Pete Rose: Current Wall of Shamer, Future Hall of Famer


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Considered by most to be America’s pastime, baseball has become one of the largest, most entertaining, most watched, and most respected games in the history of sports. Since its inception in 1936, Major League Baseball has honored those who have excelled in playing, managing, and serving the sport at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. Regarded as the highest honor in the history of the sport, the Hall of Fame currently holds a total of 297 inductees, which include 236 players, 20 managers, 9 umpires, and 32 pioneers and executives. These individuals have forever been immortalized and have gained the highest amount of respect for their dedication to the game, but there has been one issue over the last twenty-five years that has stirred one of the greatest debates in the sport’s history, Pete Rose.

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On the night of September 11, 1985, then player-manager Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds drove a single to left center off San Diego Padres pitcher Eric Show. Although the hit was not very significant during that particular game, it marked Pete Rose’s 4,192 career hit, thus passing Ty Cobb’s all-time career hits record of 4,191. Gaining widespread acclaim for holding baseball’s all-time hits record with 4,256 career hits, Rose also holds MLB records for games played with 3,562, at-bats with 14,053, and outs with 10,328. A twenty-four year career as a player and a five year career as a manager, three of them as a player-manager, Rose has won three World Series rings, three batting titles, one MVP Award, two Gold Gloves, a Rookie of the Year Award, and was an eighteen time All-Star; he was considering a lock for the baseball Hall of Fame following his retirement from the game.

“On February 20, 1989, Rose met with Commissioner Ueberroth and then National League President Giamatti about gambling allegations. On March 20, Ueberroth announced he would investigate these allegations, selecting a Washington lawyer, John Dowd, to be in charge of the inquiry.”[1] During his investigation, Dowd had interviewed many of Rose’s known associates, which included alleged bookies and bet runners who admitted to taking bets from Rose. When Dowd gave his report to a now one-month in office Commissioner Bart Giamatti on May 9, 1989, it contained Rose’s alleged gambling activities in 1985, ’86, and ’87. Known as the Dowd Report, this 225-page report, accompanied by seven volumes of exhibits, documented Rose’s alleged bets of at least $10,000 on 52 different Reds games in 1987, but “no evidence was discovered that Rose bet against the Reds.”[2] This was still in clear violation of Major League Baseball’s rules, which states, “”Rule 21 MISCONDUCT, (d) BETTING ON BALL GAMES, Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.”[3]

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Commissioner Giamatti was often criticized in the course of the investigation as having a personal vendetta against Pete Rose. During the MLB’s investigation, Rose had sought a restraining order against Giamatti, believing it would put an end to him acting as both a judge and executioner of his case. “Rose found a few sympathetic ears. U.S. District Judge Carl B. Rubin resented “the baseball commissioner entering into what I think is … a vendetta against Pete Rose.” In Ohio, the Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge, Norbert Nadel, stated that he also thought Giamatti had “prejudged Rose.” Many fans also questioned Giamatti’s motives, remembering in particular an incident between Rose and Giamatti in 1988.”[4] When Giamatti was the National League president in 1988, he suspended Rose 30 days for bumping into umpire Dave Pallone, which fans and writers believed was way over the top. Fans often showed how unfair his ruling was when they compared it the four day suspension Giamatti gave a player for throwing a bat at another during that very same season, an act far more severe than Rose’s.

Rose continued to deny the accusations made by Commissioner Giamatti over the next couple of years. Rose filed a lawsuit against the Commissioner in the city of Cincinnati in order so he could get a fair trial. After several court battles over the legality of Giamatti’s ability to decide Rose’s fate, Giamatti and Major League Baseball finally secured a federal hearing for Rose’s case on August 17, 1989. This time around Rose’s appeal was denied, so instead, he decided not attend the hearing. In a plea-bargain settlement, Rose agreed and signed to the following terms,

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“In accord with the agreement signed on August 23, 1989, both Rose and Giamatti were allowed to make public statements regarding the affair “so long as no public statement contradicts the terms of this agreement and resolution.” The agreement also allowed Rose the right to apply for reinstatement in baseball, although he may not, at any time, attempt to contest Giamatti’s decision, or of the decision of any future commissioner. The most curious clause in the contract reads: “Nothing in this agreement shall be deemed either an admission or a denial by Peter Edward Rose of the allegation that he bet on any major league baseball game.”[5]

From Rose’s end, he only asked for one thing in return, “In exchange for his lifetime ban, Rose did not ask for much, only that the MLB refrain from making any “formal findings” in relation to his betting on the Reds.”[6] On August 24, 1989, former Major League Baseball Commissioner Giamatti banished Pete Rose from all involvement in the sport of baseball. Rose was barred from baseball and sentenced to permanent ineligibility from the Hall of Fame for his alleged involvement in gambling on baseball games while he was still playing and managing. Rose voluntarily accepted a place on baseball’s “permanent ineligibility” list and also agreed with Giamatti that he would never challenge his statement when applying for reinstatement in the future. (Below is the signed plea agreement between Giamatti and Rose)

pete rose signature

On February 4, 1991, the Hall of Fame voted formally to exclude individuals on the permanently ineligible list from being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Although it was already considered an “unwritten rule,” the Baseball Writers Association of America voted to make it an official rule for the Hall of Fame, which people believed was in response to Rose’s plea-bargain agreement. Pete Rose was also the only living member on that list at the time and still to this day.

