28 July 2009

A 2004 letter about Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame

My complete letter sent to the Hartford Courant on 1/13/04 and reprinted (with edits) in the 1/17/04 issue:

To the editor:

I write in response to your editorial support of the continued ban of Pete from baseball and, as a result, the Baseball Hall of Fame.

First, let me say that, as someone who grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio; who assiduously practiced signing the balloon-ish "P" and "R" of Rose's signature; who in his backyard pool created and perfected the "Pete Rose Headfirst Slide" game (a diving game that challenged the "runner" to dive and slide into the pool's opposite wall before being tagged out by the underwater catcher); who cherished his Pete Rose bat, acquired at Bat Day at the recently-built Riverfront Stadium; who, even when playing softball, crouched in the Pete Rose batting stance; and who, in short, wanted nothing more than to BE Pete Rose (only smarter); I too think that Pete should never again be allowed to manage or hold an official position in any Major League Baseball organization.

That said, however, it makes absolutely no sense to me to continue to bar him from the Hall of Fame. What kind of Hall excludes the record holder of one of its sport's most difficult records: 4256 hits? What Hall keeps out a player who started more All Star Games at the most different positions: 5? What Hall doesn't contain a player who was NL Rookie of the Year, NL MVP, World Series MVP, a three-time batting champ, etc., etc.? For all of these statistics only reveal a player who played the game the way it should be played, with enthusiasm, with tenacity, and with longevity.

In contrast, it seems comical to induct a Paul Molitor, an admittedly fine player who for almost half of the games in his career didn't play defense (and who admits that the DH is the only reason he lasted as long as he did), while Rose, a two-time Gold Glove winner whose variety of successful shifts in position on one of the greatest teams of the modern era underscores a true team player, is excluded.

Now, there are those who will say that he's getting what he deserves because he broke the cardinal rule of baseball. And, I agree: he deserves to be banned from current and future participation in the sport. His memory and his past achievements (along with a clear display of his offenses, I might add), however, cannot be omitted from the League's official memory bank. To do so, only calls into question the purpose of the Hall of Fame. If the most accomplished aren't there for fans to recall and revel in their achievements, why bother to remember anyone at all?

Feel free to strip Rose, once inducted, of his right to vote for future inductees; refuse to let him attend Hall functions; exile the man utterly from Major League stadiums; but put the player in the Hall where his achievements have more than merited a spot.

In the end, separating the ban from baseball and his induction in the Hall of Fame will put Pete Rose in his rightful place(s): a Hall of Famer who will never be a part of baseball again. Baseball fans deserve the right to celebrate his accomplishments, even if Rose himself does not.

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