I can still hear legendary Yankee Public Address Announcer Bob Sheppard introducing Derek Jeter for his first at bat on Sunday, September 21, 2008. Jeter walked to the plate while Sheppard’s voice echoed around Yankee Stadium. Jesse, John, and I had flown to New York solely to watch the Yankees play the Orioles in the final game at Yankee Stadium. The House That Ruth Built was closing.
Baseball brought me to New York City for the first time. I would later live and work in New York for five years, but that first visit was about baseball. Knowing we only had one game to explore one of the greatest ballparks in baseball we arrived at 161st Street Station in the Bronx around 9:30 am, 11 hours before first pitch. We were greeted by a sea of fans who, like us, we eager to spend the day inside the House That Ruth Built before it closed.
We made it to The House That Ruth Built. (The Winning Run/ JJ)
The crowd outside the Stadium was chaotic, joyous, and a bit solemn all at once. The new Yankee Stadium stood just across the street, and except for a few glances I had little interest in the building. I had come to see THE Stadium, not its replacement. After slowly making our way through the line we finally entered the hallowed stadium. We soon learned our first stop would not happen. Monument Park was at capacity and the Yankees were closing it early. We scrapped our other plans and began exploring every nooks and cranny of the stadium that was accessible. We walked around the cheap seats, the foul lines, behind home plate, everywhere but our seats. Our seats were in the right field bleachers, with the Bleacher Creatures. Once you entered the bleacher area, security would not permit you to return to the rest of the stadium. We explored until our feet ached from the concrete. Once you join the Bleacher Creatures, there is no coming back.
Our first glimpse of the field was from behind home plate. Seeing the most famous baseball field in the world, where so much of the game’s history was made, where so many legends played, felt spiritual. I remember silently standing with Jesse and John gazing at the field, soaking it in. Three baseball fanatics in awe of their surroundings.
The field is beautiful from the cheap seats (The Winning Run/JJ)
Warming up before the game. (The Winning Run/JJ)
Breathtaking. (The Winning Run/JJ)
Our day touring Yankee Stadium went by in a flash before we joined the Bleacher Creatures. The pregame festivities included Yankee legends returning to the field one last time. Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson, and other living legends were joined by the ghosts of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, among others. Fittingly Babe Ruth’s daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens, threw out the final first pitch in the House That Ruth Built.
Once the actual game began, it was like every Yankee game I would attend while living in New York. The nationally televised game between two teams who would finish the season a combined 36.5 games behind first place began at 8:36 p.m. There were plenty of people, like us, who were not the regulars among the Bleacher Creatures. It was easy to identify the Bleacher Creatures. They are loud, obnoxious, generally know their baseball, and above all are die hard Yankee fans. The chants began in the top of the first, roll call. Every Yankee, except the pitcher and catcher, had their name chanted until they acknowledged the Bleacher Creatures. Some players, like Bobby Abreu, waved quickly, others, like Johnny Damon, made us work for a few minutes before waving. The loudest chant was for the Captain, Derek Jeter. Jeter was the man; no one on the field commanded more respect than #2.
Our seats with the Bleacher Creatures. (The Winning Run/JJ)
I remember only pieces of the actual game. We went to the game for the experience, not necessarily the actual game. The Bleacher Creatures did what they do best, being loud. I have clear memories of a chant regarding Hall of Fame player and then ESPN Sunday Night Baseball announcer Joe Morgan, who was broadcasting the game. The chant was simple, “Joe Morgan Sucks! Joe Morgan Sucks! Joe Morgan Sucks!” Over and over and over. I was never a fan of Morgan’s broadcasting, but the Bleacher Creatures were less bashful in voicing their opinion. Another memory is a different chant “Box Seats Suck! Box Seats Suck!” The metal bleachers in right field were anything but leisurious. They reminded me of the bench at a little league game. The most memorable moment sitting among the Bleacher Creatures happened when people sitting several rows in front of us attempting to start the wave. Yes the wave. Every time they tried to start the wave they were booed and told to “Take That Sh@$ Back To Shea!” Eventually stadium security and the New York Police Department stepped in. This was late in the game after beer could lower people’s inhibitions. Obviously the people threatening those trying to start the wave were removed by security. Wrong. Attempting to start the wave gets you removed to the cheers of the Bleacher Creatures. I might have missed something someone said or did, but I like to think they were arrested for attempting to start the wave at Yankee Stadium.
