Today marks the 25th anniversary of Pete Rose’s permanent suspension for gambling on baseball.
I’ve been writing essentially the same thing about Rose’s case for the last … I don’t know, 10 years? Fifteen? I realize some of you haven’t been reading all along, but I do get tired of writing the same thing, and I’m sure some of you get tired of reading it. So I’m not writing a big 25th-anniversary blowout column.
Scott Miller’s written that column, though, and he hits all the high points. If you want to see everything laid out, for and against Rose’s reinstatement, you could do a hell of a lot worse. I do want to remind everyone of these facts, though:
As things stand right now, Rose is barred from going anywhere in a ballpark that a regular fan cannot go.
Except, and here is where hypocrisy steps to the plate, MLB allowed him to participate in an All-Century Team celebration at the 1999 World Series. It also permitted Rose to take part in festivities at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park in 2010 marking the 25th anniversary of his record-setting 4,192nd hit.
But he is conspicuously missing in other celebrations, such as when the Reds closed Riverfront Stadium, or when the Phillies closed Veterans Stadium.
There comes a point where it is unconscionable to trot Rose out like a show horse for some occasions and keep him locked in the barn like a glue horse for others.
Bud Selig? Hypocrisy? Say it ain’t so, Joe!
Anyway, I promised a quiz … If you believe that Pete Rose should remain banned forever, it’s because you believe one of two things:
a) Anything less than a permanent suspension would lead to players gambling on baseball games; or
b) Justice is immutable, and once a law has been passed or a sentence levied, it must stand eternally.
If you’re one of those Type-a people, I will just remind you (as Miller does), that in the 1960s, Paul Hornung and Alex Karras bet on their own teams and were suspended for one year. There was not, as far as we know, a gambling epidemic among NFL players afterward.
If you’re one of those Type-b people, I will just remind you that for much of American history, it was illegal to marry someone deemed of a different "race" than yours. Now, I’ll assume you believe those laws were unjust. Do you also believe that anyone convicted of such a crime should remain in prison after the laws were ruled unconstitutional? What if someone was sentenced to life for selling marijuana? In today’s world, does he still belong in prison forever?
Life’s complicated. Things change. Twenty-five years is a long time. Keeping Pete Rose in baseball jail serves absolutely no purpose at this point, except satisfying the twisted retributive urges of the people who revile him.