Pete Rose is an icon, despite all that has happened to him over the years. A player more dedicated than talented he still reigns as the best hitter there ever was. He is still the all time hits leader in MLB despite having been retired from the game for a quarter century. He was also a leader of men, providing the fiery energy needed for success on the Big Red Machine of the 1970s and the Phillies World Champion of 1980. At the same time he was a demon-haunted human being whose vices were just as overpowering as his virtues.
Kostya Kennedy tries to bring all of this into perspective in this new biography of one of baseball’s giants. We find out little new here, but it is well presented and convincingly argued. Yes, Rose had a lot of shady friends. Yes, he was an inveterate gambler, womanizer, and all around jerk. Yes, he was a driven, single-minded performer on the sports stage. Yes, he broke rules, laws, and other conventions of society. For his gambling Rose was banned from baseball for life in 1989.
He also has the all-time Major League record for career base hits (4,256), games played (3,562), and at-bats (14,053). He has three World Champion rings, 1975 and 1976 with the Cincinnati Reds and 1980 with the Philadelphia Phillies. He was the National League Most Valuable Player in 1973, took three batting titles (1968, 1969, and 1973), and was a 17-time all star.
In every way imaginable, Pete Rose is one of the greatest players ever, emphasis on “ever,” in Major League Baseball. Yet he is not in the Hall of Fame and has been banned from the game for life. His experience is tragic, polarizing, and evergreen. The author expends considerable effort trying to come to grips with the question of whether or not Rose should be banned from baseball and prohibited from induction in the Hall of Fame. I admit that I’m all for his inclusion in Cooperstown. Someone got all of those hits and other accolades from baseball and its fans. That person belongs in the Hall. That person is Pete Rose. He might have been less than successful at life, but he certainly was successful at baseball. If we barred entry to the Hall for all of those who failed in life but were great players I would have to throw out a bunch of Cooperstown enshrinees starting with Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby and Babe Ruth. Kennedy pretty much shares those same sentiments.
Rose’s situation is amplified by the steroid era in which many, many players nearing their time for consideration for the Hall of Fame are not banned from the process despite suspicions of their culpability in PED use. We’ll see what happens. Would you support or oppose Pete Rose’s induction into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame?