He moved carefully, thoughtfully, this man I took to be in his late 80s. You wouldn’t measure his movement in steps, but more accurately in inches. The steps were excruciatingly slow, but purposeful, not plodding. He worked his body like a man summoning all his limited resources for the task ahead. As he came up the aisle, the standing room crowd three deep behind the seats parted to let him pass. A younger man, a friend or perhaps a son, shepherded him through the throng. The game was minutes away from beginning, but he appeared to be leaving, having already accomplished what he had come here to see.

On June 25th of 2017, I too, had come to Cincinnati to see Peter Edward Rose inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame. Today, I almost feel the need to apologize.

If you say The Pete Rose Story has jumped the shark, you’d be spot on. I wouldn’t begin to defend his offenses against the game of Baseball. There will be no all caps cri de coeur here about his gambling. I’m not here to litigate his transgressions or insist he’s paid a sufficient price for his sins. He always has been, by all accounts, a deeply flawed man. He’s been punished by Major League Baseball, and continues to be punished by the guardians of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, who will never allow the Hit King into their inner sanctum—at least not while he draws breath. Pete Rose knows this.

Little more than one month after his Reds Hall of Fame induction, things would get significantly worse for Rose the human being, as we discovered just how awful a person he could be. But first, we must talk of other days. To fully comprehend the fall, we must traverse the heights from which he descended.

In 2012, when Barry Larkin was inducted, I wrote a piece about my journey to Cooperstown, one that began as a story about the Reds’ HOF shortstop, but evolved—much to my surprise—into a story about the Reds’ prodigal son. Shocked by all the Rose memorabilia on display, not to mention an exhibit dedicated solely to base hit 4192, it was clear the Hall was more than willing to enlarge Rose’s deeds on the field even as they wanted to hold the man himself at arm’s length. Inducting the armor of his accomplishments on the second floor above, while pretending he didn’t exist in the plaque room below seemed to be tearing at the logic of it all. It was like Lennon without McCartney. Butch without Sundance. Cain without Abel.

Whenever I would think of Rose in those days, my mind would wander back to a play that actor and playwright Jason Miller wrote in the early ‘70s. In his one-act, Miller’s characters are lost souls, eking out a painful day-to-day existence, their dreams always just out of reach. The middle-aged protagonist revisits a memory of going to Yankee Stadium with his father to see Lou Gehrig, a man his father “loved like a son.” Against all odds, Gehrig proceeds to hit a home run, the ball falling out of the sky into his father’s lap. Father and son wait in the darkness after the game to meet Gehrig:

“Finally, he came out and my father went over and spoke to him in Italian. Then, he did the most incredible thing, Lou Gehrig did the most amazing thing, he hugged my father and then they were laughing together and I remember I started to cry, standing there watching Lou Gehrig hug my father.

“And when Lou Gehrig died, a few years later, the day Lou Gehrig died, my father cried. And that was the first and last time I ever saw my father cry. Even when they lowered my mother into the ground, his face was dry. Even when the scouts came to see me play, even when the big league scouts came to see me play and I struck out three times and they wanted nothing to do with me, he said nothing. But, the day Lou Gehrig died, when he heard the news, he said one thing, “Lou Gehrig did not die of cancer, he died of a broken heart.” Those are the exact and only words he said on that day … isn’t it incredible, that my father could be hurt so much by the death of a stranger? Someone he never even …”

There’s wonder and emotion packed into Miller’s story. It’s that wonder, inextricably bound to an equal measure of sorrow, that would resonate with me and color in the outlines of my memory of Rose back then; a heartbreaking duality: the player whose star in the firmament seemed permanently affixed; and Rose, the man who fell to earth, a sad sack sitting at a folding table in Vegas, scribbling his name over and over again for the forever faithful, turning his ink into dollars and cents.

When the subject was solely about his banishment from the game and his gambling indiscretions, there seemed to be a chalk line that separated Rose devotees from the Rose deniers—those that saw the fair and those that saw only the foul—a demarcation that was less about geography and more a difference of generation. Without fail, those who would label Rose a pariah and use it to diminish his accomplishments never saw him play, or only caught the tail end of the Countdown to Cobb. Many young baseball writers and bloggers I read and respect showed little for the only Rose they knew, wilted with shame, faded by lies, beset with a thorny hubris. Still, those of us who grew up watching Rose in his prime could not so easily commit the man to the compost heap of hoary history.


To watch him play was to watch both joy and ferocity in cleats. His love for the game resonated all the way to the loge seats atop Riverfront Stadium. He played the way you would if you, gentle reader, somehow had the talent and the drive. Because he was incorrectly viewed as an everyman who got the most of his perceived limited talent, he made our cheap seat dreams of putting down that hot dog, picking up that glove and stepping onto the field seem slightly less ridiculous that they truly were.