On the field, Jose Molina hit the final home run in Yankee Stadium with a fourth inning two run shot off Chris Waters to give the Yankees a 5-3 lead. The Yankees would stretch out their lead in the sixth inning with a Jason Giambi RBI single and a sacrifice fly by Robinson Cano to score Brett Gardner. The tension was palpable in an otherwise meaningless game. Everyone wanted one last Yankee victory inside the House That Ruth Built. The Yankees led 7-3 heading into the ninth inning.
The guitar riff blasted through the speakers. Metallica’s Enter Sandman filled the stadium. The greatest closer of all time was trotting in from the bullpen. 11 pitches and three groundouts later, Mariano Rivera closed Yankee Stadium.
Mariano Rivera coming in to close out Yankee Stadium. (The Winning Run/JJ)
The final out. (The Winning Run/JJ)
Jesse and me after the game. (The Winning Run/JJ)
John and me after the game. Note the mounted police on the field to keep people off.(The Winning Run/JJ)
The celebration was not the World Series many envisioned to close Yankee Stadium, it was still special. Derek Jeter spoke to the crowd, thanking the fans and creating a bridge between the two stadiums. He was brief and to the point before leading the Yankees around the field to say goodbye. Yankee Stadium was the House That Ruth Built and the House That Jeter Closed.
The game ended just before midnight. An era in baseball history was closed. No one wanted to leave. Grown men were tossing empty water bottles to the player’s kids on the warning track, begging them to fill the bottles with dirt before tossing them back. Every nook and cranny inside Yankee Stadium was filled with memories and the thought of never coming back was almost too much for some to bear. Normally at the end of a Major League game the ushers and security are quick to push you out of your seats. This was different, we stayed in our seats for an hour after the final out. The crowd was slow to disperse and the stadium staff did not have the usual urgency to clear the stadium. It was after 1 a.m. when we left Yankee Stadium. No one was in a hurry to leave the ghosts of baseball history alone in a now closed Yankee Stadium.
The playoffs are when the best from every sport is on full display. The best teams play each other, which often leads to games full of drama that only further entices new fans to continue watching. Unfortunately Major League Baseball has hidden some of the best games of the year from many fans in how it broadcasts the playoffs. Avid fans miss out on great games, but baseball also misses the opportunity to draw in new fans as the majority of games before the World Series are broadcast on cable networks.
The airing of playoff baseball on TBS, Fox Sports 1, the MLB Network, and ESPN has shut out many people from watching great baseball. Yes, plenty of people have access to all or some of these channels to watch the games, but those who do not have to make a choice. They can find a radio station broadcasting the game (personally I love listening to baseball on the radio), go to a restaurant, bar, or friend’s house that is showing the game, or generally miss out except for updates. Going out several nights a week for a few weeks gets expensive quickly, thus pricing many more people out, thus radio or the updates are the most likely options for many people. I am fully aware, as I have stated many times, baseball is a business. Major League Baseball signed contracts with these broadcasters for enormous sums of money for the rights to these games. However, there needs to be a balance between television revenue and making the best weeks on the baseball calendar available to all fans. Broadcasters like ABC (which owns ESPN), NBC, and CBS might have passed on the rights to broadcast playoff baseball. Fox will once again broadcast the World Series, yet it is a shame that for some they will not see a single game of baseball on television from the last day of the regular season until Game 1 of the World Series.
Major League Baseball continuously stresses the importance of growing the game, reaching a younger and more diverse audience. Reaching out through promotions like Players Weekend, programs like RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities), and highlighting some of the best players like Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, and Jose Altuve are great, but Major League Baseball hurts its own efforts to reach a larger audience by hiding the playoffs from those who choose to not have cable or satellite television and/or those who cannot afford it. If I can only watch sports on the basic channels and the majority of the games I see are football, why would I wait for weeks to see a few games at the end of October when the NFL season is in full swing? Even during the regular season the availability of baseball games is rather spartan.
