On September 11, 1985, as an overexcited 10-year old baseball-obsessed boy, I cheered when I saw on Sportscenter that venerable old man Pete Rose had broken Ty Cobb's "unbreakable" record of 4,191 hits. Rose's legendary career had hit its crescendo, over two decades of myth-making and Charlie Hustling led to that night in Cincinnati. For what it's worth, if Pete Rose had been run over by the team bus leaving the stadium that night, it would have been for the best. We all would have been spared a lot of depressing revelations about Pete.
I'm not gonna lie, like anyone who started collecting cards in the mid-1980's, Pete Rose was one of the Holy Grails. Getting his cards in packs was always welcome. Seeing his older cards at shows and in magazines (and even on those 1986 tributes above) was a treat. Hell, his 1963 Topps rookie card was one of the first cards to be widely counterfeited and it was a big deal back in the day. Not the '54 Aaron or even the '52 Mantle, the '63 Rose. You can still find ones stamped "counterfeit" at a big show if you look (or ask since they are technically illegal to own). Heck, a lot of the cards you'll see here are from my original collection from 30 years ago.
The real problem with Pete Rose is that he didn't get run over by that team bus on 9/11/85 and the real man we all know him now to be emerged over the next few years. The gambling addict. The compulsive liar. The con artist. The hustler.
The tragedy of Pete Rose has been raked over more than anyone's except maybe OJ Simpson. The accusations. The lifetime ban. The death of Bart Giamatti. The indifference of Bud Selig. The confession (which was sadly just a ploy to sell books and not to actually cleanse his soul of anything). His current appeal to be reinstated by the All Star Game in Cincy this year. And now, the new revelations that he not only bet on baseball as a manager, but that he also bet on it as a player, something he has vehemently denied forever.
I have long held the opinion that Pete Rose got more out of his ability than any athlete ever. Even when he came up as a rookie, you would never have though of himself as a 'physical specimen' like Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays was. He was awkward and stocky, but the man had drive. He willed himself like no other baseball player to be great. He gave the cliche 110% every single day. And he was loved for it. And he loved that he was loved. It was a goddamn love in all around when it came to Pete Rose. If only that had been enough for him, we wouldn't have the mess we've had for the last 25+ years.
I have long given up on Pete Rose as a human being (even if I still respect him as a player). His default setting is to lie and he only tells the truth when it suits him. The new nonsense is the just the cherry on top of the shit sundae that is his post playing career. He was in a much more advantageous position to affect games when he was a manager anyway, so betting on them as a player just shows that he has always had the insatiable need for 'action' and the pathological need to lie about it. All the new stuff does is force Rob Manfred to deny his application for reinstatement. It is shame on top of shame on top of shame on top of shame...
In the end, all of this has not changed the opinion I have held about Pete Rose the player for a long time. His lifetime ban should remain. He belongs in the Hall of Fame as a player, sure, but not while he is living. All he would do if he made the Hall is spin it into another cheap money grab. Heck, he slums around Cooperstown now to cash in for sympathy, imagine what he would do as a member. All of this is more than just another "it's not the crime, it's the cover-up" example because here, the crime is the point. Betting on baseball is the ultimate no-no; more than all the steroids, collusion, bat-corking, ball-scuffing, and sign-stealing combined. Even if baseball somehow relents and decides to make him eligible for reinstatement, he should never be involved directly with baseball games again - not as a coach, not as a manager, not as a hot dog vender. As for the Hall, whenever he does make it, the last sentence of his plaque should read "Banned from baseball for life for betting on games." A sad epitaph indeed.