Few remember now just how close the Big Red Machine came to being remembered as the Big Red Disappointment. They had reached the World Series twice in three years, losing for a second time when a journeyman catcher named Gene Tenace clubbed four home runs before being named series MVP. In 1973, George “Sparky” Anderson’s team again surrendered to an inferior Mets club that had finished the regular season a mere three games over .500. Add in a losing season in 1971 and a second place finish in 1974, and the 1975 World Series would become a watershed moment for the players who would go on to be known as the Great Eight. Trailing 3-0 in the sixth inning of Game 7, Rose’s Reds stood at the brink of another profound disappointment in front of a national audience.

But Rose would not let his team go gentle into that good Fenway night. As Kostya Kennedy chronicled in his book, Pete Rose—An American Dilemma, Rose’s exhortations to his teammates on the bench, his rage and fury in the face of defeat, and yes, his play on the field—breaking up a sure double play that kept the inning alive for Tony Perez’s heroics moments later—would be the difference between just memorable—and immortality. To be sure, Rose was not the best player on his team. He just drove the Machine. He knew where the ignition switch was and how to put it into another gear.

Had Rose not broken up that double play, there are arguments to be made: the team would have been broken up following a loss in Game 7. Sparky Anderson would have been fired. Tony Perez denied entry to the Hall of Fame years later. No Great Eight.

Years ago, I attended a book signing for Brian Kenny’s Ahead of the Curve: Inside the Baseball Revolution. I happened to be carrying a copy of Kennedy’s exhaustive account of the troubled ballplayer. Kenny glanced at the book and asked if I had seen what he’d had to say about Rose a few days earlier during his Digging Into The Data segment on his show, MLB NOW:

“It would be easy to think Pete Rose was overrated as a player. He led the National League in batting average three times. He also played on great teams in the pre-cable TV and pre-At Bat era, when making the playoffs on network TV was THE way to get famous, to get into the national spotlight.

“But, this guy could really play.”

Kenny went on to cite the numbers during his 12-year prime: 204 hits per season; a .317 average; and on base percentage of .388 that even Joey Votto would appreciate; a healthy .445 slugging percentage (yes, he was more than just a singles hitter); an extra bases taken percentage of 52%, way above average, nearly the same as Lou Brock and Ozzie Smith.

“Here’s the other thing that gets lost with Pete Rose: he played a good second base. But when the Reds traded to get Joe Morgan, he had to move. Rose moved to left field. Pete Rose played a good left field and a good right field. But when George Foster arrived, Pete moved to third base. He moved for the good of his team, like Jackie Robinson did for the Dodgers in the 40s and 50s. And THAT is immensely valuable.”

Brian would go on, remembering that Rose averaged 159 games a year and 730 plate appearances for 16 seasons; that he is 8th all time in total bases, just behind Babe Ruth and ahead of Carl Yastrzemski and Frank Robinson.

And finally, Brian Kenny said this:

“Throughout the history of baseball, there are very few players you would rather have had over a 12, 15 or 20-year period than Pete Rose.”

If you want answers, perhaps a good one lies in a memory created in those 90 feet between third base and home plate. Every goal that drove Rose—on and off the field—from the mundane to the magnificent—had the same headlong solution, the obstacle to that goal always something to be run over, around or through, whether the opponent was Ray Fosse, a gambling addiction or A. Bartlett Giamatti. It’s the only way he knew how to play. More to the point, it’s the only way he knew how to live. It brought him greatness. It surely brought him sorrow. But without that trait, maybe he never gets out of the shadows of Bold Face Park and Western Hills High. He surely never gets to the big leagues. Never gets to 4192. Never gets to where he is now, for better and for worse.

I wondered about that older gentleman who came to see Rose on his day at Great American Ball Park. I wondered if, in 1963, he saw Stan Musial, then the National League’s all-time Hit King, get his final base hit of a magnificent career, a ball that shot past a callow and crew cut rookie at second base. I wondered if he was watching in October of 1973, the day Rose circled the bases, a day after rolling in the dirt at second with Bud Harrelson, fist raised high above his head, a thrashing home run his reply to a snarling Shea Stadium crowd. I wondered if he saw Rose beat the Phillies on an August day in 1976, scoring on a passed ball—from second base.

On that brilliant sunshine Saturday in June, Great American Ball Park, which for years had been surreptitious in its love of Rose—the 14 bats atop the outfield smokestacks winking coyly from right center field—would now fully embrace one of its own out in the open, unabashed and unbowed. The number 14 would join its iconic peers, Hutchinson (1), Bench (5), Perez (24), Morgan (8), Concepcion (13), Anderson (10), Larkin (11), Robinson (20), Kluszewski (18) and Jackie (42) for all to see.

