Is Pete Rose a tragic figure?

By: Danny Gallagher

Canadian Baseball Network

Pete Rose would run hard to first base even if he was issued an intentional base on balls. He would run hard to first base even if he was a sure out.

He was never a home run hitter but he laced singles and doubles and a few triples. He stretched singles into doubles, he dove head-first into bases, he would bowl players over at the plate, to gain any edge he could.

Rose was the epitome of energy, enthusiasm and effusiveness, earning the nickname Charlie Hustle. He was baseball’s all-time leader in hits with 4,256 hits and under normal circumstances, he would have been a first-ballot candidate for the National Baseball of Fame in Cooperstown in 1992.

Yet, his dark side became his undoing. Because of Rose’s gambling and betting activities that were revealed in a damning report by investigator Dan Dowd, Rose accepted a lifetime ban from Major League Baseball in 1989. And subsequently, he was barred from being placed on any future ballots for Cooperstown in voting by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

And now, Rose’s future as a possible Cooperstown candidate has been doused by commissioner Rob Manfred, who on Monday, rejected Rose’s application for re-instatement and to have his lifetime ban lifted. It’s one of Manfred’s first major decisions since becoming commissioner last January.

Manfred could have taken the soft, easy road and allowed Rose back into baseball but he didn’t. He could have caved into the wishes of many of Rose’s fans and supporters by welcoming back with open arms but he chose not to do so. Manfred refused to be intimidated.

Rose met with Manfred this past Sept. 24 to discuss his application for reinstatement and in the course of that conversation, Rose admitted that he continued to legally bet on a number of professional sports, including baseball. Because of that admission, Manfred found it “troubling’’ that Rose would continue something that brought his downfall.

“Mr. Rose has not presented credible evidence of a reconfigured life either by an honest acceptance by him of his wrongdoing so clearly established in the Dowd Report or by a rigorous, self-aware and sustained program of avoidance by him of all the circumstances that led to his permanent in-eligibility,’’ Manfred wrote in a four-page letter.

In his report, Dowd found that Rose made numerous bets on the Cincinnati Reds to win while he played for or managed the team from 1985-87. Just one year earlier, Rose had played for the Montreal Expos before being acquired by the Reds to be playing manager. We wonder if Rose ever bet on games while playing for the Expos.

Rose initially applied for re-instatement in 1997 and met with commissioner Bud Selig but Selig never ruled on the application. I would have loved to have seen Rose, one of my heroes growing up, re-instated but it also troubles me that he continues to bet on baseball. Manfred is worried that if Rose was re-instated, that he might fall back into his vices again, if he was allowed to be associated with a major-league or minor-league team.

Leading up to Rose’s acceptance of his lifetime suspension and all of its legal ramifications, Bart Giamatti was commissioner and the Rose affair took its toll on Giamatti. He died of a heart attack at age 50 a few weeks after Rose accepted his ban.

Subsequent commissioner Fay Vincent told me back in the 1990s that Giamatti’s death wasn’t directly caused by the Rose affair but that the stress involved with dealing with Rose and his lawyers was “very intense.’’

So it’s likely in the remaining years of his life that the disgraced Rose will be a barred man and that he will likely never be inducted into Cooperstown. Not unless Manfred changes his mind but the chances of that happening would appear to be slim.

Manfred has stood tall on this matter. Rose will need to change his life to persuade the commissioner to change his mind.

Is Rose a tragic figure? Or is pathetic the more apt description?

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Danny Gallagher

Danny was born in Ted Lindsay's hometown of Renfrew, Ont. but his roots are in nearby Douglas. He played 27 consecutive seasons of top-level amateur baseball in the senior ranks in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec and thrived on organizing events himself, the major one being the highly successful 1983 Canadian senior men's tournament in Sudbury. He began covering the Montreal Expos in 1988 when he joined the Montreal Daily News. Later, he was the Expos beat writer for the Ottawa Sun and Associated Press. He has written four baseball books, including Remembering the Montreal Expos, which he co-authored with Bill Young of Hudson, Que. Gallagher and Young are currently working on a book about the ill-fated 1994 Expos squad. Gallagher can be reached here: dannogallagher@rogers.com