his entire career. To say the “evidence” is overwhelming in every way is such a factless generality that writers use so often it is really quite untraceable. Much like the Lincoln films “facts” which you have deccried as non-facts and thus turning a supposedly historical piece into merely an entertaining one with some historical reference. In this case with all due respect methinks you are a bit guilty as charged of doing that of which you have accused others. Circumstantial yes, but as in the cas of Connceticutt reps clearly not proof positive. Perhaps use of the adjectives alleged, suspeccted, oft-described, and many believe….ok….oh and one last mention…during most of the alleged consumption times, most of the substances were not banned by baseball or illegal so can’t disqqualify those years. And now smoking dope is legal in colorado and Washington…the Rockies and the Mariners mellow clubs? Legal? Ethically fair? thank you for the discussion.

        • “Actually grand jury testimony is sealed and confidential, but in the case of Bonds was illegally leaked and made public and therefore was a clear violation of privacy, unethical and unfair and and the prosecutors in their eagerness to get a Bonds conviction did not prosecute the leaker.”

          Which has nothing to do with Bond’s actual guilt. Yes, the leak was criminal. That doesn’t mean the evidence doesn’t exist.

          “The government spent literally millions on this case and could not get a conviction on knowing utilization over any period of time.”
          Again, that was a prosecution for perjury, not steroid use. Separate issues. Not relevant. And they did get a conviction. The money spend is irrelevant too. Yes, he covered his tracks well—they never convicted Armstrong, either.

          “Bonds performance prior to any whisper period of time clearly is fame justifiable and with no proof positive he deserves it for his entire career.
          Do your homework. I’ve only rebutted this terrible excuse over and over. Use the Search function. “Bonds”

          “To say the “evidence” is overwhelming in every way is such a factless generality that writers use so often it is really quite untraceable.”

          The facts are documented and extensive. I have summarized them elsewhere—check The Ethics Scoreboard Again, Armstrong is a good analogy, “Lincoln” a terrible one. “Book of Shadows” is quite thorough, unbiased, and well-sourced. Bonds cheated. Everyone who is honest about it know he did. The rest are excuses and ratioanlizations

  6. I haven’t been on your site in ages, and I know I’ll regret saying this, but perhaps you’d like to explain the “character clause” argument to Ray Fosse. In an All-Star game, yet.

    • Tom is a bitter Cleveland fan, so he deserves out understanding and sympathy, but Rose risked his own body to win the game for his team, and that slide is WHY Rose qualifies under the character clause. I just watched it again, and it was clean. If it was in a World Series or a play-off game, nobody would have dared criticize Pete. Some people think the All-Star game shouldn’t be played hard—I think if the game isn’t going to matter, then it shouldn’t be played. To Rose, every game was equally important, and very play in it. If it had been Thurman Munson, Lance Parrish or Johnny Bench instead of Fosse, Rose would have been the one hospitalized.

        • He blames Rose for the decline of his career after the Rose collision. I’ve always thought it was bush of him. Carlton Fisk was injured worse than that in a collision in 1974, and he came back to play into his 40s, and make the Hall of Fame. Buster Posey just had a great season after coming back from a worse injury than Fisk’s. It’s not Pete’s fault that Fosse never regained his star status.

          • Not everyone recovers the same way and not every injury is the same. It’s not bush league to rue the injury. It is bush league to blame Rose.

            • Yes, that was my meaning. That, and the fact that he wasn’t able to take the hit like some of those guys and bounce back is his limitation to own, not to be bitter about Rose’s hustle. And I should add, if there was anyone on the field or the stands that didn’t know, Pete being Pete, that he was going to try to run over Fosse to score the winning run, they weren’t baseball fans. As far as I’m concerned, Fosse consented to the collision he knew was coming.

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