When Rose addressed the crowd and declared “God bless the Commissioner of baseball,” the crowd to its credit did not boo, but lightly applauded, a nod to what we thought at the time was the totality of the Rose story, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

But there would be more to discover about Rose, because there was always something more; something that would shake the foundation your memories and unsettle your gut. In a foolish and fateful decision, he would sue John Dowd, Giamatti’s bloodhound, for defamation after Dowd went on a radio station and accused the disgraced Red of statutory rape. He apparently didn’t realize Dowd had the goods in the form of a sworn statement from a woman who was 15 at the time. Case dismissed.

The ugliness, quietly laying there for all to see for five years, was revived this month when the Philadelphia Phillies made the clueless decision to invite Rose to a celebration of the organization’s 1980 World Championship. Rose, ever the man of poor decision-making, would accept. When the subject came up—as he knew it would—Rose responded to female Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Alex Coffey with his usual panache:

“No, I’m not here to talk about that. Sorry about that. It was 55 years ago, babe.”

Gone now is all semblance of the Rose of my youth. All that remains are a winter forest of thorns rending its inhabitants and all memory to tatters, taken now to the wind. In one breath, the act is unspeakably muted in disbelief — in the next, it wails in full horror at the indecency of it all. This was a child, after all. Now all that’s left are the bystanders — Cincinnatians mostly — bloody on the battlefield of opinion.

There are the tribal, as always. Those who will bend their will to the Hit King, no matter the carnage. For whatever reason, they can no more cleave themselves from the past than the thirsty can refuse water. With each wanton excuse, the tongue grows heavier, more incoherent.

There’s Tom Tsuchiya’s bronze masterpiece resting out front on Crosley Terrace, now transformed into tin at the hands of its living, breathing inspiration.

There is the Cincinnati Reds Baseball Club, who could have sent a message to not only to their faithful female patrons, but to all thoughtful and decent customers passing through the turnstiles by removing the awkward tribute.

Most importantly, there’s the girl, decades older now, who must feel victimized all over again.

Finally, there’s the rest of us. Once upon a time, there was a path to forgiveness for Rose if one was so inclined to do so. If you believe gambling is a disease, if you believe Baseball instituted special rules to block his way into the Hall, or as Kostya Kennedy once wrote:

“The argument against Pete Rose being in the Hall of Fame … had devolved, now turning not upon his violation of a sacred baseball tenet, but rather on whether a voter liked the guy or not.”

… then there was reason enough to if not forgive — understand.

Many celebrated the summer of Pete Rose. And when the fall came, we, again in Kennedy’s words, felt “the depth of Rose’s limitations, how ill-equipped he is to answer the demands for humility, contrition and self-awareness that society asks of him. It is indeed enough to make you feel, if not empathy, sympathy after all.

Those days of sympathy are long gone now. The hard winter of Pete Rose has blasted us headfirst and the foul weather that accompanies it is unavoidable. All that remains now is bloody judgment.

And epitaphs.

85 Responses

  1. LDS

    That Rose wasn’t a great human being, one you’d want to live next door to, etc. is undeniable. That he belongs in the HOF is also undeniable. The HOF is filled with reprobates, scumbags, drunks, etc. Ty Cobb, apparently a royal ahole. Babe Ruth, a drunk at least. The list goes on and on. Underage girls? Maybe. Knowingly underage, maybe not. And if one looks at other sports, NBA, Magic, Wilt, Kobe, think all the girls they were approached by were of legal age? Unlikely. Generally, sports figures, like actors, politicians, et al, live in a different world. Rose deserves the HOF for his accomplishments and longevity. Not excluded because of his character or lack thereof.

    • Doug Gray

      Other people did bad things so we should continue to make the same mistakes is a bad argument.

      • Little Earl

        Why is it a mistake? Who says the HOF should consider character above accomplishments? Pete absolutely should be in the HOF, although I am fine if they add him after he dies.

      • Doug Gray

        Well, it’s a mistake because character is supposed to be a part of the vetting process.

        One could also argue that anything he accomplished on the field after he placed his first bet on a game, which he very conveniently says he can’t remember when that was, shouldn’t count on his record.

      • LDS

        Has he ever admitted to betting against his team or has it been shown that he did? My guess is that it hasn’t. Consequently, I don’t care too much about betting on baseball.

      • Doc

        I’ll accept your argument when the HOF removes even one of the inductees whose character is now known to be less than admirable. Not holding my breath, though.

      • Doug Gray

        So I again I will say “because others were bad and mistakes were made, we should continue to just ignore these things?”

      • LDS

        Eventually, we as a society need to have the maturity to recognize that things deemed “horrible” today weren’t in years past. Character standards evolve continuously. Judge the performance not the man.

      • Doug Gray

        This was the early 70’s, not the early 1700’s. He was committing statutory rape according to the woman involved.

