Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Pete Rose Story

By Jeremy DeCarlo

I’d walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball.” 
-- Pete Rose

Peter Edward “Pete" Rose, nicknamed “Charlie Hustle” as recognition of the constant effort he put on the field, was a Major League Baseball  player and manager. Rose played from 1963 to 1986, and managed from 1984 to 1989. He is considered one of the greatest MLB players of all time but is more famously remembered today for his gambling on MLB games, most notably gambling on his own team, The Cincinnati Reds, while serving as the team’s manager.

Rose was the last MLB player to concurrently serve as the team’s manager. Rose, a switch hitter, is the all-time Major League leader in hits (4,256), games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053), and singles (3,215). He won three World Series titles and was the Most Valuable Player of the 1975 World Series, won three batting titles, was the Most Valuable Player of the 1975 World Series, won three batting titles, was the National League’s Most Valuable player in 1973, won two Gold Gloves, was the Rookie of the Year, and made 17 All-Star appearances at five different positions (2B, LF, RF, 3B, & 1B). In 1976, he won the Roberto Clemente award and is also a member of the MLB All-Century team. Pete Rose is currently banned from baseball and from the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Pete Rose was born April 14, 1941 in Cincinnati, Ohio. His uncle was a scout for the Cincinnati Reds and as the Red had recently traded away a number of prospects who turned out to be very good ball players, the decided to take a chance on Rose. Upon his graduation from high school, Rose signed a professional contract. Rose quickly emerged as one of the biggest stars in baseball. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 1963.

On July 14, 1970, in the brand-new home of the Cincinnati Reds (Riverfront Stadium opened just two weeks prior to the All-Star game), Rose was involved in one of the most infamous plays in All-Star game history. In the 12th inning, Rose barreled over Cleveland Indians catcher Ray Fosse to score the winning run for the National League. Fosse suffered a fractured and separated shoulder and would finish that season but never again was the same player.

In 1973, Rose led the league with 230 hits and a .338 batting average and won the National League MVP award, leading “The Big Red Machine” to the 1973 National League Championship Series, which they lost against the New York Mets. In 1975 and 1976, “The Big Red Machine” won back-to-back World Series titles, first against the Boston Red Sox (4-3), in which Rose won the World Series MVP award, and then against the New York Yankees (4-0).

In 1979, the Phillies signed the free agent Rose to make him the then-highest paid athlete in team sports, when they signed him to a four year, $3.2 million contract. Rose helped lead the Phillies to two World Series appearances and their first ever World Series title in 1980, beating the Kansas City Royals (4-2), and making the World Series again in 1983,  losing to the Baltimore Orioles (4-1).

In 1984, Rose was signed by the Montreal Expos where he earned his 4,000th hit, becoming only the second player all-time to do so. Rose was traded to the Reds for infielder Tom Lawless on August 15th, 1984 and was immediately named player-manager, replacing Reds’ manager Vern Rapp. On September 11th, 1985, Rose broke Ty Cobb’s all-time hits record with his 4,192nd hit; a single to left-center frilled off San Diego Padres’ pitcher Eric Show. Rose accumulated a total of 4,256 hits before cutting himself from the Reds’ 40-man roster, unofficially ending his MLB career.

In 1989, Rose was accused of gambling on Major League Ball games and on August 24, 1989, Rose voluntarily accepted a permanent place on baseball’s ineligible list. In exchange, Major League Baseball agreed to make no formal finding regarding the gambling allegations. MLB commissioner Bart Giamatti died of a heart attack on September 1, 1989, eight days after announcing Rose’s ban from Baseball. Pete Rose ended his managerial career with a 421-373 record.

On April 20, 1990, Rose pleaded guilty to two chargers of filing false income tax returns and on July 19, Rose was sentenced to five months in the medium security Prison Camp at the United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois and was fined $50,000. He was released on January 7, 1991 after having paid $366,041 in back taxes and interest, and was required to serve 1,000 hours of community service.

In his 2004 autobiography, My Prison Without Bars, Rose finally admitted to gambling on Major League Baseball games and other sports while playing for and managing the Reds. He also admitted to gambling on his own team’s games, but was adamant that he never bet against the Reds. During an interview on The Dan Patrick Show, 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.” Rose has famously autographed baseballs stating “I’m Sorry I Bet on Baseball" and “4,256 Hits, 0 Steroids.”

Though he is banned from most MLB activities, there have been exceptions where Rose has been honored, such as being named to the MLB All-Century team, which was voted on by fans, where he was honored on Turner Field. The Cincinnati Reds also made subtle tributes to Rose within their current Stadium, Great American Ballpark, to secretly honor the banned ballplayer.

Rose still holds out hope that one day he will no longer be banned from baseball and can finally be recognized in the MLB Hall of Fame, a honor which is widely supported by fans; however, no MLB commissioner to date has reversed a ban given to players involved in gambling controversies, such as both Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was also famously banned from baseball.

Rose continues to voice his disgruntled opinion of his ban, famously stating in an interview: “I made mistakes. I can’t whine about it. I’m the one that messed up and I’m paying the consequences. However, if I am given a second chance, I won’t need a third chance. And to be honest with you, I picked the wrong vice. I should have picked alcohol. I should have picked drugs or I should have picked up beating up my wife or girlfriend because if you do those three, you get a second chance. They haven’t given too many gamblers a second chance in the world of baseball.”

Jackson continues to be widely supported by fans to be reinstated posthumously; however, Pete Rose does not want to die before being reinstated by the commissioner. Rose will continue to apply for reinstatement and continue to voice his opinions, and continue to be a widely debated and controversial topic in Major League Baseball.

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