Pete Rose….the name brings a mixed bag of emotions. He compromised the integrity of our national past time, and that is not something that we will take kindly too. But you gotta respect him, the man had more hits than anybody in history with 4256. The closest active player is Derek Jeter who falls at 20th on the list with 3088 hits. After that you cant find another active player on the list till Pudge at 44th. People arent exactly busting down the door to Rose’s record.
I cant start a paragraph about Pete Rose and the Hall of Fame debate without first referring to another blog. I have had an opinion on this issue for a while now and I must say the famous Dale Murphy (yes the former Brave) beat me to the punch. I am a reader of “Murph Talks” which is Dale’s blog and some time ago he wrote his opinion on Pete, Which sums up much of my opinions on the matter. The blog can be found here http://murphtalks.blogspot.com/2011/06/pete-rose-i-think-its-time.html.
The Hall of Fame brings up a very interesting debate when it comes to controversial figures in the game. Mark Mcgwire and Barry Bonds rewrote the record books during the early part of my life time. They were both on the juice. The fact is they boosted their abilities past the capacity of others by simply taking a drug. IT IS CHEATING. This I can totally agree with. But how do we handle these figures and the Hall of Fame? Do we view the hall as a privilege, thus taking it away from these people who have tarnished our game? Or do we accept the steroid era as just a time period in the evolution of our game and acknowledge all these accomplishments with inductions into the hall? Or do we put these controversial people in the Hall with large asterisks next to the little paragraph describing their career?
I guess my opinion is a mix of these, and it all starts with how you look at the Hall of Fame. First of all I want to point out that it is not called the “Hall of the Most Honest, Honorable, and Noble Players to Ever Live.” It is simply called the Hall of Fame. (I am about to define the word Fame…. cliche move I know, but forgive me in advance) Fame is “The condition of being known or talked about by many people, especially on the account of notable achievements”. I would say people like McGwire, Bonds, and Rose are pretty well known and talked about, and certainly each has great achievements.
BUT I know what your going to say, The Hall is an honor and a privilege and these people DONT DESERVE IT! I agree that being in the Hall is an honor, but maybe for a different reason than you think. To me the Hall of Fame exist to tell the story of the game of baseball. The greatest players to ever play are memorialized there BECAUSE they are part of that story. It is a huge honor to be a part of that story, but if you are telling me that Rose, Mcgwire, Bonds etc are not part of the story of Baseball then you are kidding yourself. I will never forget staying up as a child to see McGwire go toe to toe with Sosa or Bonds hit bomb after bomb into the bay. They were on steroids at the time, but it captivated our game and our country none the less.
What I am proposing is a Hall of Fame that tells the complete story of our game. From the Negro Leagues to the Steroid Era, it has all shaped baseball into what it is today. I dont believe that many people would pass the bronze busts of these controversial figures without talking about steroids, gambling, corked bats, whatever the issue was. Putting them in the Hall does not take away what they have done and all of the sudden shine this “Special Hall of Fame Holier Than Thou” light on these figures! Fans of the game will still be aware of not only their accomplishments, but also their controversial aspects as well.
I am just simply not a fan of censoring the history of baseball. I can picture myself taking my hypothetical son to Cooperstown one day. I could see myself strolling past Barry Bonds and saying “Man son, I wish you could have seen his swing. He was a picture of efficiency in a swing. But, he was part of the Mitchell Report, he did use steroids. What a shame, but man what a swing!.” Walking by Pete Rose I would point to that number next to him and explain to my son why the man with more hits than anyone to ever play was banned from the game for life. I would hope my son would take this information and form his own opinion. He would learn from the past. He would see where our game came from and how it evolved into what it is, which will surely be different for my children than it is now. What I do not want is to take my son and simply walk through saying “Oh yeah, the players that I was staying up at night to watch when I was your age aren’t in here, it captivated everyone I knew, but those years have been censored out.”
Lets tell the whole story. I look at the Hall of Fame as a place for this story to unfold. Its a place where the great and honest can be memorialized as great and honest, and the controversial can be remembered for just that. I think Dale Murphy is right, the fact that Pete Rose is not in the Hall of Fame for everyone to remember may say more about US at this point then it does about him. Lets not censor the story of Baseball with our pride. Its a beautiful story, lets tell it all.