TO FANS EVERYWHERE, Pete Rose was “Mr. Baseball.” He was the guy who swung his heart out, ran as fast as he could to get on base, and didn’t bat an eye before diving headfirst into a slide. He holds the career records for most hits (4,256), most at-bats (14,053), and most games played (3,562). A 17-time all-star, he donned the jerseys of the Cincinnati Reds, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Montreal Expos before signing on as the manager of the Cincinnati Reds.
Yet Rose, 61, isn’t a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In fact, he’s set foot in a baseball stadium only a handful of times in the past 13 years. In a sport where he once reigned as the “Hit King,” Rose is almost invisible. That’s because in 1989, he was banned for life from baseball for betting on games, including his own team’s.
Despite hard-hitting evidence against him, Rose has always proclaimed his innocence. Recently, he has been in talks with Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, trying to negotiate his way back into baseball. People close to the commissioner have said Selig may end Rose’s exile if he admits to gambling on baseball games. An end to the ban would let Rose manage, coach, or own a team. It also would make him eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Rose has an MVP lineup of supporters that includes fans, old teammates, and even former President Jimmy Carter. They say Rose’s punishment has gone on long enough and that a mistake he made years ago shouldn’t stop one of baseball’s greatest players from being acknowledged. “I can’t say if [Rose] bet on baseball–I don’t know. But he has paid his dues. The guy deserves to be back [in baseball] and in the Hall of Fame,” former Cincinnati Reds player Tommy Helms told newspapers.
Rose’s supporters also point out that ending the ban could help baseball at a time when attendance is dropping. They say reinstating “Charlie Hustle” would help fans remember why they loved baseball in the first place.
Baseball officials and others argue that Rose broke one of baseball’s most important rules. They point to 225 pages of evidence–including betting slips in Rose’s handwriting and testimony from his associates–that shows Rose bet on more than 400 games while he was the manager of the Reds. Investigators say Rose bet on Reds games and might have even bet on his team to lose. They say his actions damaged baseball’s integrity.
If Selig ends the ban, it will send a message to other baseball players that it’s OK to ignore the sport’s rules, former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent told newspapers. “If there is an epidemic of gambling in baseball five years from now, it would be Selig’s responsibility for removing that deterrent,” he said.
What do you think? Should the baseball commissioner end Pete Rose’s ban from baseball?
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How could athletes’ gambling affect the game? Could it hurt the sport’s credibility?
* Pete Rose was not the first baseball player to be banned. More than eighty years ago, eight members of the Chicago White Sox were banned for allegedly throwing the 1919 World Series. Supporters of one of those players, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, are trying to get the ban dropped. Born in 1887, Jackson played for the Philadelphia Athletics, the Cleveland Naps and the Chicago White Sox. In his thirteen seasons, he led the American League in triples eight times, batted over the .340 mark eight times, and hit .408 in the 1911 season. He was well known for his fielding abilities, and his glove often was called “the place where triples go to die.”
Jackson was on the White Sox when the team won the World Series in 1917. In 1919, the White Sox were heavily favored to win the World Series, but they lost to the Cincinnati Reds. The next year, Jackson and 7 others were suspended for allegedly throwing the championship. In 1921, a Chicago jury acquitted Jackson, but the baseball commissioner ignored the ruling and banned all eight players from baseball for life.
Have students decide whether Rose deserves to be back in baseball. Then have them write a persuasive letter to Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, telling him why the ban should or should not be lifted. Letters can be mailed to: Allan H. (Bud) Selig, Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, 245 Park Ave., New York, NY 10167.