This is belated by a couple weeks, but when Pete Rose's application was again denied to have his lifetime ban from baseball overturned, I just wasn't up to writing about Pete Rose at the time.
I was quite taken by the moving plea that Rose made at a press conference about his little granddaughter wanting to see grandpa in baseball. While I’m sure that his sadness was heartfelt, my main thought was that you sort of wished he’d figured out that the responsibility was on him and his actions, not on baseball. And that the responsibility had been there for 26 years when he was banned for life, a lifetime ban which he signed an agreement to.
When baseball commissioner Rob Manfred denied the application, he issued a pointed explanation, but at the core of it was that Pete Rose had done nothing to show he had turned his life around and continued openly gambling in Las Vegas.
I had mixed feelings about the commissioner’s reasons for keeping the ban. On the one hand, I loved that he pointed out that Pete Rose has done nothing for decades to rehabilitate himself in order to overcome a LIFETIME ban. Not just the continued gambling, or that he'd denied it for 15 years even after signing the ban (only to finally acknowledge it 11 years ago when promoting a book -- though just that he bet when a manager, not as a player...only to have evidence turn up this year that, in fact, he lied and had also bet while a player), or that he had regularly gone to Cooperstown on Hall of Fame weekend to promote himself by intentionally spitting in the eye of baseball at this annual, hallowed event. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s the reason commissioner Manfred should have used. After all, even if Pete Rose had become an angel on earth, I think a perfectly proper reason to say the ban was being continued was because it was LIFETIME. And Pete Rose had agreed to it.
I watched with a certain bemusement how a few commentators thought it was an unfair reason, since Pete Rose was no longer in baseball, and “Everyone else has the right to gamble legally in Las Vegas, so why not Pete Rose?” Seriously, guys?? Really?? In fact, Pete Rose actually does have every right to gamble legally in Las Vegas to his heart’s content. And nothing the commissioner said or did alters that. But “everyone else” isn’t trying to get a lifetime ban for gambling overturned so that they can return to an involvement in professional baseball and get voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. If Pete Rose wants to keep gambling in Las Vegas, godspeed, go ahead. Bet to his heart’s content and even double-down as much as he wants. Triple-down, even. But if you want to convince organized baseball that they should throw out your ban for life which came about because of gambling, that’s a really poor way to go about it. If a restaurant says you can’t eat there if you’re wearing sandals, you are free to wear sandals every single moment of the day. But you’re not going to be allowed in the restaurant to eat. It’s not a hard concept.
Years ago, the great pitcher for the San Francisco Giants Juan Marichal got into an ugly incident on the field, swinging a baseball bat at catcher John Roseboro of the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was seen as likely the reason he didn't get elected into the Hall of Fame. But Marichal was openly regretful for the attack and for the next several decades became a model ambassador for baseball, and even became close friends with John Roseboro, even being invited by Roseboro's widow to speak at the catcher's funeral. And eventually, Marichal was elected into the Hall of Fame.
Years ago, too, Cubs pitcher Ferguson Jenkins was arrested on a cocaine charge, after his baseball career. It also was seen as a reason he didn't get elected to the Hall of Fame. And Jenkins, too, took personal responsibility, and became an admired ambassador for baseball. And not long ago, he also was finally elected to the Hall of Fame.
To be clear, these are different cases. Neither Marichal or Jenkins had a lifetime ban from baseball. But they had done something that tarnished their reputations and kept baseball from voting them into the Hall of Fame. They had every right to live their lives however they wanted, but they clearly had such love for baseball that they did everything possible admirably in an effort to be included in the baseball community. And both did finally get included. And if, indeed, one of the criteria that commissioner Manfred said was used for assessing Pete Rose's application for reinstatement was whether he turned his life around on the standards baseball required, then Pete Rose has had a quarter of a century to show his interest. And he's pretty much spit in baseball's face for that whole time, while asking them to overturn a lifetime ban -- that he agreed to.
I'm not completely convinced that Pete Rose should be re-admitted to baseball if only he stops gambling and becomes an ambassador to the sport. Maybe that's enough, maybe not. But if it is, then him not getting re-admitted falls entirely on Pete Rose. And if his granddaughter is sad to see that, then it's her grandpa's fault. And for him to try and put the onus on baseball itself, that's just one more example of what Pete Rose has been doing since 1989 -- actually before that, since he began betting on baseball while still an active players: spitting on the sport and denigrating it, all by himself.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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