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January 06, 2004

Let the punishment fit the crime
By Rob Dibble

Jan. 6

Pete Rose belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame.


My opinion in no way defends Rose's off-the-field actions. Betting on baseball, as a player or a manager, is wrong. There is no denying that. All the same, the Baseball Hall of Fame is not a place for patron saints to rest. It's not a church or cathedral or, contrary to what many die-hard fans might believe, a place of worship.

If it were, it'd be a very lonely, hollow space.

The Baseball Hall of Fame is a museum. A place where fans go to appreciate and respect the history of the sport. And like it or not, despite his misgivings, Pete Rose remains baseball's all-time leading hitter. He remains one of the hardest working players and managers the game has ever seen. He worked too hard to earn his place in baseball's history to be forsaken or to become a mere asterisk in the game's memory.

Certainly, people don't want to believe that their sport or their sport's idol is tainted. Isn't that why we look the other way when society continues to put cut adulterers, wife-beaters, drug addicts and, in some cases, murders a break? Or is it because we're a society that believes in redemption and second chances? A society that refuses to accept the otherwise gifted as a lost cause, and sees such "shortcomings" as treatable illnesses rather than irreparable flaws?

I choose to believe the latter. Pete's gambling addiction, I believe, falls into that category and, therefore, should not override his positive contributions to the game. Not only because I know the other side of Pete, and what a stand-up guy he really is, but because I was there. I witnessed his gambling problems firsthand.

I was in the locker room when we'd joke that if two cockroaches took off across the floor, Pete would bet on which would win. I was also on the field when Pete managed the Cincinnati Reds to countless wins. If he were betting against us, we would have known, and we would have taken the appropriate course of action. But, to me, it was evident that Pete was out there to win.

Let the punishment fit the crime.

Pete accepted a lifetime ban from baseball, and he should continue to be held accountable for his actions in that regard. After admitting to betting on baseball while he was a manager, no, he shouldn't be allowed to manage again: Who's to say it wouldn't happen again?

But don't think for a second that being away from the game is not punishment enough. It's got to be torturous for Pete to wake up every day knowing that he is his own worst enemy, and that his ailment has kept him from a lifestyle -- a very lucrative lifestyle no less -- immersed in what he loves most in the world.

Keeping Pete Rose from the Hall of Fame serves little purpose other than to negate his accomplishments on the field. It allows the world to forget one of the greatest players that ever was -- that's not punishment, that's just factually incorrect.

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