Major League Baseball has signed contracts with broadcasters and for now can do little to change how the playoffs are broadcast. However, at the end of these contracts a hard look must be taken at whether only premium channels get the games before the World Series is the best for the future of the sport. Major League Baseball should be paid handsomely for the product it provides to broadcasters, but there could be a middle ground where baseball is paid well, yet does not shut out many fans and potential fans from the best games of the year. Baseball needs to be the sport of everyone, not just those that can afford television packages. No one likes blackout rules.
I took a few days to think about Pete Rose and his quest to have his lifetime ban from baseball lifted. Reflecting on what I think about the man and his situation, I feel sorry for Pete Rose. I have softened my view of Pete Rose. The All-Time Hit King’s lifetime ban from the game of baseball may have truly become written in stone.
Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that he was not reinstating Pete Rose from the permanently ineligible list. This now makes three Commissioners of Baseball that have denied Rose his reinstatement after Bart Giamatti banned him in 1989. Commissioner Manfred and Rose met to discuss his petition. I believe Commissioner Manfred did the proper thing in meeting with Rose and listening to him. There is nothing wrong with listening to Rose. Having served over 25 years in exile, it is only fair to listen to the man and see if he has reconfigured his life as Commissioner Giamatti urged. Pete Rose admitted he continues to gamble on sports, including baseball. This sort of honesty is 25 years too late, but it is never too late to start telling the truth. Telling the truth is a small step towards reconfiguring his life, however Rose has not moved away from the gambling. His continued gambling on baseball does not instill faith into Commissioner Manfred, or anyone else, that Pete Rose has changed his ways.
I am not sad that Pete Rose is banned from baseball. Personally, I believe it is justified based upon his now admitted gambling on baseball games he was involved in. I am sad that a 74-year-old man has not been able to face the truth and change. Major League Baseball may now be completely finished with ever entertaining the reinstatement of Rose. The reality is that Rose may never have the opportunity to present his case for reinstatement to another Commissioner. The impact Rose could have had on the game and its players will never be known, as the man could not conduct himself within the rules of the game.
Major League Baseball does not control the National Baseball Hall of Fame and its voting process. In theory, Pete Rose could appear on the Hall of Fame ballot, while remaining permanently ineligible for reinstatement to baseball. Rose’s support seems to have waned in recent months after ESPN reported that Rose had bet on games while he was playing and managing. This evidence further highlighted the half-truths and blatant lies Rose has been telling since the investigation into his gambling began in 1989. The Hall of Fame voters have been tough on alleged PED users such as Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, and many others. It is doubtful that these same voters would show kindness and mercy to Rose.
I feel sorry for Pete Rose because he will never have his day in the sun as a Major League manager and as a newly inducted member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. His accomplishments as a player made him a legitimate first ballot Hall of Famer. Is there any baseball fan who would try arguing against this? What is so unfortunate is that the gambling and his banishment from baseball will forever overshadow Rose’s accomplishments and the honors he should have received. No one, except for Rose can say with certainty why he has literally gambled away his opportunity to return to baseball. The wreckage that has become his baseball life is solely his responsibility. Yes, he has begun working with Fox during their baseball broadcasts, but this is as close to reinstatement as he will get.
On August 24, 1989, Commissioner Bart Giamatti summed up the investigation and banishment of Pete Rose due to his gambling activities with the following:
“The banishment for life of Pete Rose from baseball is the sad end of a sorry episode. One of the game’s greatest players has engaged in a variety of acts which have stained the game, and he must now live with the consequences of those acts. By choosing not to come to a hearing before me, and by choosing not to proffer any testimony or evidence contrary to the evidence and information contained in the report of the special counsel…Mr. Rose has accepted baseball’s ultimate sanction, lifetime ineligibility.”