      • Chris

        That’s an unbelievable and tired reaction to this debate. You are too smart to take that position, because it’s full of objectivity, and favoritism. Was Pete Rose a worse person than Ty Cobb, or Babe Ruth (just two examples)? Sure, two wrongs don’t make a right, but shouldn’t consistency when judging people for awards, criminal activities, etc. be part of the process? If not, doesn’t it look like we are picking favorites, based on some sort of political or personal reasons? AS to the gambling part, it is only understood that Pete bet on his team to win. I personally have no problem with that, but I don’t get a vote. With that said, I’m much more disgusted with a league that bans someone for gambling, that in the next moment supports gambling, and makes tons of money off of gambling.

      • Doug Gray

        Was Pete worse than those guys? I don’t have a clue, man. I do know that Pete has a long list of things that should keep him away from anything related to the Cincinnati Reds, Major League Baseball, and schools, though.

      • Melvin

        I’m with you Chris on the gambling.

      • wkuchad

        “and schools” – lol, nice one!

      • LDS

        I would suggest that taking her word for it is insufficient. Was he charged? Arrested? Tried? Did he pay off a civil suit? Claims made 40+ years after the fact don’t carry much weight with me. Reminds me of the 40+ year old actresses that accused Weinstein of abuse 25-30 years after the fact once they were rich and famous, like Kate Beckinsale.

      • Doug Gray

        By the time she testified under oath that statute of limitations was over, so he couldn’t be tried or charged or arrested.

        Stop defending abusers because their accusers, for whatever reason, didn’t come forward immediately.

      • Doug Gray

        And let’s also be sure that we’re very clear here: The woman in question and Pete Rose himself both agree that they absolutely had a sexual relationship for years. The only dispute here is that Pete seems to believe that he knows how old she was when it started and that she doesn’t.

      • Dewey Roberts

        Thank you, Doug. Studies show that women who come forward to accuse a man of rape, molestation, etc., are telling the truth 93% of the time— at least. I appreciate your position on this issue!!

      • wkuchad

        Just a suggestion LDS, but you may not want to go with Weinstein in your defense of Rose.

      • LDS

        That Weinstein and Rose are despicable isn’t the issue. They are. The issue is how it’s handled by the media and the ready acceptance of one side of the story in the absence of any established facts.

      • Doug Gray

        Pete literally admitted to this stuff under oath, with the exception of him saying that it started when she was 16-years-old. Literally the only thing being debated is whether Pete knew how old she was or if she knew how old she was, and in both cases she was a high school kid and he was in his mid 30’s.

      • Doug Gray

        But I’m just going to point out that you are very inconsistent with what’s bothering you here. An hour ago you had an issue with people not coming out immediately with their accusations. Now it’s that the media handles the stories in a way that believes the accusation(s).

      • LDS

        Not inconsistent. She should have complained immediately. Generally, the media are simply sharks. But at the end of the day, Rose may be scum, as many in the HOF are, but his accomplishments are more than HOF caliber. But we’ll just choose to disagree and leave it there. The Reds have another game to lose.

      • Dewey Roberts

        LDS, that is not how life is. Women do not automatically come forward immediately when things like this happen.

      • Swayback8

        Kobe Bryant was charged with sexual assault in 2003 & inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2020 & is beloved more now than ever. Society seems to pick & choose which transgressions they prioritize.

      • Swayback8

        Doug. Is it possible that she told him she was 16 at the time?

      • Swayback8

        Also, Doug. You don’t find MLB’s growing support of gambling a direct contradiction to both statements about the changes in time & the validity of his stats?

    • Mark

      His actions after he was banned are the reason he is not in the HOF. I have come around to the opinion that he had the decision to play along with MLB to get re-instated and chose to be defensive and further illustrate his lack of character. He is sleeping in the bed he made for himself and that is fine with me.

      • Jim New

        The HOF pitcher who threw out the first pitch to Bench last evening was convicted of trafficking coke. So tell me all about lack of character!

    • Mark

      Read the book “A Terrible Beauty” by Charles Leerhsen and you will get an objective narrative on the real Ty Cobb. Also Leerhsen gave a speech several years ago about his book that you can find on YouTube.

  2. Rut

    With all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over Pete, I am reminded of Marty McFly’s realization in Back to the Future 3 about his eternal nemesis, a recurring Biff/Mad Dog Tannen:

    “He’s an A-hole”. [Edited due to the extremely sensitive ears of mgmt here]

    At this point, I just feel a lot better taking Marty’s approach to Pete rather than any more deep dives or attempts to analyze it.

  3. Rednat

    the hatred for Pete Rose on this site never ceases to amaze me. call me an incoherent tribesman that will always “bend their will to the Hit King” all you want but I WILL ALWAYS BE PROUD OF WHAT PETE ROSE ACCOMPLISHED ON THE FIELD.

    Like it or not folks, Pete Rose IS reds baseball. His style of play put Cincinnati on the baseball map as Hustle town USA. Before casting judgement I would recommend anyone to tour his old neighborhood in Anderson Ferry. I assume it is very similar to Ty Cobb’s home stead in the hills of North Georgia. He too will probably never win any citizenship awards either.

