Baseball? What the…?

I’m claiming my roots for this post, with context.

I am the youngest of four and the only daughter.  Two of my three brothers dedicated their first 18 +/- years to baseball.  They still occasionally go to the batting cages, although each visit seems to serve mostly as a reminder of the onward march of time.  At least it’s so in the retelling.  They are well past that 18 year mark, but like a lot of us, apparently need regular reminders of that fact.

My other brother remains a loyal baseball fan, even after the rest of the city seems turned off after the Great Player Strike of 1980- or 1990-whatever.

But the roots don’t end there.  

My parents met in a bar after an Opening Day game in 1959.

From that sentence you can pretty much extrapolate my entire childhood.

2013-08-15 08.22.09

But wait!  There’s More!

My father was a sports writer for our hometown paper, The Cincinnati Enquirer, for his entire career.   In the 1970s, he covered The Cincinnati Reds, almost certainly the heyday days for the team, the era of the Big Red Machine.

As was bound to happen, I suppose, I came to define myself as the anti-hero of the family. The one who rejects sports in general; baseball in particular.  Well, all of them actually, the family just really liked baseball.  As one of my brothers recently said to me, “It’s no wonder you hate sports, given the way we tried to jam it down your throat when you were a kid.”

Indeed.

Although I have my suspicions that my dad secretly agreed with me.

Now with age, I’ve mellowed my harsh stance on sports, mostly in an attempt to get along with people better.  I save my outrage for the pink over the red now.  I like to take my kids to games and I think it’s great fun to end up on the Jumbotron dancing like an idiot.

Image source

While I still don’t care much about content of sports, I do care about justice across context, thus finally bringing me to my point.  I heard an essay by Frank Deford on Morning Edition yesterday.  Apparently some guy is on track to beat Pete Rose’s all-time hit record.  Just in case you’re not a Cincinnatian obsessed with Pete Rose, here’s a rundown.  Rose was a manager after his stellar playing career ended.  He’s a colorful guy with a history of doing a lot of dumb stuff, but he was a heckuva homegrown baseball player who earned the nickname Charlie Hustle.

As a manager for the Reds, he bet on baseball and even his own team which is admittedly not a good thing.  He denied it for years and was banned from baseball in what is popularly known in Cincinnati as a “witch hunt” by uber-villan and then-MLB commissioner Bart Giamatti.  Giamatti banned him in 1989 then promptly died of a heart attack.  Because of that ban, he cannot be recognized by Major League Baseball or have his hit king title enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Nowadays, Pete keeps coming back into our conversation in light of the athletic juicing scandals.  It makes Rose’s character flaws seem quaint in comparison, since what he did never actually affected his performance.

I’ll never argue that Rose should be made a saint, but it does seem inherently unfair that Rose, now 72 years old, should be held to such a harsh punishment while people like Barry Bonds are eligible for the Hall of Fame despite being found guilty of obstruction of justice by providing false testimony to a grand jury regarding steroid use.

Pete Rose’s ban has not been lifted and Deford commented yesterday that it’s time.  We tend to be rabidly passionate about this issue in Cincinnati, and I could not agree more with Deford’s assessment.

It would also be so appropriate at that time for baseball to finally show some mercy to Pete Rose and let him enter the shrine with Suzuki. The drug cheats have put Rose’s offense in perspective. He did not damage baseball one iota as a player, and his misdeed as a manager now appears as small beer alongside how those druggies dishonored the game, distorted history and robbed their fellow players.

It’s become a rather hackneyed mantra how the United States is the land of the second chance. Only the Second Amendment gets more lip service. Notwithstanding, if anyone deserves a pardon after all these years, before the petals fall, it is Rose, and for him and Suzuki to go together through that curtain –– that noren –– would be both proper and lovely.

And that, dear reader, is almost certainly the last time you’ll ever read about sports on this blog.

NB: I had to look up noren.  Well done, Mr. Deford.

11 thoughts on “Baseball? What the…?”

