Pete Rose may not ever see his name and likeness in the hall of the greats at Cooperstown, but the keepers of local legends in Cincinnati are making sure fans of the Reds will never forget “Charlie Hustle.” During the club’s Hall of Fame Weekend, June 24 through 26, Rose will be inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame. In addition to the ceremony at the Hall of Fame, the powers that be in Cincinnati plan to grant Rose their own version of hometown hero immortality by retiring his number and revealing the finalized plans for a statue.
For Reds CEO, Bob Castellini, the choice to honor Rose was an obvious one. In a prepared statement that was later published in part by ESPN, the CEO chose to focus on Rose’s place in the team’s history.
“Inducting Pete into the Reds Hall of Fame will be a defining moment in the 147-year history of this storied franchise. He is one of the greatest players to ever wear a Reds uniform and it will be an unforgettable experience watching him being honored as such.”
Castellini described the decision as both an expression of civic and team pride and as a way to fill a void left by Rose’s ban from the MLB Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. According to the CEO, he had the league commissioner’s permission of proceed with the induction.
Will Pete Rose ever see the inside of the league’s big hall in Cooperstown without buying a ticket? The chances of that happening in Rose’s lifetime are miniscule. Rose’s declarations that “now is the time” had no effect on Rob Manfred. The MLB commissioner ignored the bat signal from the former legendary switch hitter and denied petitions to induct Rose last December, upholding the lifetime ban put in place for permanently ineligible players in 1991.
Like many bigger-than-life sports figures, Pete Rose has been followed by catchphrases and pop culture hangtags that reflected the times and were embodied by his public image. For Reds fans and those who love baseball, Rose was the walking, talking miracle of a man who could do no wrong. During a career that spanned three decades, Rose enjoyed a reputation for being a throwback to the ideal sports hero. According to his Wikipedia entry, his bona fides included a string of league records: Rose, all-time leader in hits (4,256), games played (3,562), number of times at-bat (14,053), singles (3,215), and outs (10,328). Being good had its rewards. Rose took home a lot of hardware during his years on the Reds roster. Seventeen All-Star games in numerous positions, three World Series rings, two Gold Gloves, and an MVP already sit next to his Rookie of the year award.
In the eyes of the league, all of that would cease to matter in 1989. What started out as what fans hoped were just jealous whispers turned into a big ball of hurt for the Reds community. While maintaining his innocence at accusations of gambling on baseball games, Pete Rose retired from professional baseball. The league slammed the door behind him with a lifetime ban.
Fifteen years after the ban, Rose admitted to gambling, but wanted it made clear he never bet on games involving his team. Given the historic context, there may have been some merit to Bart Giamatti’s decision in 1989. At the time, the league did not have a rule in place regarding banned players and induction into the Hall of Fame.
In the years that followed Rose’s fall from grace. scholars of the game have revisited what happened in Cincinnati as well as the stories of other good players who were deemed to have gone bad. Shoeless Joe Jackson died insisting he had no part of a plot to fix games after the Black Sox scandal stripped him of his ability to play in the league. His redemption story in popular culture didn’t happen until decades after his death. Even after exhaustive forensic investigation into Jackson’s history of refusing bribes and what happened at the actual event, the current MLB commissioner refused a petition to exonerate Shoeless Joe. In Ohio, the Reds organization is making sure Pete Rose gets his redemption story while he’s still around to feel the love.
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