On January 8, 2004, after years of denying the gambling allegations against him, Pete Rose released his autobiography My Prison Without Bars. In his own words, Rose finally admitted to betting on baseball games, as well as other sports, while he was still playing and managing the Cincinnati Reds. “Some folks have even implied that I am unworthy to set foot on a baseball field because of what I’ve done. I’ve never really understood that way of thinking. But I understand now.”[7] That same night, Rose appeared on the ABC news program Primetime Thursday, where in the interview he publically readmitted that he was betting on baseball games, but also admitted that he never bet against the Reds. When asked why he did it, Rose said, “I 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.”[8] His hope was that if he came clean to the public, then he be more likely to be reinstated back into baseball so he can live to see himself get into the Hall of Fame.

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Admittedly, Pete Rose willingly violated a known Major League rule and should accept the consequences for his actions. He lied for nearly fifteen years and was trying to gain forgiveness by the baseball community. In today’s world, this case has turned into a moral one, with no need for an investigation or a new trial, but understanding and listening to arguments Rose has made as to why he should be reinstated. He has argued, on numerous occasions, that baseball has allowed many people into the Hall of Fame that have committed worse acts than his.

“If MLB wants to say that placing a bet to win a game is worse than purposely striking one’s comparatively defenseless spouse, then it’s worse, and baseball can impose light sanctions for the latter and lifetime banishment for the former. If MLB has implicitly concluded that a bet on one’s team to win a game more seriously compromises or over-enhances the competitive integrity of the game than does an outfielder pumping himself up on steroids, then so be it.”[9]

When you take into account what Rose has to say, he makes some good points as to why he should be reinstated. How he has handled so much abuse over an act that is less bad than someone beating their wife or men who are on steroids has been amazing. He still played with the integrity of the game and never made a decision that affected the outcomes of games.

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When looking at this case from an ethical standpoint, you really have to address both sides of the situation. First, with Rose, he knowingly violated an established MLB rule and then denied that he did so for nearly fifteen years. As a coach, although he may never have bet against his own team, he still should have business ethics in mind. From a Kantian perspective, Rose had a duty to manage his team and by violating rules, he failed in trying to achieve that duty because he showed his players that they don’t have to respect the rules of the game. He can go around and try to justify the decisions he made by saying he loved his team so much that he knew they could win, but he was getting himself involved in illegal gambling activities with most likely the wrong kind of people. What if situations arose where he was in debt and in order for him to get out of it, he had to start manage the games in order to lose on purpose? He had a duty as manager to make sure not to get in situations like that. I think that is why people take a case like this so seriously and why baseball executives don’t want baseball to be associated with this kind of illegal behavior.

From the current baseball executives’ ethical point-of-view, you are now addressing issues with steroid all over baseball. Currently, baseball today has been dubbed the ‘Steroids Era,’ where we not only see fielders, but pitches as well, taking steroids and Human Growth Hormone in order to increase their strength, stamina, and recovery time. These are the types of issues that should ban people from baseball, as these are performance enhancers. Pete Rose broke records and never once had to pop a pill or inject himself with a needle, he played with his natural talent into his forties. Yes, he violated a rule, but you are treating him as if he was a member of 1919 Black Sox, who threw a World Series in order to win bets of their own. Obviously, these executives believe in a rule-utilitarian philosophy, in that if you commit actions that violate the happiness of others, then there will be consequences for those actions. Which is what major executives should abide by, but as time goes by, the happiness is beginning to swing another way and soon more people will be unhappy that he is not inducted into the Hall of Fame.

From my point-of-view, I think it’s disrespectful to the game that Pete Rose isn’t in the Hall of Fame. The man was one of the best players to play the game and holds multiple Major League records, most which probably will never be broken ever again. Even after he was banned, he was still voted to the All-Century team as outfielder in 1999, meaning he still is respected by players and writers alike. I think Pete Rose will one day become an inductee into the Hall of Fame, but I feel in order for baseball to get their point across, they will wait until after his death to reinstate him, which is a major shame in itself.

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[1] Matthews, G. (1995). Epideictic rhetoric and baseball: Nurturing community through controversy. The Southern Communication Journal, 60(4), 275-275. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/226934909?accountid=9784

[2] Dowd, John M. “The Baseball Archive Presents The Dowd Report.” The Baseball Archive Presents The Dowd Report. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2013. <http://seanlahman.com/files/rose/dowd/dowd_ii.html&gt;.

[3] “SoxProspects Wiki – Rule 21.” SoxProspects Wiki – Rule 21. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2013. <http://wiki.soxprospects.com/Rule 21>.

[4] Matthews, G. (1995). Epideictic rhetoric and baseball: Nurturing community through controversy. The Southern Communication Journal, 60(4), 275-275. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/226934909?accountid=9784

[5] Matthews, G. (1995). Epideictic rhetoric and baseball: Nurturing community through controversy. The Southern Communication Journal, 60(4), 275-275. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/226934909?accountid=9784

[6] Standen, J. (2010). Pete rose and baseball’s rule 21. Nine, 18(2), 134-140,210. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/210876794?accountid=9784

[7] Rose, Pete, and Rick Hill. My Prison Without Bars. Emmaus, Pa.: Rodale, 2004. Print.

[8] “Rose Admits to Betting on Reds ‘every night'” ESPN.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2013. <http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2798498&gt;.

[9] Standen, J. (2010). Pete rose and baseball’s rule 21. Nine, 18(2), 134-140,210. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/210876794?accountid=9784

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