Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Charlie Hustler

For 15 years, we've listened to him claim he's been framed, treated unfairly and he deserves to be in the hall of fame.

For 15 years, he's appeared at conventions and gatherings, signing autographs (and making some good money) and telling everyone who will listen that he never bet on baseball. Yet he never sued baseball or went after them in any fashion - despite the fact that many people said the Dowd report contained flimsy evidence, at best.

Thursday, Pete Rose's book comes out, and this weekend, he'll be interviewed on 60 minutes. And he's going to admit - on the air and in print that he bet on baseball.

Baseball is a forgiving sport. You beat your wife? Well, mistakes happen. You get drunk every night? Well, who hasn't gone on a bender now and then? Drugs rule your life? It's okay, son - baseball is here to help you. But there's one unpardonable sin, which is posted on the walls of every clubhouse in professional baseball:

Don't bet on baseball.

I'm not saying that baseball always does the right thing - far from it. The sport is a mess. I love it and return to it every spring, excited about the coming season, but it has problems. See the earlier paragraph. But one thing is drilled into the heads of every manager, player, coach and umpire:

Don't bet on baseball.

Now Pete Rose admits to betting on baseball in the hopes that he will be allowed in the Hall of Fame, at least as a player. And people are all for forgiving him. And that's just nuts.

"He only bet for the Reds, so he couldn't throw games," they say. This is from the guy who for 15 years lied about betting on baseball at all. Why is he suddenly telling the truth about this? Why should we suddenly believe him?

I could probably swallow his "apology" better - if he actually sounded like he was contrite. But he's not. He just wants to get into the Hall, like nearly every great player who ever played the game. But Pete Rose crossed the one line, and for that, he doesn't deserve to be reinstated or put in the Hall.

I know it's in to forgive and forget, but you don't spend years bucking the system, turn around with a half-assed apology and expect people to welcome you with open arms. It cheapens the sport. It shames the Hall of Fame.

You committed the sin, Pete. Now you must pay the price.

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