Commissioner Giamatti understood the sad duty he had to carry out. The lifetime ban of Pete Rose had stained the game of baseball and brought doubt upon active players and managers about gambling on games. Even in the face of a potential lifetime ban, Rose was defiant. Rose would continue his defiant stance for over two decades before his stance began to weaken. A little at a time the truth seems to be emerging about Rose and his gambling. On the day he was banned from baseball, a reporter asked Rose if he would seek help for his gambling. His response was quintessential Pete Rose,
“No, because I don’t think I have a gambling problem. As a consequence, I will not seek help at this time.”
Giamatti had no choice but to issue baseball’s harshest punishment in order to protect the game. Pete Rose willingly accepted the lifetime ban. Bear in mind that it was not a punishment simply levied on him in response to a discovery of rules being broken. Rose signed an agreement that he would accept a lifetime ban from the game if Major League Baseball would halt their investigation into his gambling. Rose chose to deal with the devil he knew, a lifetime ban from the game, instead of the devil he did not know, the exposure of all his gambling activities and associates. Rose was compelled to make a decision for his best interest. He could either accept the lifetime ban or deal with the United States government and his gambling associates. Rose chose the lifetime ban.
I have softened on Pete Rose because we never want to see our sports heroes suffering from human foibles. The childhood of millions of Americans forever changed when Mickey Mantle spoke about his life shortly before his death in 1995. The regrets Mantle had about his life during his press conference at Baylor University Medical Center humanized Mantle like never before. Mantle became real and frail, no longer the perfect ball player but the imperfect man. Pete Rose has likewise become human. He was a gritty ball player who has continually shown he is an imperfect and stubborn man. Thousands of kids in Cincinnati and elsewhere looked up to Rose. Charlie Hustle gave everything he could on the baseball diamond. He truly was the best baseball player he could be, and that is something for which he should be admired. I have little doubt that Rose bet on the Reds to win every time he gambled on them as a manager and a player. His desire to win, seemingly at all costs and reflected in the way he played the game, would not allow him to purposely lose. Even if this is true, it does not make it better. Playing and managing to win the game, even when the game is well out of hand can have an impact on the following day’s game. While not purposely throwing games, this can change the perception of whether the game is played fairly. The loss of confidence by fans in this notion can irreparably harm the game, such as it has in Taiwan. There is nothing wrong with being imperfect; we all have our faults. Rose, however, has never been able to admit he has these faults, and this is what makes his story so awful. The pride of the man will not allow him to accept what he has done and work to make amends.
The sadness comes from a man who should command so much respect, yet has thrown it all away because he could not fully admit he made a mistake. Rose would have been better served if he had spoken honestly about his mistakes and actively worked to remove all gambling from his life. Pete Rose does not seem to understand that he is the master of his own destiny. He could not persuade Commissioners Fay Vincent and Bud Selig, nor can he persuade Commissioner Manfred to lift his ban. If he had actively worked to reconfigure his life, he would have not only shown these Commissioners that he had changed, but it would have also increased the support for his reinstatement. There are no guarantees in life, but it is better to strive for greatness and fall short than to never try. Major League Baseball has done what is necessary to protect itself from the potential damage Rose could have inflicted upon the game if he had continued playing and gambling. I wish Pete Rose could enjoy the honors his playing career earned him. However, Pete Rose has chosen not to allow baseball to reexamine his banishment due to his ongoing behavior and refusal to reconfigure his life. Pete Rose cannot get the last 25 years back. He has made his own decisions, and will continue to live with the consequences of those decisions. Everyone loses in the end. No one can truly claim there is any victory in any of this. Commissioner Bart Giamatti summed it all up perfectly in 1989 and it still holds true today, this is “the sad end of a sorry episode”.
The Unforgettable Season by G.H. Fleming
1908 was a great year for baseball. It was more than just the most recent World Series title for the Chicago Cubs. The season was one of the most exciting pennant races in baseball history. The Chicago Cubs, the New York Giants, and Pittsburgh Pirates fought each other from Opening Day throughout the season until the final day of the season. Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner, Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, (Joe) Tinker-to-(Johnny) Evers-to-(Frank) Chance, John McGraw played prominent roles throughout the season.
The excitement of the pennant race is retold through newspaper articles that were published during the great 1908 season in The Unforgettable Season by G.H. Fleming. This approach to the retelling of the pennant race allows the reader to be transported back in time. The use of the newspaper articles prevents the book from taking on too much of an academic tone, but rather it exudes the storytelling of every man. Fleming only inserts necessary background information, which helps to bridge the gap over the years and prevents any information from going by without understood. The daily notes regarding the previous day’s action show the dominance of the Pirates, Cubs, and Giants over the rest of the National League. The ebb and flow of these three great teams only built the tension and excitement of the season the closer it drew to October.
The most infamous play of the 1908 season surrounded the actions of Fred Merkle. While I knew the story of Merkle prior to reading The Unforgettable Season, Fleming allows the newspapers to paint a much clearer picture of the man prior to his gaining infamy. This clearer picture of what he could have become as a player before the newspapers and fans used him as a scapegoat for why the Giants did not reach the World Series. (Keith Olbermann of ESPN recounts Merkle’s story well).
Fleming does an excellent job of stay out of the way of history. He allows the story to tell itself. This is a refreshing approach, as it would be easy for any author to unintentionally get into the middle of the story. Modern day analysis of the season could shed more light on the details of the 1908 season. However, I believe Fleming was smart to simply stay out of the way of the history. The Unforgettable Season provides a glimpse of how great a pennant race can be, however the pennant race is not the same as it once was as the playoffs have expanded beyond just the World Series. The expanded playoffs are not better or worse, just different. The expanded playoffs allow more teams and fans to stay engaged in the baseball season later in the season than they might otherwise. Fleming provides an excellent read for anyone who wants to gain a greater understanding of baseball and its history.
More from The Winning Run library.
Long winters without baseball are awful. However, one of the best ways to keep your love of the game alive and well is by reading baseball. My library has plenty and I wanted to share a few with you.
One of Mickey Mantle’s many biographies. In The Mick you get a view of his life during his career but not so much on the field. He talks about teammates, parties, his family, and career moments. You get a feel for his love of the game, but also the hatred of things that occurred in his career. It is an enjoyable and quick read.
Yes this one is about the Red Sox and their championship season in 2004. Yes it was painful to read (as the resident Yankee fan). Despite this, authors Stewart O’Nan and Stephen King make you keep reading as they chronicle the Red Sox through email and blog posts and their knowledge. They are true friends and true fans of baseball. They remind me of my two partners in this blog and their knowledge and passion. This is a great read and a great part of history.
A chronicling of Joe DiMaggio’s record 56 game hitting streak. This is a great book about DiMaggio’s life to that point and what he went through during that time. It looks into what pressures and stress, and how DiMaggio dealt with them, his family, and teammates. Books like 56 help to show the personal side to these legends we will never be able to meet in real life.
Why haven’t you read this? The movie is great, and the book is amazing. I didn’t want to even put it here but figured it deserved recognition. Read this or you will never get on base.
This a three-part series on how I’ve come to recapture my love for America’s favorite pastime.
I consider myself a fan of sports in general. In their purest state, I don’t consider any sport significantly superior to another but I, like everyone else, have some preferences.
Team or individual sports, the particular skills that I may value over others, the influence of organizations and money, the structure of the rules and how they affect the competitiveness of the game…there are many things to consider. Especially, if you enjoy deeply thinking through things as I. If you’re reading this blog, you probably do too.
The bulk of my sports participation has been in individual sports – wrestling, boxing, taekwondo, track & field. However, there is something about the team game that I’ve always enjoyed that goes beyond kinesthetic mastery. Well-executed coordination steals the breath away from your body as your eyes strain to burn the image permanently into your memory.
6-5-4-3 triple play – jaw falls open – breath – YES! DID THAT JUST HAPPEN!?
Then more information crashes like waves upon the beaches of your mind…
That clinched the wild card! On the last game of the season! We’re going to the playoffs!
I’ve seen this in boxing and other individual sports and it exhilarates me as well. But the bond between the players in celebration almost becomes tangible. That emotional force has a special character doesn’t compare well seen in contrast to the gratefulness an athlete has for the people who supported him on his rise to the top. Having teammates emphasizes the collaborative efforts and complex series of connections that occurred.
