In his day, Pete Rose like so many great baseball players was either hated or loved. For me, I loved him. He was the ultimate baseball player that I have ever seen to this day. He was a hustler of a ball player. If it were possible to give over one hundred percent effort, then Pete Rose was the man who did it. So many times seeing him steal bases, stretching singles into doubles and doubles into triples.
The pictures taken from his career clearly show that Rose was a man who played with heart. He obviously loved the game and knew how to play it. He was not afraid to head directly into home plate standing up with his arms folded in front of him and his shoulder down if a catcher was blocking the plate. If playing the position of catcher wasn't dangerous enough, it was even more dangerous if you looked down towards third base and saw Rose leading off the bag with that fire in his eyes. He would do whatever it took for his team to win.
His team, for all of his career except for six seasons, were the Cincinnati Reds. He began his career at the age of twenty one in 1963 and finished it at the age of forty-five in 1986. During this time he set major league records in batting and fielding and in just playing the game. Nobody could match the numbers that Rose put up during his career. He was exciting to watch because you never knew what he was going to do when he walked up to the plate or stepped off of a base for lead. Pitchers knew too well the kind of havoc Rose could create on the base paths.
There are many great players enshrined at Cooperstown, but Pete Rose is not one of them. His jersey is in there. He has a bat in the hall and a baseball and one of his gloves, but what is missing is that bronze plaque on the wall with all the other great players through the years.
What Rose did to get banned from the hall was bad, there is no doubt. What is doubtful is whether it was bad enough to keep him out of the hall forever. I don't think so. Let's look at something that has come up over the last decade or so in Major League Baseball. The use of Performance Enhancing Drugs, or PEDs as they are known as. PEDs became a way of life for a lot of ball players. It made a lot of very good ball players unbelievable ball players. During the era of PEDS we saw Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa chase each other all season long to break the single season home run record held by Roger Maris. They not only broke the record, they crushed the record. It seemed like every day players were getting bigger and stronger. It went beyond these two titans of baseball though.
Rafael Palmero was tested positive for PEDs after denying the fact for years that he was using them. It all broke loose when one of those great players by the name of Jose Canseco wrote a book detailing his own use of PEDs and how they helped him become stronger and bigger. Canseco's slugging percentage climbed and his out put at the plate improved tremendously. At the same time Palmero was using PEDs and his stats were proving it out. Then, of course, Sosa and McGuire use of PEDs began to become under suspicion.
During this time, if you took a baseball card of one of these players in their early years in the league and compared to how their bodies looked later on, it was astonishing. The reasoning for the change was said to be better diet and working out more. When I look at those pictures, I don't think a body can change that drastically just by diet and working out. It was obvious that something more was going on.
Then came Barry Bonds. Barry Bonds was an amazing athlete. He was a hard hitter and fast. He could cover the outfield like none other. But then suddenly, Bonds who use to be built more like Ken Griffey Jr, turned into something that looked like it stepped out of a super heroes comic book. The change was striking and Bonds began to shatter records held for decades, including Hank Aaron's all time home run record. Bonds was suspended for awhile while an investigation took place but soon he was back on the field performing these amazing feats with his new spectacular body.
This last year, many of the PEDs athlete became eligible for induction into the Hall Of Fame. Their names were allowed on the ballot and the Sports Writers of America voted on whether to induct them into the Hall. The writers voted not to induct anyone into the Hall this year. As the voting began, McGuire did one of the most classy things I have seen an athlete do. He came out and publicly stated that he did not think he belonged in the Hall because of his PED use. He is right. I don't think any of these players who used PEDs to enhance their game and their abilities deserve to be in the Hall. The second they began taking PEDs they ceased to be natural athletes with great talent. They played with a body that wasn't their own. The players in the Hall, the Ted Williams, Yaz, Brett, DiMaggio, Ruth, Cobb, they all achieved what they did naturally. They were great without any help from drugs or anything else. They deserve to be there in the Hall. The PED athletes do not. Even as I write this a future Hall of Famer, Alex Rodriguez is under investigation for using PEDs. If he did use PEDs, The Hall should not be in A-Rod's future.
Pete Rose on the other hand, did not alter his body with drugs. He didn't need to. He was every much a great athlete as any that are currently in the hall. Pete gambled on Baseball and that was wrong. He never threw a game though and never placed a bet against his team. Here is what Pete Rose did do however. Pete Rose has more hits than anyone in the history of baseball with 4,256. During his long career from 1963 to 1986 he kept a batting average of .303. He played in six World Series and was on the Championship team three times. He was elected to the all-star team 18 times. He was rookie of the year in 1963. He won three National League batting titles. He was the 1973 National League MVP and the 1975 World Series MVP. He played in 3,562 games during his career, more games than anyone in baseball history. Also, more than anyone in baseball history, Rose holds the record for at bats with 14,053 , plate appearances with 15,890 and hits with 4,256.
These are Hall of Fame numbers folks. These are the numbers put up by Pete Rose, a man who accomplished all of this without drugs, who accomplished this on his natural talent. Yet Rose's name will not appear on a Hall Of Fame ballot because he did a little gambling during his career. However, McGuire, Sosa, Canseco, Palmero and worse of all Barry Bonds names will appear on the Hall Of Fame ballots and possibly could be inducted into the Hall even though the feats they accomplished were aided by PEDs.
It isn't right. It isn't fair. Put the name of Pete Rose on the ballot next year and give him his rightful place in Cooperstown. The man has paid the price for his infraction. The man has numbers that haven't been matched even by those who used PEDs. There should be a bronze plaque in that hallowed place and that plaque should be a Cincinnati Red by the name of Pete Rose.