    • Swayback8

      Absolutely. People fail to understand the differences in times & areas in which people grow up in. The last 2 generations tend to look at everything through modern lenses. Not a defense of his character, but walk a mile in other people’s shoes.

      • greenmtred

        You and LDS make this point–that standards change–and it’s valid and worth a good discussion, but statutory rape was a crime when this happened. Was there a culture that tended to look the other way in cases of this sort and in cases of domestic violence, among other things? Yes, but that attitude was no longer dominant and the presence of the laws proves it. We still, some of us, carry the attitudes that lead to victim shaming.

  4. JinCH

    The defenders of Pete will never cease to amaze me. I can understand respecting Pete Rose the baseball player but Pete Rose the human being is just beyond defense. The fact that Pete still conducts interviews like it is 1973(calling a female reporter “babe”, come on Pete) is about all you need to know about the man himself. If Pete had shown even an ounce of remorse starting in the 90’s he would be in the hall by now. I guess Pete is just too proud of a man to say sorry for betting on baseball much less “dating” a 15 year old. For the defenders who say there are other bad guys in the hall, those guys were voted in long ago. This, and many more, are the reasons Pete will never get a sniff of the hall of fame, at least while still breathing.

    • VaRedsFan

      I have a baseball that he signed. “I’m sorry I bet on baseball”.
      You can find them everywhere.

      • JinCH

        Come on VA, he’s not sorry he bet on baseball, he’s sorry he got caught. Now he’s just making a buck on selling these baseballs with that written on them.

      • VaRedsFan

        Of course he was sorry he got caught…as are most people that break the rules. The post was to emphasize that he has admitted to it, which your original post seem to suggest he didn’t.

      • Chris

        “Jin”, have you ever seen someone in this sort of position that was openly sorry BEFORE getting caught? Of course he’s going to say he’s sorry after he was caught. The funny thing is, that really matters to you. I’m intelligent enough to know that ALL OF THESE “I’m Sorry” statements are nothing more than words forced upon an individual who was caught for a crime or a misdeed.

    • Jonathan

      I agree. The same people who defend Pete Rose are the same that are defending Daushun Watson. Watson has no business being an NFL QB just like Rose has no business being involved in MLB. Character matters. Morality matters

  5. Old Big Ed

    Rose didn’t move off second for Joe Morgan, per Brian Kenny. He played 35 games there in 1967, 3 in 1968, 2 in 1969, and none in 1970 and 1971. He was an outfielder in those days.

    I never had any illusion as an adult that baseball players were any different than any other group of people, as to the range of their integrity and moral standing. Any group of humans, be it square dancers or deer hunters or even pastors and priests, have pretty much the same ratio of decent characters, rogues, morons, gems, etc. (Politicians are the only exception.) Rose was a savant as to how to play winning baseball, but that gives zero insight to his human qualities.

    • Daytonnati

      I believe Pete moved to make room for Tommy Helms, who ironically replaces him as manager, however temporarily.

      • Old Big Ed

        Yes. Helms was the Rookie of the Year in 1966 (with a .695 OPS and 1.3 bWAR), but played 113 of his 133 games at 3B. They shifted him to 2B in 1967.

        It was a fairly cruddy year for NL rookies in 1966. Sonny Jackson had 2.3 WAR. Tommie Agee was AL ROY with a 6.4 WAR, and other vote recipients were George “Boomer” Scott with 3.4 WAR and Jim Nash (12-1, 2.06) with a 4.0 WAR.

  6. Mark Moore

    I loved to watch Rose as a player back in the day. His accomplishments are not in question. And I was at one point of the opinion that the man himself, not just his stats, should be in Cooperstown. But, times do change …

    While we vilify others who actively cheated within the framework of the game (you know the names), there isn’t really any evidence to indicate Rose’s actions altered games or how he performed. However, the increasing evidence that indicates he shows no remorse and very little (if any) regret brings me to a change of mind.

    I’m personally fine with his statue in front of GABP and his Reds HoF accomplishments being enshrined. If, at some point, Cooperstown decides to add his bust to the line-up, that’s fine as well. But I won’t advocate for it to happen soon or even at all. I’m done with the sideshow that PER brings. He’s failed to learn how to live his life beyond the game and, frankly, that’s just sad. I have far more pity for the man he is than admiration for the player he once was.

    Good stuff as always, Richard. Now, on to that Iowa Cornfield!

    • Doug Gray

      There is evidence that he altered games, though.

      How did he manage games he bet on versus ones he didn’t?

      As for the statue…. it should be tossed in the Ohio River never to be seen again.

      • Optimist

        Is there analysis of this? Seems this is a pretty straightforward research project, or am I missing something – there’s a list of his bets, and the corresponding schedule/lineups/results, etc.. Was this in one of the court cases, or in the MLB or HOF processes?