Life is full of interconnections that we often overlook. Studying music was one of the activities that defined my teenage development. Those kinds of interests may shuffle you into others because of strange circumstances. It’s because of music that I began to love the game of football. Why? I joined the marching band.
So when you’re in the band at a football game, you have to pay attention to what’s going on. Fight song – when our team scores. Ride of the Valkyries – when the offense takes the field. The Imperial March – when the defense gets on. Hey Song – when the cheerleaders want to do aerials. Pay attention to the drum major so we know when to start and stop. Even with all of the directions to bear in mind, there can be a lot of tedium giving the band members time to chat, bond, and make memories. Then it’s off to college and do it all over again but on a bigger scale. Now you’re following scores throughout the week and hoping your team gets a bowl game that the school will pay for you to attend. But it’s only for football. There isn’t a marching band playing Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the 7th inning stretch. Maybe that’s why more of my piano/organ player friends are baseball fans and regular churchgoers.
At the high school graduation for a 4-star recruit going to a highly ranked Division IA college football program, there was an interesting announcement. Many of the students, who received special awards and scholarships, had their accomplishments announced. This recruit’s “scholarship” included a Jeep Grand Cherokee. You can let that marinate for a while.
Watching ESPN as religiously as many sports fanatics, I began to wonder if these news anchors (I’m using this term loosely) and analysts (once again, a far cry from what it should be) realized the terrible value judgments they were making when propping up or taking down athletes for their issues with the system, the general public, their teammates, etc. Once you’ve emotionally uncoupled yourself from the sports matrix, sports scandals and their subsequent melodramas don’t flirt with the absurd. They are the epitome of it.
The multi-billion dollar sports economy will never function free of corruption but there are pockets where it is strong and weak. Sometimes you just take what you can get. In doing so, you find you have more than you asked for.
What does this have to do with baseball and rekindling a love for the game?
Major League Baseball has had its share of scandals and continues to deal with social issues about fair play, affordable tickets, and player health/salary problems. What drew me back to baseball as a fan is an acceptance of responsibility that seems to be lacking in football and basketball. You see open discussion about the old negro league, performance enhancing drugs, off-field substance abuse problems, and so much more. Some may say that it’s because there’s a deeper history to draw from but I believe there’s more.
For me, the glamour of NFL and NBA marketing collapsed upon the deteriorating foundation of a warped game. We’re starting to see this being called into question. The human element has been stripped from the adjudication of the game or suspiciously inserted to fabricate preferred monetary outcomes. Lowering the mound because Bob Gibson’s (and a few other MLB slingers at the time) tremendous dominance is different than forcing defensive backs who are generally smaller than wide receivers to have less options for playing defense so that fans get to see more touchdowns scored. The number of YouTube videos showing NBA superstars breaking gameplay rules, like traveling and double dribbling, is comical. Watching women play with more grit and determination in World Cup games than men who swan dive because a hand flicked in their direction breaks my sports fan heart.
Don’t see the difference? It’s in the spirit of creating a competitive playing field rather than exploiting a loophole.
Baseball demands athletes of a variety of skill sets and combinations. A single specialist cannot determine the outcome of games and seasons such as we’ve seen with the other four major sports leagues. It’s a more honest game for a time when people need it. It’s a game that demands long-term thinking and patience rather than reactionary trades and changes. That’s not to say that they don’t exist but, in baseball, that’s seen as a signal of weakness rather than one for positive change.
It’s not perfect but it’s honest. That’s perfect for me.
*I want to clarify my remark on the comparison of how women and men play soccer. It’s not that I don’t believe women are dainty flowers or such nonsense. It’s that the women play harder but get less television exposure, less prize money from FIFA and their governments, and less gender-neutral marketing. This difference, in that I have to laboriously search for a sports bar that will play a women’s World Cup match on their main screen, is what I find appalling. Especially since they play the game with more of the heart and hustle that I respect above all.
