The Baseball Hall of Fame voting committee has exiled Pete Rose from Cooperstown for long enough. It is time that the sport finally recognizes its Hit King.
In his 24-year career, Rose (fondly known as “Charlie Hustle”) showed much of America how fun baseball is. Constantly exhibiting enthusiasm and a strong work ethic, he was truly an inspiration and a role model for kids across America, proving that hard work and zeal can make an average athlete a superstar. Rose racked up more than a few MLB records, the most awe inspiring of which is the all-time hits record of 4,256. For context, Derek Jeter, whom many consider to be the greatest shortstop of all time, finished with 3,465 hits—nearly 800 fewer than Rose.
The likelihood that Rose’s hit record will ever be broken is low; the chances we see it in our lifetimes is even lower. So, why is it that baseball refuses to recognize his accomplishments?
Towards the end of his long career, in 1987 and 1988, Rose broke the rules of baseball by betting on games. Rose, as a result of his violations, was permanently suspended from Major League Baseball and will never work for the league again. However, that is not the full extent of the punishment. In addition to this lifetime suspension, Rose is barred from induction into the Hall of Fame, despite calls for forgiveness by many fans, including former President Jimmy Carter. Unfortunately, the presidential pardon is not as effective in baseball as it is in politics because each new commissioner continues to uphold Rose’s ban. By choosing to do so, not only is the MLB prohibiting Rose from a future in baseball, but it is also choosing to ignore his remarkable career.
Now, it is not that Rose is innocent, as he certainly is not. His name is nearly synonymous with scandal, and his career was generously sprinkled with controversy, the worst of which damned him from joining baseball’s best in the Hall of Fame. But the punishment does not fit the crime. He never deliberately lost a game to make money, only betting in favor of his own team. So while it is true that he broke the rules, he never sacrificed his competitive nature or ruined the legitimacy of the games he played—the outcomes of those would have been the same regardless of his gambling.
Rose’s lifetime suspension from participation in the MLB is fair, as the integrity of the league would be questioned if it allowed him to be involved in the game once again. Fans might wonder if games were being thrown by Rose, and many would likely stop watching due to doubt in the legitimacy of the game. But baseball is far too uptight when it comes to the Hall of Fame, as only a handful of greats have been inducted from the 1990s when baseball scandals were common. That’s the most ironic part of this whole debacle.
In an era of bat flips, 100-mile-per-hour fastballs, and more bat flips, baseball has failed to modernize. Many baseball executives consider this kind of behavior “barbaric” and “classless.” How can those same executives deprive Pete Rose, who played the game exactly how it is supposed to be played, of his place in Cooperstown? Rose never cheated, never compromised the integrity of the game, and always played with an admirable passion for baseball. Charlie Hustle once said, “I would walk through hell in a gasoline suit just to play baseball.” The sport has certainly put him through hell. Now it is time to open the pearly gates of baseball heaven.
Nick Keating can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.