        Could be a case study of some kind.

        Asking seriously – of course he’s lost all benefit of the doubt, but has this been done?

      • Old Big Ed

        The story I heard was that Rose would NOT bet games in which Bill Gullickson was the starting pitcher, but would otherwise bet on them. (Gullickson was fairly bad, but not Mike Minor bad.) It may be a BS story.

        But by not betting the Reds in certain games, it incentivized Rose to handle his relievers differently, for example, by saving them for games on which he bet.

      • Daytonnati

        Doug – I tend to agree with you. One thing, though. I believe you said you were 38 years old recently. That means you were born in 1984? For some of us, that was mid-life. A lifelong Reds lover, like me, was playing Little League (Class F in Dayton, Ohio, 9 to 12 year olds) in 1963, Pete’s rookie year. He was an immediate sensation to all of us. Every kid, when walked, would sprint to first base. “Hustling” became just as important as hitting or fielding. (It was why a lot of old-timers on here have the biggest issue with current players not seeming to hustle – Pete taught us that.) Anyway, we had Pete in our lives as a player for 23 years. I was 34 when he quit playing. From 11 to 34, he was the dominant sports figure in my life. The Big Red Machine was like the Beatles around here. If you were from SW Ohio, he was almost like family. “Pete” generally meant Rose, like saying “Bruce” in NJ. So, while I accept that Pete was a human P.O.S., grudgingly on the gambling, wholeheartedly on the underage girl, he is like a relative to a lot of people my age. I am sure the Unabomber still loved his brother as he turned him in 🙂 While we can condemn his behavior and support his banishment, we still maintain an affection and admiration from our memories of his playing days and how he approached the game. I think that is the gulf between the old-timer and the newer fans. I understand your point of view, I share it, but I also have a wider lens that includes his playing days. I hope I didn’t offend, and I hope I made my point?

      • Chris

        Doug that is just not true. There is absolutely NO evidence that he altered games based on his bets. Has there been opinions of that? Sure, but no proof whatsoever.

      • Doug Gray

        Yeah, because the proof would be Pete saying “yeah, I did it”. And we all know he’s not going to say that. Heck, even after he finally admitted to gambling on games (so he could cash in on the book deal) he still couldn’t keep his story straight about it.

      • Swayback8

        What was Pete’s win percentage? What was Lou’s win percentage? What was McKeon’s win percentage? What was the winning percentage of the team between Sparky & Pete’s time? I’m having trouble finding proof.

      • Doug Gray

        If this is how you think you could find proof then you’ll never come close.

      • Swayback8

        You claim there’s evidence to prove he affected the game. Because he didn’t bet on some games? Where is the proof he intentionally lost games?

    • Chris

      Just curious, what does “no remorse” mean to you? Both Bench and Schmidt have clearly stated that Pete had remorse. Pete himself has apologized, but that’s not good enough for many people anyway. People want the apology, but after hearing it or seeing it, it’s still just not quite good enough. Then there is the accusation of, well Pete couldn’t just move on and live a normal life. LOL. Pick up a book and read about the man. All he knew was baseball. It’s his life. He is ill prepared to do anything else. Somewhat like some military men years ago who would come back and knew nothing else but being a soldier. Pete’s lively hood was literally taken from him. Not so easy for someone like him to know how, or figure out how to do anything else.

      • Mark Moore


        I define “remorse” as genuinely admitting what you’ve done and working toward making amends in a noticeable way. The other angle (which we see a lot of) is “regret”. Regret is what happens when you are sorry you got caught. It’s far more superficial by nature.

        That’s just my take on it. Others see things a different way.

      • Swayback8

        The real problem is all these people that judge other people’s morality. I would like to see everyone else’s morality put on display for everyone to judge. I consider myself a stand up moral person, but do not pretend that I can judge other people’s. I’m sure that no matter how much of a moral person I am, someone can find flaws in it.

  7. burtgummer01

    I’d say let it go if it was just the gambling.He was doing reprehensible things with a child. %&( Pete Rose

  8. Doug Bishop

    My older brother has a highly coveted baseball autographed by every member of the “Big Red Machine” except for Johnny Bench. Folks can think and say what they want about Pete Rose “The Hit King”… despite his shortfalls as a human being and a baseball man, Pete Rose will always stand tall in MLB history… HE’S AN ABSOLUTE LEGEND AND WILL REMAIN A LEGEND… ON THE OTHER HAND, 100-YEARS FROM NOW, NO ONE WILL REMEMBER THE NAMES OF PETE ROSE’S CRITICS NOR THE NAMES OF THOSE WHO WELD POWER OVER THE NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME. Did you hear the mic drop?

  9. Bred

    Is there a book about the Reds locker room in the BRM era? A realistic unveiling account like Ball Four? Between the foul lines the Great Eight seemed to be a unified lot, but all those young, powerful, diverse and testosterone filled personalities had to have some interesting problems. Sparky must have been a master of manipulation to keep every one focused.

