Recently I had a chance to discuss ‘Charlie Hustle.’ For those who are not baseball fans or remember when the game was much different than today’s offering, Charlie Hustle is Pete Rose. Pete was turfed out of baseball for life because he had a gambling problem and made the mistake of betting on games. Sometimes he played in those games and later when he became a manager he would bet on games even those in which he was managing. BUT–the more important point here is that he NEVER bet against his team.
He is, in my view, one of the best all time hitters and all around ball players the game has ever seen. He has over 4200 hits and numerous other awards/records including 2 MVP Awards, number of games played, times at bat (over 14,000) and on and on the list goes. The issue here, however, is not his innocence or guilt around gambling. Although he didn’t admit it immediately he did, finally, admit to gambling and all the evidence, which was overwhelming, was indeed true. His fatal mistake was that he defied the investigative committee that was charged with gathering the evidence and denied any wrong doing. He was found guilty as charged when he refused to met with officials from MLB and eventually turfed from baseball–for life. Bear in mind this is a man with an addiction to gambling.
Pete Rose played the game as few others did. He was not afraid of getting his uniform dirty every day. He sacrificed his body to make sure that his team got the best he had to offer them EVERY day he played or managed. Today’s players are more likely grossly overpaid and severely self absorbed. Obviously there are those who play as Rose did but not many.
The point is this. Given the addiction to gambling vs. the players who have ingested PED’s (their free choice) in order to up their performances so THEY can make more money and considering those players who have cheated the paying public and all the kids who believe or want to believe that to get ahead in the sport you have to break the rules, which group or player(s) have done more damage to the game? Today it is almost expected that a player of superior skill must be on the ‘juice’. A player, today, can be caught using a PED (performance enhancing drug) and not only survive the transgression but can be back playing after a 50 game suspension. Those players who initially denied using PEDs and later came clean because they knew they could not dodge the charges any longer are still eligible to enter the Hall Of Fame.
The one shaming document, to me, is the one that was created that stated no following commissioner could overturn Rose’s life time ban. One wonders why that door was not left open, just a crack, for Rose to walk through IF he ever came clean with the truth, stated his mistakes and promised to be a good boy for the remainder of his days being involved as a player or a manager.
Pete Rose deserves to be in the HOF–no question. He needs to be exonerated for being treated as a criminal and punished like a child. The message baseball wanted to put forth was ‘this is how you get treated when you disobey. No one is bigger than the game’ and then upper management became bigger than the game. They also wanted to say that ‘you will have your livelihood taken from you and your reputation will be all but destroyed.’ Today someone who has a gambling problem is seen and helped because they are experiencing a mental health disorder. In today’s world Pete might have a pretty strong legal case to have his case re-examined and overturned so that he could assume his rightful place in the Great Hall.
MLB needs to either start treating players with ‘drug problems’ the same way as Pete Rose was treated–life time bans with no excuses or treat gamblers with the same acceptance as drug users. MLB needs to decide which is more harmful to the game and before Major League Baseball jumps to answer they need to think about the message that is going out to the millions of kids who want to play the game. The Majors and Minor Leagues are sending mixed messages and by doing so have messed up–they need to fix it-now. Put Pete Rose in the HOF so that his amazing baseball talents and accomplishments can be witnessed, acknowledged and appreciated. His personality should not be on trial here but rather his skill at a game that many of today’s players see only as a ‘what’s in it for me?’
Pete Rose played baseball the way baseball should be played–with heart, skill, determination and a love for the game. What do we want our kids to learn from all the business about Pete? There are some great life lessons here that the kids could sure benefit from hearing. One thing they can learn is what it means to COMPETE instead of hearing the mamby pamby messages that some parents give their kids about how winning isn’t important. If you want them to have fun-teach them that it’s OK to win. Winning is fun. Teach them to play the game the way Pete Rose did–flat out with a great deal of passion and pride. If you give the best you’ve got and it isn’t or wasn’t good enough then upgrade your skills and try harder the next time.
Anyways, that’s how I see it–all the best, Jim
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