It’s Time for MLB to Free Charlie Hustle

Pete Rose

In the wake of NY Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda’s embarrassing ejection and subsequent 10-game suspension for pine-tarring up baseballs, and while Major League Baseball pursues a seemingly endless manhunt for players using performance enhancing drugs, it’s time for Baseball to take a step down from it’s ivory-tower-shaped soapbox full of high horses, and do the right thing. Pete Rose, baseball’s all-time hits leader, was manager of the Cincinnati Reds in 1989 when he was found to have been betting on other MLB teams – that’s right, not even his own team – and was permanently banned from the sport he loved. Now he deserves to be re-instated, because unlike players of today’s juiced era, Rose wasn’t cheating. He was just gambling.

In 2014 gambling on sports, including baseball, has gone from seedy back room tough guys, to a legitimate online industry, sanctioned first by the state of New Jersey, with bills pending in eight other states. A Sportsbook Review site even acts as an aggregator of sportsbooks to help make it easier to help a gambler spend his money with the best chance to get a return. It’s as if online gambling is becoming as easy as booking airfare, or renting a car.

Why then is Rose still permanently banned from baseball, and from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, when what he did was no different from what millions of gamblers do each day? Soon-to-be-retiring MLB commissioner Bud Selig, that’s why. Selig is the only man standing in the way of a pardon for the man known as “Charlie Hustle.” Selig was a close personal friend of then-MLB commissioner Bart Giamatti, when Rose was permanently banned. Eight days after the ban was signed by Rose, Giamatti died of a heart attack, and eventually Selig was named commissioner. He has never backed away from the ban that his buddy Bart was so passionate about.

But baseball has been forgiving of actual cheaters: Mark McGwire, who admitted to cheating during his run to the top of the MLB single season home run record, is the current hitting coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers; Barry Bonds, who has never admitted to cheating during his run to the all-time home run lead, but whose pile of contradicting evidence stacks up higher than the Golden Gate Bridge, was back as a special instructor for the San Francisco Giants this Spring; and current players, if found to be cheating simply get a 80-game vacation, and then get to return to standing ovations from their blindly loyal fans.

Rose, who only gambled, but yes, broke the sacred rule number one amongst baseball traditionalists, has spent the last 25 years as the public face of MLB’s scorn. It’s time to place the scorn, and the lifetime bans on those who actually hurt the integrity of the game by actually cheating.

Who knows, maybe a ray of hope is finally breaking through. The retiring Selig said recently of the possibility of finally pardoning Rose before he retires, “The only thing I’d say about it is, it’s a matter under review.”

If I were Rose, unfortunately I wouldn’t hold my breath.

If only he had just cheated.

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