I’d like to introduce you to one of the hardest working players in baseball history. Peter Edward Rose Sr., better known as Pete Rose. He holds more records than any other player in the history of Major League baseball. In 1989 he became the first person banned from the game since 1943. When he retired as a player in 1986 as a 45-year old he was the all-time Major League leader in games played (3,562), plate appearances (15,890), at-bats (14,053), hits (4,256), and outs (10,328). An incredibly versatile player, Rose is the only player in Major League history to play more than 500 games at five different positions; first base (939), left field (673), third base (634), second base (628), and right field (589). Rose was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1963, the NL MVP in 1973, he was a 17-time All-Star, a two-time Gold Glove Award winner, and the 1981 NL first base Silver Slugger Award winner. He led the NL is games played five times, plate appearances seven times, at-bats four times, runs four times, hits seven times, doubles five times, batting average three times, and on-base percentage twice. Like I said, he needs no introduction.
On August 24, 1989, Rose agreed to be permanently placed on baseball’s ineligible list because of his, suspected and later admitted, betting on baseball. So what exactly did Rose agree to? He accepted that he would be barred from:
- employment with MLB or one of its franchises or affiliated minor leagues as a player, coach, or manager, or in the front office
- acting as a sports agent for an MLB player, coach, or manager
- maintaining business ties with MLB or one of its franchises
- induction to the Hall of Fame, whether the person is living or deceased (The National Baseball Hall of Fame is not owned or operated by nor does it have any official partnership with Major League baseball)
Player Eligibility For Election Into The National Baseball Hall of Fame
According to The National Baseball Hall of Fame’s official website to be eligible for election a player must meet the following requirements:
A. A baseball player must have been active as a player in the Major Leagues at some time during a period beginning fifteen (15) years before and ending five (5) years prior to election.
B. Player must have played in each of ten (10) Major League championship seasons, some part of which must have been within the period described in 3(A).
C. Player shall have ceased to be an active player in the Major Leagues at least five (5) calendar years preceding the election but may be otherwise connected with baseball.
D. In case of the death of an active player or a player who has been retired for less than five (5) full years, a candidate who is otherwise eligible shall be eligible in the next regular election held at least six (6) months after the date of death or after the end of the five (5) year period, whichever occurs first.
E. Any player on Baseball’s ineligible list shall not be an eligible candidate (added in 1991, Rose’s first year of eligibility)
Between the years of 1991 and 2007, Pete Rose met all of these requirements except the year Rose became eligible for the Hall of Fame, 1991, it voted to formally to exclude individuals on the permanently ineligible list from being inducted into the Hall of Fame by way of the Baseball Writers Association of America vote. Election via the Veterans Committee at this time was still possible. In 2008 (the second year Rose was eligible to appear on the Veterans Committee ballot) the Veterans Committee barred players and managers on the ineligible list from consideration.
The Hall of Fame appears to have taken at least two actions to prevent Rose from being elected to the Hall of Fame.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Mission
Above the paragraphs outlining The National Baseball Hall of Fame’s mission statement on their site are the following six words: “PRESERVING HISTORY. HONORING EXCELLENCE. CONNECTING GENERATIONS.” The next two paragraphs outline its mission. They read,
“The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is an independent, non-profit educational institution dedicated to fostering an appreciation of the historical development of baseball and its impact on our culture by collecting, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting its collections for a global audience as well as honoring those who have made outstanding contributions to our national pastime.”
“The Hall of Fame’s mission is to preserve the sport’s history, honor excellence within the game and make a connection between the generations of people who enjoy baseball. Likewise the institution functions as three entities under one roof with a museum, the actual Hall of Fame and a research library.”
The National Baseball Hall of Fame Has To Elect Pete Rose
The National Baseball Hall of Fame is an independent organization. Its is not owned or run by nor does it have any official affiliation with Major League baseball. Why, then, have they followed MLBs lead when it comes to ostracizing Pete Rose?
Preserving history, period. You cannot ignore what our ancestors did to the Native American people. You cannot pretend that Hitler or Stalin didn’t kill millions of people. Pretending like something never happened is not how you preserve history. Pete Rose, his accomplishments as a player, manager, and his betting on the game and the resulting ban are a major part of the game’s history. You cannot tell the story of baseball without talking about Pete Rose. Like it or not Rose had a major impact on baseball’s culture and the sports culture as a whole and how other major sports leagues deal with betting and accusations of betting and other impropriety. You may not like Pete Rose. You may not like what he did. You may think he compromised the integrity of the game. However, you cannot deny the impact that Rose had as a player, a manager, and his subsequent banishment. Pete Rose lived for baseball. No one played the game with more love or passion than Rose. Keeping him out of the Hall of Fame does not negate the impact he had on the game. Ignoring Rose does not mean he never existed. He played our game. He played it well. He played it for a long time. Pete Rose still lives baseball.
Honoring excellence. When you look up the definition of excellence the two words you find most are superior and outstanding. If Rose’s career was not superior and outstanding I don’t think anyone’s career qualifies. To honor the excellence of his career is to show the world who he was and what he accomplished on the field. Honor the man by telling his story, warts and all. Give him credit by placing him among the greatest of all time because that’s what he was. Honoring Pete Rose the player is not an endorsement of gambling. It’s an acknowledgment that Rose exemplified on-field excellence.
Connecting generations. We are in jeopardy of an entire generation growing up without knowing much about Pete Rose the player. They know him as an old ball player in Vegas who once bet on baseball and was suspended for life. If you want to preserve the history and connect the generations as you say you do teach today’s kid’s about how good of a player he was. Then tell them that not even Pete Rose, the man who holds the most career records in Major League baseball history, was above the game. Major League baseball will ban anyone who compromises the integrity.
Electing Pete Rose the baseball player to the Hall of Fame is not an endorsement of Pete Rose the man. It’s simply an acknowledgment of a fact: Pete Rose was one of the best players that ever played the game. He belongs in a museum that is dedicated to “PRESERVING HISTORY. HONORING EXCELLENCE. CONNECTING GENERATIONS.”