I swear I’m on vacation, but this Pete Rose story came along. So, I wrote this column. Here is a link to it. The full text runs below:
They were trying to “cutify” Pete Rose. Make him cute and lovable and eccentric. A real fun guy. Your pal at the corner bar, you and him swigging Coors Light, and swapping baseball yarns.
Or maybe they were trying to deodorize him. Get rid of the stink. A dead hunk mackerel going putrid in the noonday sun.
There’s that shoe commercial where old Pete — he has a most unPetelike paunch — saunters down the hall of a house showing off his shoes. His wife shouts to him he’s not supposed to be in the “hall.” Ha ha ha. A big yuk. How could anyone dislike a guy who makes fun of himself, makes fun of being banned from the Baseball Hall of Fame?
And he has such an adorable face. Not handsome in the classic Cary Grant tradition. But interesting. Sweet. Inviting. A fun-loving face. You just want to pinch it.
Lots of Petists — or are they Peties? — wanted him in the Hall of Fame. It was more like a demand. Let the voters vote. Get rid of the ban on his candidacy. It’s just so harsh. Let bygones by bygones. Make him eligible for the Hall where he could reside along with Babe Ruth and Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Rose made a mistake — who doesn’t make mistakes? — but he was a great hitter. Gutsy little competitor. The essence of baseball. Just let Pete in. The voters would vote him in.
Rose, in his endless public-relations campaign, his endless rehabilitation campaign, was getting ready to meet with new commissioner Rob Manfred to make his case. Show what a wonderful human being he is. Show he’s contrite and has evolved and grown from his experience. Show he deserves another chance. Shows he should be in the Hall. Show he doesn’t stink.
Please pass the handkerchief. Cry a tear for Pete Rose.
Well, all that’s over with now. You can’t cutify this creep or remove the stink. Evidence just emerged — rancid, smelly evidence — that he’s a bigger liar than we knew. A bigger lowlife, too.
He bet on games as a player. He sure did. That’s what the evidence shows. He played for the Reds, and he bet on Reds games. Bet on games he played in.
That breaks every rule of baseball, directly attacks the integrity of the game — and, yes, the game has integrity. Rose thumbed his nose at baseball. Then he lied about it. Lied with an easy heart and a clear conscience. Year after year after year. Just a creep. I’d say he had — and has — a criminal mentality. Bad man.
And we’re supposed to feel sorry for Pete Rose?
One lie he stuck to. Sure, he bet on games but only as a manager. His honor prevented him from betting as a player. A man with a man-sized code. Aside from that being complete baloney, the betting-as-a-manager justification is no justification at all.
Even if Rose never bet against his team — he may not have — betting would affect the way he managed. Had to. No way around it.
Imagine one scenario among many. He wanted to win money, so he left a reliever in longer than usual. Maybe he won that game, but he tired the reliever for other games which the Reds may have lost. You get the idea. Rose wasn’t thinking solely as a manager. He was thinking as a manager/bettor. A clear conflict of interest which changed the way he managed. What he did was against the code of baseball, against the code of any reputable sport.
For that alone, he was banned from the Hall. And should stay banned from the Hall.
Now this. He bet as a player and compounded the bet by lying and taking everybody for fools. By taking you for a fool.
The fan in you may think, “Sure, he bet as a player and manger, but he had more hits than anyone who ever lived. He was a superstar. That counts for something.”
The hell it does.
The latest evidence comes in a little notebook. It’s so corny that notebook, like a prop in a “B” detective movie. Rose’s life is a “B” movie. The notebook shows he placed bets with the New York mob. Shows he lost bets he placed with the New York mob. Owed the New York mob hundreds of thousands of dollars.
What does all that mean? It means the mob was into Rose and, through Rose, the mob was into baseball.
For this you let a man into the Hall of Fame?
Maybe you let him into a jail cell.
But you keep him away from baseball. You don’t make him a goodwill ambassador. Or a spokesman. Or a Hall of Famer. You tell him, “Pete, crawl back under your rock.”
And you reinterpret his face. Rose’s famous face is not interesting, sweet, inviting, not a fun-loving face. It’s an ugly face, ugly when you really know about it.
The face shows corruption and deceit and trickery. It is a trickster’s face. It is the face of someone who wants to get over on you. Wants to use you. Shifty eyes. Lizard eyes. It’s the face of a man who plays on your innocence and your belief in heroes. The Rose face counts on that. It is a face that laughs at you and demeans you, maybe even despises you. It is the face of someone who thinks only about “me.” It is the face of someone with no moral center. No moral compass. No morality.
It is a liar’s face.
No Hall of Fame for that face.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.