    • Daytonnati

      “The Machine” by Joe Posnanski is the best I’ve read.

      • Steelerfan

        I would second that recommendation.

      • VaRedsFan

        I read that one too…great read!

    • David

      Yes, Sparky was. Joe Morgan was a real “club house lawyer”, and always had ideas about how things should be done. I know a guy who guides fishing tours in Montana, and had Joe as a guest a few years before Joe died. He said he was a really charming and nice guy to be with.
      Sparky told a funny story about one day before the game, he and Joe went out into the outfield and had a long “chat”.
      Tony Perez was always the even-tempered leader of the team. Tony was just a good person, and quietly kept after other guys to behave. You can tell what a good guy he was, because Eduardo still speaks highly of him as his Dad.
      Johnny Bench and Pete Rose did not like each other, after the falling out they had over “Rose – Bench Lincoln Mercury” car dealership. Johnny was really sore about how he thought Pete screwed him over financially when that fell apart. When Johnny first came up, Pete befriended him and was really close to him.
      Davey Concepcion was always very mercurial and high strung. He hustled and played hard, but was sometimes headstrong and hard to coach. Sparky was after him for over two years to switch to a lighter bat (from 1970 through 1972). At the end of ’72, he finally did it, and hit really well the last few games of the season. 1973 (first half, before he broke his ankle) was a great hitting “breakout” season for him, after he had switched to a lighter bat.

      I watched Pete Rose as a player from when he first arrived. I know people that actually knew him personally. And they all have different versions of him. He was “a man’s man”, hard working, hard playing baseball player. A woman I know that knew him said he was the most egotistical man she had ever met (this was in 1977, too).
      Pro-athletes are sometimes hard to judge. We only see them on the field, and don’t know about what kind of human being that they are.
      But after all this time, we kind of know what kind of person Pete Rose is. He kind of threw Tommy Helms and Joe Nuxhall (among others who initially defended him) under the bus.

  10. Gonzo Reds

    Surprised Doug even allowed this piece to be uploaded to the site.

    Hope I live to see Pete in the HOF even if Pete doesn’t.

    • Doug Gray

      Not that I would have told Richard no – but I didn’t know he was publishing this piece until I woke up this morning. I give the writers freedom to write what they want, even if I disagree with it (and it’s not very non-baseball related).

      • Gonzo Reds

        Well, good. Richard’s pieces are always top notch regardless of subject.

        I actually agree with you on most Reds related posts including the jabs you took at owners during the lockout.

        Our ability to share our views and differ on them, then work together to meet in the middle to govern everyday life, is what has made America great for almost 250 years. Well, it used to be that way at least.

  11. Excellent

    A very well-written, well-developed piece, and that’s coming from a retired sports writer. Great descriptions that I know I can trust.

  12. Votto4life

    Grew up a Pete Rose fan. Wore #14 little league through high school. He was the closest thing I had to a childhood hero. But then I grew up. I have no use for Pete Rose as a human being.

    Dude slept with a teenager, when he was in his mid-thirties and his excuse is he thought she was 16. Really?

    I couldn’t care less if he is ever reinstated or is inducted into the HOF. But if I had a say in the matter, he sure wouldn’t be.

  13. TR

    I’ll stand aside regarding the HOF question, but, man, no one played the game with the drive and intensity of Pete Rose.

    • Melvin

      Yeah. I agree TR. No matter what kind of person he truly was he played the game the way it’s supposed to be played. For that reason I have no problem telling a kid to go back and look at the way Rose played the game and telling him to be like that. Of course I also will tell him about the other things so he understands and only focuses on the way he played and not the man himself. I know there will be some disagreement when I say this. My view has always been, in order to settle the matter once and for all, and since he has things already displayed there, is to put him in the Hall of Fame. Do it with no fanfare and no speeches from Rose. Don’t even let him show up. Just quietly do it and be done with it. To me it would be because of the way he played and what most remember him by. Having said that there is NO WAY I would trust the guy. I wouldn’t trust him to take care of my cat (I do not have one and don’t care for them). There is NO WAY I let him have any influence on baseball. Do this and be done with it….once and for all.

  14. Daytonnati

    Interestingly, in contrast to the Pete Rose Saga, Ken Rosenthal wrote a long piece in The Athletic this morning about the Bell family and their struggle with losing their son and brother, Mike, to cancer. We may criticize David’s managing and Buddy’s executive decision-making, but if they have a Hall of Fame for Integrity and Honor, the entire family should be inducted.

    It is behind a paywall:


  15. greenmtred

    This is stirring up a fascinating (and civil) debate. There have been a large number of well-stated and differing opinions. I’ll pick one exchange that really struck me: LDS and Doug had positions that were not diametrically opposed, but differed, and each raised great questions about the other’s excellent point. I applaud you both, and the others who commented and, of course, Richard, who writes so well but has, in my opinion, outdone himself in raising so eloquently a topic that touches directly on the human condition and elicits such thoughtful responses.

