Bob Ryan: It’s Finally Time to Give the Hit King, Pete Rose, His Plaque

It's one of the most well-documented controversies in baseball history. Pete Rose, his gambling demons and the Hall of Fame.

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This past Saturday saw the Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan bring back one of the most controversial topics to ever hit the Major League Baseball landscape. The infamous discussion of one of baseball’s greats, Pete Rose, and the elusive–at least for him–plaque at Cooperstown.

Since February of 1991, the vote cast by those at the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame barred baseball’s all-time hits leader from gaining enshrinement amongst baseball’s greats. This was then reaffirmed by the Veteran’s Committee in 2008, as Ryan writes. And as we know, the crime that he committed toward the game is widely seen as, well, vile in the eyes of baseball’s purists. As both manager and player-manager of the Cincinnati Reds, he gambled on the outcome of his own team’s games.

Though his rationale, once he finally admitted that the accusations held some truth, was that he wouldn’t bet against his own team. And while that could be seen as admirable, I guess, that doesn’t negate the fact that he was participating in one of the game’s major crimes.

Baseball is a game where you not only have to focus on the current game at hand, but you also have to look toward the near future. Do I use this bullpen arm today? Do I utilize this pinch hitter now or in later innings? But when betting on his own team to win, rather than focusing on long term success, he’d have to worry about his financial investment and focus on winning that one single game at that very moment.

Regardless of the reasoning, Rose committed the crime and frankly, for a majority of the time since receiving his banishment from being placed in baseball immortality, it’s been the correct move. That is, until now.

As Ryan illustrates in the aforementioned column, Major League Baseball’s changed its tune with the discussion of sports gambling.

He writes, “But things have changed. Major League Baseball has reexamined its attitude toward gambling. MLB announced on Nov. 27, 2018, that MGM had become its ‘official gaming partner’.

How about that?

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred offered this explanation: ‘There’s been a huge change in public opinion on sports gambling.’

Interesting. You don’t suppose that the owners saw that there was some money to be made with this association and decided they’d like what they consider to be their fair share? Or am I being overly cynical?

Then came the clincher. ‘We have to take advantage of every opportunity to drive engagement by the fans,” Manfred explained. The fans, of course. How silly of me not to know it was all about the fans.'”

So now that gambling has become not only an accepted part of the game for fans but also a sponsored piece, is it time to forgive Rose for his wrongdoings?

Ryan continues on to say that Rose, while he’s a “frustratingly flawed human being”, wouldn’t be the sole flawed member of those already in the Hall of Fame, which, is absolutely correct.

Did Pete Rose have a legitimate problem that has caused almost 30 years worth of punishment? Absolutely, he did. He committed a crime that is almost unforgivable in the eyes of those who cherish the game of baseball like it’s a part of life that could do no wrong. But in the same breath, what is the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame about? It’s about enshrining those who had some of the most significant impacts on the game while out on the field. Keeping somebody out of that world who holds the all-time record in hits has always been puzzling. Believe me, the notion of keeping him out for this period of time has been an argument that could at least be made and clearly, it’s been made successfully. But is that still an argument that can hold itself up?

As Ryan said, in his case, “…keeping him out because of gambling when you are now officially in partnership with gambling interests is hypocrisy of the highest order.”

Gambling appears to no longer be such a demonized side of baseball. The league has teamed up to officially have a gambling partner. While it still isn’t something the league would nor should allow players to do, it’s something that now has moved its way into a sport that has had a difficultly of adapting to the current time period.

The number is 4,256. That’s the number that will forever be apart of the game of baseball. The most hits to ever be accumulated throughout a career. The only other player who got over and above the 4,000 mark? Ty Cobb.

He’s served his time. He’s been behind Hall of Fame prison bars now long enough. When talking about players who are a major factor in the game’s history, Pete Rose should always be in the conversation. It’s finally time to open up the doors, and let him in.