  1. Ha, yeah you MUST h8 sports.

    I agree with the Pete Rose getting his just due. I remember when he got in trouble for gambling and banned from MLB and the Hall of Fame. They made it seem like this dude was the scum of the Earth, that he tarnished the image.

    Nah, it was the overt greed of the commissioners and owners along with the athletes juicing up on “bola” that ruined this so-called “Amerikkkan Pastime”. If these people can overlook Barry Bonds getting admitted despite his use of illegal sports performance drugs (what the FUCK!!?!?!?!?? this “War on Drugs” has gotten out of hand LITERALLY) then Pete Rose can be forgiven for past transgressions. Hell Michael Jordan gambled when he played for the Bulls which got his father killed and he’s still considered the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) to this day. If he can get a pass the why not Pete Rose instead of being stamped with the W.O.A.T. (WORST Of All Time) label?

    1. BootCheese3K, I always look forward to your responses. And good call on the War on Drugs hypocrisy.

      Katie

  2. Oh man, my family will LOVE this post. Big Pete Rose fans here. Except for me. I think he’s kind of gross and not someone I would want my sons to emulate. Should he be in the Hall? Sure. He was a phenomenal player. The Hall has lost its luster for me. Wen you let a guy like Bonds in, it tarnishes them all. Sad really.

    1. Katie, for sure Rose has done some gross stuff. I don’t want my kids to emulate him, nor do I really want them to emulate anyone else. I think we ought to be able to recognize talent and achievement without lionizing his character.

      Katie

  3. The cover-up is always worse than the scandal… Rose was accused in 88, banned in 89 and admitted betting on baseball in 2002. The timing was always in question because his eligibility for the Hall of Fame was running out (and he made some coin off the sales of the book where he admitted betting on baseball). He spent over a decade lying and covering-up. So two things are in question: cheating and cover-up.

    There is no guarantee that Bonds is going to get into the HOF, as predicted by Deford. McGwire, Sosa, and Clemens have been denied entry so far because of the steroid scandals: although admittedly they are not banned. Shoeless Joe Jackson is still banned from baseball since 1921 because he Black Sox scandal, where games were fixed by the players for profit.

    I suggest you read a Bloomberg column by Eben Novy-Williams from 2 days ago which suggests no one using PEDs (like A-Rod) will ever get in the HOF.

    “A-Rod Like Black Sox Won’t Enter Hall of Fame Say Those Who Vote”
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-13/a-rod-like-black-sox-won-t-enter-hall-of-fame-say-those-who-vote.html

    But I digress… any HOF (sports, music, or even something like the Nobel Prize) holds people up as an exemplar for our generation and attests to the next our ideals, collective morals, and achievements. People cheat at everything, from marriages to Wall Street to elections. That will never change. But should we not hold up people that deny wrongdoing, and when it becomes advantageous to admit that wronging (avoiding jail time, selling books, attempting to get into a hall of fame, etc.) we should not collectively say, “ok, you’re forgiven.” You had your chance to repent, and you didn’t take it. Now that you’ve stepped off that cliff, there is no coming back. Gravity is a bitch.

    As far as baseball and Rose… in my opinion, if you want to admit him to the HOF, of fine, just do it after he passes. We should not give him the satisfaction of knowing he was allowed in. Sorry Pete, but that’s “the price of admission.”

    1. Syrvalin, you’d better never show your face in this town.

      The thing is, character has never been a prerequisite for baseball. Look at the hard-drinking, wife-beating baseball legends like Babe Ruth. Either we make it all about the performance or else we go back and reexamine everyone. To me, Halls of Fame recognize superior performance, not collective morals. I support Jimi Hendrix’s entry into the rock and roll HOF without regard to the fact that he died stoned choking on his own vomit. Rose’s talent and performance cannot be disputed, but he has been permanently banned from MLB. Maybe those people you mention won’t be in the HOF, but how many are banned from baseball?

      And, to reiterate, I know Rose is a deeply flawed person. I grew up watching his embarrassing antics. I just don’t think they matter to this discussion.

      Katie

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