    • Mark Moore

      You’ve just summed up why this is the best Reds fan site going. We’re a varied bunch, but we almost all find a way to get along. It’s rare when somebody is down right rude and even then they get called on it.

      Doug and I will disagree on many things, but he runs the site well and lets us all contribute.

    • Greenfield Red

      Dowd knew about the girl but didn’t say anything until he had something to gain?

      Hall of Fame refuses to give his stuff back but won’t let him in?

      Lots of stuff wrong here.

  16. Drew Hardesty

    This is a beautiful piece of writing.

  17. Old-school

    I will only say I have no cognitive dissonance knowing that Rose was a great player and leader on one of the greatest teams in MLB history ,set many records, while also helping to bring back a resurgent Reds team in the mid 80’s when Reds fans were hopeless. Yet, It can also be simultaneously true that he has deep flaws off the field with several notable sad and bad incidents where reasonable people can decide whether to cancel him or not from their fandom. I see both sides. I just dont like him anymore and as a Reds fan, he should stop being a polarizing figure that divides a city and a fan base. IF he demonstrated an ounce of gratitude and humility, that would go a long way. Good luck with that.

    Joey Votto is miked tonight and gave a good interview on how his fathers death and baseball and the movie are unique to him. Should be must see TV.

  18. Wallyum

    My one and only run-in with Pete happened around 1974. We were eating up at Schueller’s Seven Kitchens up in the westside. Dad had dropped the family off, then parked a few blocks away, and I went with him. As we were walking back to the restaurant, this little red car pulled up the street we had just crossed. Dad said “Hey, Bill. There’s Pete Rose.” I turned and sure enough, there he was, sitting at the stop sign about fifteen feet away from us. I yelled “Hi, Pete!” Pete glanced at me, wrinkled up his face in disgust, pulled out onto the street and drove out of sight. I was disappointed, but when game time came, he was still the guy I paid closest attention to.
    Dad took me to my first ballgame at Crosley when I was 6. He bought me a hotdog and talked me into putting Gulden’s Mustard on it. He called it Pete Rose mustard. I never got to wear #14, but I played the game hard and slid head first. An opposing coach called me a “Pocket Pete Rose” one night and he and my coach laughed. Didn’t matter. It made my night. Mom and Dad bought me The Pete Rose Story for Easter one year. I still have it, and it shows the age and wear of being read, re-read, and passed around the neighborhood to my friends. My Pete Rose glove is down in the basement, oiled and ready if I should ever decide to play ball with a glove the size of my hand. What it boils down to is that I’m a fan of Pete Rose the player. Pete Rose the man is a POS and an embarrassment. I knew that in 1974. Hall of Famer? Without a doubt, but that ship has sailed. Pete’s the one that has to live with that, and we do just because he makes good copy.


    They should have Vetted Pete before they drafted him.
    Phillies had no problem making his savory character the highest paid player in the game.
    I been to Fed Prison. I must be a savory character. I’m an Asphalt Contractor and my employees are compensated extremely well. I bend over backwards trying to satisfy people that can’t be satisfied.
    Don’t hire me or put me in the Asphalt Hall of Fame, if there was one, but I hope you get a great Asphalt drive/parking lot even if I don’t pave it.
    Pete was one of the greatest hitters and competitors in any sport and time.
    His baseball accomplishments belong in the HOF!
    I think he has a better character than the Reds owner.

  20. LWBlogger

    Wow Richard. Just wow… Fabulous. Your writing, as always, dumbfoundingly fabulous.

    @Doug – This stuff is why although I am soooo done with the Reds, I may never be done with this site. You, Richard, Mary Beth, Jim, the others, just lovely… But Richard is just… wow.

    • Richard Fitch

      Well, you’re my agent, now.

  21. Jeff Vando

    I grew up a huge Pete Rose and Reds fan. Don Gullett is my cousin. I wore #14 the entire time I played the game and carried Don’s baseball card around in my wallet when I was a kid. I slid head first and I sprinted to first base on every walk. I have an autographed program from 1976 framed in my office. What Pete taught me as a young man was to show up for work every day, work hard, charge home plate hard every time and try to score the winning run. If someone tries to get in your way, test their commitment. That has changed for me now but not for Pete. I can’t watch MLB today and haven’t for years. I would rather watch game 6 of the 1975 World Series over and over on Utube.

    I supported and defended Pete 1000% up until the day he admitted he lied to us.

    All that said, as a 60 year old man I long ago stopped casting stones. I generally don’t put my opinions out there. For those being critical of Pete, Judge not…. I also don’t put any faith in those who run professional sports or their institutions.

    I still hope to make it to Vegas soon to shake Pete’s hand before he heads into the corn field.