I have just finished watching the ESPN production Hu$tle. After watching, all I can say is - travesty. Look, in my mind, Pete Rose bet on baseball. He's admitted it, for chrissakes. But even Hal McCoy, one of the reporters who followed Rose and the story itself, admits that he thinks Pete never bet against his Reds. As well, we all know the rule in baseball (if you know baseball at all) that gambling is against the rules. So fine, never let Pete Rose play (as if he could) or manage another baseball game. But how does any of that equate to him being barred from the Baseball Hall of Fame?
This is a man who has gathered 4,256 hits, more than any other person that has EVER played the game of baseball. He played on three National Championship teams. He was the MVP of the 1975 World Series. If you say the name Charlie Hustle, you know exactly who is being talked about. If there ever was a man in baseball who deserved to be known and remembered, it is Pete Rose (Ruth, Cobb and Honus Wagner already as a given.) How can anyone deny that he belongs in the Hall of Fame?
My major problem with the movie stems from the portrayel of Paul Janszen. In the ESPN movie, he is suggested to be a simple minded follower of Pete Rose. In life, almost all who know anything about him agree, he is a known gambler and lowlife. This is what the Dowd Report used as their strongest witness. And that report is what ESPN based their movie on. I've no doubt of Rose's short-comings. Did they need to wash over the similar and possibly worse short-comings of the man that gave such supposedly damning testimony against Rose? Could they not try and play it as honest as they could? Peter Bogdonovich himself (the director of the film) said that the script was tough on Rose. So he tried to find the humanity in the main character. How about trying to be as truthful as possible, knowing what we all know, and not knowing what we do not?
To follow, the main problem I have with the eventual verdict was the outright betrayel of the original deal by Bart Giamatti. This is a man I respect immensly. But this is also a man that told Rose that he would agree to a deal. The deal was that Rose would accept a lifetime ban from baseball (available to appeal at any time after one year) as long as there was no suggestion that Rose actually bet on baseball. Immediatly following the agreement of such deal, Giamatti went out and told reporters that, according to the information of the Dowd report, he believed that Rose did, in fact, bet on baseball. As I said above - outright betrayel!
I agree that Rose should not ever manage again. In fact, he has no place in the current world of Major League Baseball. But what does that have to do with his credentials for being a Hall of Fame player?
One of my favorite, and most respected, writers about baseball is Bill James. In his book, What Ever Happened to the Hall of Fame? , he says:
Should Pete Rose be in the Hall of Fame?
Should Pete Rose be in the Hall of Fame, even though he is banned from baseball?
Look, I feel strongly that Pete Rose got a raw deal from bsaeball. John Dowd's investigation of Rose's behavior, which claimed to be fair and impartial, was a mockery of those words. Dowd leapt to the conclusion that Rose was guilty, and twisted and bent the facts to support that conclusion.
Lawyers know better than to attempt to predict the outcome of lawsuits, but not being a lawyer, I am not handicapped by any such restraint. If Pete Rose ever sues baseball seeking to nullify the agreement he made with Giamatti, under which he agreed to accept a lifetime ban, he absolutely will win, and baseball will be ordered to remove him from their disqualified list, and to compensate him for the time he spent there.
You can read more of his opinion from the book. And James is usually considered an apologist for Rose. In his Baseball Abstract from 2001, he says,
I've looked at the evidence as closely as I can. The closer you look, the less you see.
There are plenty that disagree with him, such as this person. As a writer for Baseball Prosepectus, a group James has previously been involved with, I trust his opinion as well. But when you look at ALL of the information, including the admittion from Rose in the recent past, which Bill James does not speak on from what I can see (though I could be wrong - I just can't find it), it still does not suggest anything that should keep this man out of the Hall of Fame.
I have no doubt that Pete Rose bet. And I now realize that he bet on baseball. He broke a rule posted in every single clubhouse in professional baseball. But I cannot believe, and see no proof whatsoever, that he ever bet against his own team. Rob Dibble, who played for Rose during his last two years as manager, and while this story gained legs, has suggested that Rose played to win. He never saw anything that suggested otherwise. And this is a man that does not think that Rose belongs in baseball, and is further disgusted by his lack of apology and maner in which he finally tried to admit his wrong doing. If he does not think Rose bet against his own team, then I trust my original assumption.
The rule about betting on baseball stems from the 1919 case in which the Chicago White Sox (now dubbed the 1919 Black Sox) threw the series to win money. That is the crime. How does betting on your own team to win hurt the game of baseball? The temptation is there if the act is legal, to be sure, but Rose has never had any proof against him that proved any such thing.
Let us keep him out of the game of baseball, if that is what keeps the Bart Giamatti's of the world happy, but why does that mean that a man that is CLEARLY a Hall of Famer should be kept from those hallowed halls? Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb own plaques in that residence. Neither man was a saint. But both played the game with such wonderment that they could not be denied their place in history. Even with the scandal surrounding Rose, he has earned his place in history. Let him have his day and let us all be done with this case forever more. That is all.