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Thank You "Charlie Hustle": It's Way Past Time
Jesus said that he without sin cast the first stone. There has been a lot of stones flying for way too many years at Pete Rose aka “Charlie Hustle”. This man deserves the opportunity to swing at each one and knock them directly into the front door of The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Not to shatter the glass doors at their entrance the way he shattered records on the diamond, but to knock repeatedly until he is let in and given the honor he so greatly deserves. As a kid growing up in Indiana, 50 miles from Riverfront Stadium where the Big Red Machine created baseball history in the 70’s, one of my child hood heroes’ was number fourteen. My friends and I would constantly try to mimic the Iconic Pete Rose dive when we would play our form of baseball in the backyards with tennis balls so as not to break the neighbor’s windows. Some of us were better than others at the imitation of the dive. The undisputed King of our little circle of friends was Brian, whose nickname was “The Flash” due to the fact none of us could catch him. He could complete the dive flawlessly on grass, on the diamond, on the famous slip and slide and even on a winter covered lawn straight into a snow bank with fine-tuned precision and come up smiling each time. Yes we all thought Pete Rose was a superhero.
Then there was me. No sob stories here, but I was the kid that was usually the last one to be picked because catching me was not a problem. The kid who was always breaking a bone or falling down time and time again. Gravity loved me and still does to this day way more than necessary. This did not stop me from trying to be like one of my heroes, Pete Rose, and preform my poor imitation of his dive time and time again. Mr. Rose was one of those larger than life stars of the perfect game of baseball. He was a reason to stay inside on a sunny Saturday when the game wasn’t blacked out to watch what was sure to be his next big hit at the plate. You just knew he was going to deliver, and deliver he did, and added another notch on his belt to cheering fans standing on their feet. Fans in the stands and even younger fans at home watching on tv. Yours truly was usually jumping up and down acting foolish blocking the all-important view of the television. Only to be reprimanded time and time again by the main fan of the house seated on the couch holding tightly onto the coveted popcorn bowl asking in a veiled form of politeness to sit down and enjoy the game.
The Big Red Machine
Growing up so close to the great city of Cincinnati you would think I would have been at the stadium every weekend during the season. I have two trips under my belt to Riverfront that will never be forgotten. My father was able to work it out for me to tag along with a friend of his and his son to the game. Dad would stay at home as he preferred to watch and enjoy the game without the distraction of the crowds. At least that is what he told me. I knew the truth later that he had to work. The trips were exciting, although truth be told I enjoyed watching the games at home more with my Dad. Riverfront stadium was huge, and my heroes were waiting inside just for me. The opportunity to see all my hero’s: Pete Rose, Ken Griffey Sr, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, George Foster, Dave Concepcion and Cesar Geronimo of the Big Red Machine of the 70’s. Sparky Anderson the Cincinnati Reds Manger would always have Pete bat first. He just knew Rose would start the game off with a bang. Pete did not disappoint when I would come to visit, nor did any of the other amazing athletes in the red and white uniforms. When he would come to the plate the crowd would go insane and of course each time we were all guessing since he was a switch hitter would he bat right or left. We all knew in our hearts he would connect one of those pitches, get on base and play to win. The man was unstoppable on and off the field. Papers loved to have pictures of Rose sliding headfirst into the bag. Merchants wanted anything that had the number 14 displayed on it because they knew it would sell.
Baseball is a game that is seemingly designed for mathematicians. With the great walls in the outfield marked in large numbers indicating how many feet the small white leather stitched sphere needs to travel to earn the batter the right to jog around the four bases and tip his hat to adoring fans. Numerical values continue to be discussed by announcers concerning the temperature and wind speed at game time, the attendance figures ,the speed of the various pitches, the score, how many hot dogs were sold and of course stats upon stats of the individual players. Pete’s stats were and still are out of this world. When he hung up the jersey his final stats included breaking Ty Cobbs all-time hit record with 4,256, rookie of the year in 1963 for nine triples 101 runs scored , golden glove awards and retired with a lifetime .303 batting average just to name a few. Then came the gambling and the brouhaha that started this whole thing.
Gambling is another mathematical dilemma altogether. Myself and countless others like me were let down by our boyhood hero when we heard of Pete’s gambling. Gambling or being associated with gambling while being a Major League Player is a cardinal sin punishable by some extreme measures up to and including a life time ban from baseball. Major League Baseball and its owners do not play around when it comes to infractions and this game. Rose has admitted gambling and betting on the game. He has owned up to the fact that mistakes were made. How much public humiliation does one person deserve? Lest you forget Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were given a lifetime ban for being associated with a casino when signing autographs by then Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. They both regained their status in 1985 by then Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth but neither one returned to baseball in a official capacity. Now this writer/fan is not advocating that what Pete Rose did was right. He broke the rules plain and simple. My stance at this point in my life is just as plain and simple though enough is enough. We have figured out how to forgive prominent figures over the years for not living up to our expectations repeatedly. We have forgiven very prominent politicians, larger than life big screen and music legends and even larger than life sports heroes for a variety of miscalculations but we cannot seem to find it in our hearts to forgive Pete Rose. We have rather large chips on our shoulders when an entertainer, politician, and sports heroes local or national shows their human side. We believe that if God gave these unbelievable talents to these people they are not allowed to make mistakes or stumbles in other parts of their lives. I guess I should be thankful fame and fortune have eluded me because Lord knows I am human and I have stumbled more than once in my life and it wasn’t always gravities fault.
Plea for Ban TO be Lifted
So my plea is simple. To the current Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig reinstate this man. Do not make an honor that in my humble opinion and a host of others is rightfully his be decided by Major League Baseball. Let the voting be allowed to take place for this superstar athlete and let the chips fall where they may in Cooperstown based on his abilities, talents and what he brought to the game. Let’s not wait another minute. Let’s show the kids of today that adults have the capacity to forgive on the big ball field just like we expect them to do on the smaller diamond.
Thank you Mr. Rose
Finally to Mr. Rose. If by chance you happen to read this and I would be honored if you did. Thank you Mr. Rose for some incredible, memorable highlights and records for the perfect game. You’re a competitor in every sense of the word and still a HERO. Play ball!