Pete Rose – For The Last Time?

Long-term readers know well that I have believed that Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame for the accomplishments of his career on the field. I have never liked his off-field behaviors but I thought that Bart Giamatti at first took a hard stand on those behaviors and then Fay Vincent piled on. What bothered me the most about his off-field behavior is that it took him years upon years to admit what he had done. As with many “scandals” the cover-up and the denial magnify the iniquity.

Nonetheless, I am still willing to have Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame and to include on the plaque bearing his name a direct statement of the fact that he bet on baseball games while managing the Cincinnati Reds in the late 1980s. However, new evidence seems to have surfaced that indicates that Pete Rose bet on baseball games while he was a player – in a time that preceded his managerial position. Now, that changes everything…

The new evidence was uncovered and announced by ESPN’s Outside The Lines. There is no question that Outside The Lines has earned a prestigious standing in the arena of investigative sports journalism. The fact that the folks there put their names and the reputation of the program on the revelation renders a high degree of credibility to the report. If the same report had come from some “click-bait website”, I would be skeptical.

The timing of the emergence of this new evidence – originally obtained/discovered 26 years ago in 1989 – is strange. It has been sealed and stored in the National Archives for all or most of that time and just now a copy of it has surfaced. Were I given to conspiracy theories – and I am not – it would not be all that difficult to see some nefarious hidden hand at work here moving to leak new evidence just as Pete Rose has applied for reinstatement to baseball with a new Commissioner. Frankly, I think the Bilderbergs and the Trilateral Commission have bigger things to worry about than whether or not Pete Rose is reinstated into the good graces of MLB.

Let me explain why the new information presented by Outside The Lines crosses into a new and dark place. To do that, let me present to you some fictional events in the life of the winningest jockey of all time – – Joe Flabeetz. Everyone who ever went to a racetrack where “Beetzy” was riding knows that was always a threat to win the race when he was on a horse in the starting gate; he was just the best. So, when he retired, it was a sure-thing that he would go into the Racing Hall of Fame; after all, he had won more races than anyone in history.

Now suppose we learned – after his retirement – that Joe Flabeetz had a long history of gambling. After all, gambling and horseracing are inseparable activities; should that be disqualifying? Well, I think it all depends:

    If “Beetzy” bet on the Super Bowl every year, I would have no concern about that at all if he did that through a sportsbook in Las Vegas or through some off-shore book that took such action. Once again, if I were prone to conspiracy theories, I might be just the tiniest bit concerned if he made that bet with a local bookie because – perhaps – it might tie him to organized crime and that is not a good thing for racing. Nevertheless, I would ignore it…

    If Joe Flabeetz bet regularly on football and/or baseball and/or soccer and/or hockey games, I would have the same reaction to his wagering on the Super Bowl. I just do not think this is any bigger of a deal than if he played poker every Saturday night with a group of friends who had nothing to do with horseracing. I just do not think this matters…

    Looking back over “Beetzy’s” career, he won just about all of his races in the US and in Canada. Every once in a while when he had a “super horse” he would go to Dubai to ride that steed in the annual top-shelf race there. So, what might I think about a new revelation that Joe Flabeetz regularly bet on horse races in Australia? Not only had he never raced there, he had never even been to Australia… I am very uncomfortable at this point because jockey’s betting on horse races erodes significantly the confidence in “the integrity of the sport”. Lord knows; there is a significant fraction of horse players who are ready to believe that the only reason they lost that last race is because of some “hidden hand” that turned the outcome against them. At this point, I am very uncomfortable with “Beetzy” and his behavior(s) when he is not in the saddle; but still, he did win more races than anyone in history…

    One more revelation indicates that Joe Flabeetz bet on races at the tracks where he was riding – but only on races where he had no mount. I am off the Joe Flabeetz Train at this point. Gambling and jockeys are too closely related in terms of the sport to let jockeys get this close to gambling on the races themselves. This would disqualify Joe Flabeetz from the Racing Hall of Fame in my mind. And that is where it would seem that Pete Rose is with the new Outside The Lines information.

Let me take this clearly fictional analogy one step further:

    Let us suppose that we just learned that Joe Flabeetz bet $100 to win on every horse that he rode in every race in his career and that he absorbed all the losses while donating all the proceeds from the winners to the noblest charity you can imagine. Moreover, he kept all those records and the IRS itself has audited and determined that every dime is accounted for properly. Even in that situation where Joe Flabeetz has clearly done some splendid good, he disqualifies himself from recognition in the Racing Hall of Fame. There has to be a clear line that separates jockeys from betting on races close to them and the nobility of the outcome from crossing the line does not justify the crossing of the line.

Obviously, the new information obtained and revealed by Outside The Lines will need to be vetted/corroborated and we do owe Pete Rose and his attorneys the opportunity to rebut or challenge the accuracy of that information. However, if at the end of the vetting and rebutting it turns out that Pete Rose bet on baseball games while he was a player, I will – sadly – change my call for him to be in the Hall of Fame.

If the information is valid, then Pete Rose belongs NOT in the Hall of Fame but rather in my fictional Just Go Away Club.

Finally, let me leave this topic with two thoughts that seem appropriate to this entire messy situation:

“There’s one way to find out if a man is honest — ask him. If he says, ‘Yes,’ you know he is a crook. – Groucho Marx

And …

“It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place.” – H. L. Mencken

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

10 thoughts on “Pete Rose – For The Last Time?”

  1. There was a story in our local paper here in Las Vegas some time back, 15-20 years ago, about Pete Rose gambling in a high roller room. At one point he was allegedly overpaid by a dealer about $10,000. He took his chips and left. The dealer was fired. I suppose that statistically, he belongs in the Hall of Fame, but for his gambling he will probably not gain entrance while he is living. Too bad for that, as he was a tremendous hitter and competitor.

    1. Rich:

      Even though I advocated his entry into the Hall of Fame, it was never based on Rose’s “wonderfulness” as a person. If that report in a Las Vegas paper is accurate, it demonstrates that he is indeed a bad person – but there are plenty of people in the Baseball Hall of Fame who are not nice folks.

      1. I just found something on the web about the incident. It says that the money was returned. Maybe Pete isn’t such a bad guy….

  2. Bravo, Jack! Lately I’ve been ranting about the Orthodox Jews from my hometown of Teaneck, NJ whose horse, American Pharaoh, won the Triple Crown while they were at the race track. My contention was that this constituted gambling on the Sabbath and is strictly prohibited Jewish law. However, it was pointed out to me that they placed their bets before sunset on Friday and did not ride to the track nor switch on any lights in their $400,000 house trailer which was parked there. So I stand corrected on that.

    1. Gerson:

      There are lines that you should not cross. Your comment points out an important one for Orthodox Jews and – seemingly – they seem to have stayed on the right side of their line. It appears now as if Pete Rose went over his line…

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