Sunday, August 24, 2008

August 24, 1989: One Of Baseball's Darkest Days

It was on this date in 1989 when baseball commissioner, Bart Giamatti, made the announcement that would forever rock baseball history. Pete Rose aka “Charlie Hustle” was permanently banned from baseball having found that Rose not only bet on baseball but had bet against the Cincinnati Reds, the team he managed. Pete Rose agreed to be voluntarily put permanently on baseball’s ineligible list in exchange Major League Baseball would not publish its formal findings from its investigation into Rose’s misconduct.

The scandal rocked baseball as Pete Rose, the 1963 NL Rookie of the Year, was baseball’s all-time hits leader, perennial all-star, and had the reputation of being a ruthless, all-out competitor no better exhibited in his bowling over Cleveland Catcher Ray Fosse to score the winning run for the National League in the 1970 All-Star game. The injuries Fosse sustained effectively ended his career while Pete Rose went on to be a leader of Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” managed by Sparky Anderson appearing in the 1970 and 1972. In back to back seasons, 1975 and 1976, “Charlie Hustle” played a major role in the Reds back-to-back World Championships. Rose would sign on as a free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies signing a four year deal in 1979. That tenure would see a World Championship with the Phillies in 1980 and a World Series loss to Baltimore in 1983. Rose went on to play for the Montreal Expos in 1984 where he gained his 4000th career hit. On August 14th that year he was traded to his hometown Cincinnati Reds and assumed the role of player-manager. While serving as player manager he eclipsed Ty Cobb’s all-time hit record retiring with 4,246 hits. Rose finished first in games played (3562), at bats (14053) He finished second in career doubles (746), sixth in runs scored (2165), seventh in total bases (5762) and is among the leaders in most offensive categories. Rose was selected to seventeen All-Star teams, and named 1973 National League Most Valuable Player.

Rose ended his playing career after the 1986 season while continuing to manage the Reds. His behavior as manager was not peaceful. Though he managed the Reds to four second place finishes, he drew a lengthy 30 day suspension for shoving umpire Dave Pallone. This was the longest suspension ever for an on-the-field episode causing a near riot at Riverfront Stadium as fans pelted the field with debris. It was during this span as manager where Rose bet huge sums of money that ultimately led him to his banishment from Professional Baseball.

Since Rose was banished from baseball nineteen years ago today, he did hard time for tax evasion spending five months in minimum security Federal Prison in Marion, Illinois. Rose paid $366,041 in back taxes and interest and was fined $50,000.

Rose has unsuccessfully sought reinstatement to Baseball but was formally voted to be put on the ineligible list for Hall of Fame induction in 1991. Through the years, Rose had vehemently denied all changes against him until an interview on ABC Primetime Thursday, while promoting his autobiography, My Prison Without Bars, Rose conceded he had bet on the Cincinnati Reds. But in March, 2007, on The Dan Patrick Show, ESPN radio, bet on my team every night. I didn't bet on my team four nights a week. I bet on my team to win every night because I loved my team, I believed in my team," …. "I did everything in my power every night to win that game." These remarks seemed to further befuddle Rose’s case. His confession in 2004, seemed too little, too late to many as such conspicuous self-serving effort to promote his book.

Rose’s reinstatement seems unlikely in the foreseeable future. Even former teammate, Joe Morgan, harshly criticized Rose’s conduct as one of the most firm advocates that his suspension remain in place.

While some question how serious Rose’s behavior was relative to the sport as Baseball deals with one of its most pervasive scandals, the steroid and performance enhancing drugs scandal, where top stars Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Raphael Palmeiro have been implicated, some use this as evidence to try to minimize the Rose scandal. Still, it is posted in every major league clubhouse where no player can miss it, the policy gambling and its penalties are clearly stated.

While many recognize Pete Rose’s undeniable historic achievements as a player, and his behavior that resulted in his banishment resulted from his managing activities, that he has shown no contrition and continues to act above his crime makes his case harder to justify clemency. Unless things change dramatically, it appears likely the only way Rose will enter Cooperstown is posthumously.

The bottom line is, Pete Rose knew better.

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