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Charlie Hustle

Scott Jagow Jul 27, 2009

We’re coming up on the 20th anniversary of Pete Rose’s lifetime ban from baseball. Because of the ban, the guy who has the most hits, games played and at-bats in the history of the sport can’t get into the Hall of Fame. Is it time to pardon Rose for his gambling sins?

The New York Daily News reports that Major League commissioner Bud Selig is seriously considering a pardon. Rose was banned in August, 1989, for betting on baseball games. For many years, Rose denied that he gambled on baseball, but in 2004, he finally admitted to betting on his Cincinnati Reds to win every game. He said he never bet against his team.

Over the weekend, near the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, home run legend Hank Aaron told reporters Rose belonged in the Hall of Fame. He also said players caught using steroids should have an asterisk next to their name if they made it into Cooperstown.

I’ve always been torn on this issue. On one hand, you want to say zero tolerance. You had your chance, you blew it. No Hall of Fame for you. Professional sports need to take a stand against the vices and cheating that eat away at them.

On the other hand, Rose has probably paid for his crime. In society, murder doesn’t even get a life sentence sometimes. Has Rose done something worse than murder? And what about all those players who’ve taken steroids? I don’t see them getting lifetime bans or much else, for that matter.

Reading about Rose made me think of my trip to Cooperstown when I was a kid. I was awestruck by the history of the game. I studied the player’s plaques and memorabilia for hours. I loved baseball. I suppose, at that age, I didn’t think about the seedier aspects of the game. The Hall was a celebration of the best, a celebration of the pure joy of the sport.

But if I went back to the Hall as a adult, I’d be disappointed to see a censored history of baseball. Baseball and other sports should recognize their pasts, and that includes people like Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose. Rose was so good on the field, he deserves to be recognized for it. His failings should also be noted. If he does finally get into the Hall, his plaque should say, “he was banned for betting on baseball games. He was pardoned two decades later.”

The next generation of kids deserve to see a video in the Hall of Pete Rose sliding head first into home plate. They should also know that he broke the rules of the sport and that he actually had to pay for it.

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