It is not looking good for Pete Rose to gain reinstatement to baseball. The report released by ESPN chronicling Rose’s gambling during the 1986 season, flies in the face of what Rose finally admitted a decade ago. After his banishment in 1989, Rose steadfastly denied that he ever bet on baseball. When Rose did admit to betting on baseball in 2004, he said it was only as a manager. Now ESPN’s report says he bet on games while he was still playing.
What a shame. Pete Rose was at the top of the baseball world. He could have built a home at the summit, but instead he will forever be in the dark shadows looking up at the summit wondering why he cannot get back there. Not sure if it is from ego, addiction, or just stupidity. Regardless he broke the one rule in Major League Baseball that cannot be touched and he has faced severe punishment for it.
Pete Rose has admitted to betting on baseball. The rules on gambling in baseball are simple:
Section D of Major League Baseball Rule 21 states:
- Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform, shall be declared ineligible for one year.
- Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible.
This rule has been in place since 1927. Pete Rose was not alive when it became a rule, so he cannot argue that it was applied after the fact. The rule greeted Rose when he entered professional baseball. There are those who argue that players at one time used amphetamines like candy and thus they should be punished like Rose or Rose should not be punished like them. The problem with the amphetamine user being compared to Rose is that at the time amphetamines were not illegal in baseball when they used them, but betting was illegal when Rose did. We all make mistakes and must live with them; Rose is no different.
The recent push to bring Rose back into baseball has done a disservice to the game. It seems like he is getting special treatment over players like Shoeless Joe Jackson, simply because he is a live and Jackson is not. Just as baseball should not try to pick and choose which records to recognize from players in the steroid era, they should not pick and choose with Pete Rose. Punish those who break the rules according to the rules you have in place. Fail a drug test, 80 games. Fail a second test, good-bye for 162 games. Fail a third test; hope you have a backup plan. Like it or not, those are the rules. In regards to gambling on baseball the rules are clear. Bet on any game you are not involved in and you are suspended for a year. Bet on a game you are involved in, you are permanently banned.
Pete Rose admitted to betting on baseball, but was it the whole truth? It is looking like he held back the full truth. There are no winners in this situation. Baseball should have long ago celebrated Charlie Hustle, but his own actions he violated the rules of the game and his punishment prevents such a celebration from ever occurring. Time has passed since Rose was banned, and the calls for his reinstatement have gained traction. However, would this energy to get Rose back into baseball exist if he was not the all-time hit king, highly doubtful. The rule book does not care if you are Pete Rose or if you are a player who appears in a single game. If you break the rules, there are consequences.
There are those who want to look past Rose’s transgressions and reinstate him to baseball. This would be a terrible mistake. Sports and gambling have a long history together. While there is nothing wrong with betting on a game, if you are not involved and can do so responsibly, there is something wrong when you bring even the hint of dishonesty, real or otherwise, to the game. Shoeless Joe Jackson and seven other members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox were banned from baseball, even though they were acquitted by a jury. The new Commissioner of Baseball, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, understood that even the possible appearance of dishonesty on the field could ruin baseball.
The disastrous impact of gambling on baseball has a more modern example, the Chinese Professional Baseball League (Taiwan). There have been multiple game fixing scandals, which have drastically hurt the popularity and stability of the league. The league has dwindled down to only four teams. Sadly, the gambling issues in the CPBL have become as normalized as the steroid scandals in Major League Baseball. The mob bribed players with money, women, and more, to intentionally lose games. It is a common downfall for many in young men, including professional athletes, and the force of the mob behind these vices in Taiwan could easily come to Major League baseball and ruin the game. If the bribes failed to secure the players cooperation in fixing games, the mob is not unwilling to use force. The influence of mob connected gambling has led to players receiving threats to their safety, having been kidnapped, assaulted, and prosecuted. Players and managers are quitting over concerns for their safety. These are not signs of anything positive in the CPBL.
As a manager (and now presumably as a player) Pete Rose bet on the Cincinnati Reds to win. This can be seen as belief in the team, but what happens if Rose started losing large sums of money? What could have happened if his gambling connections “suggested” the Reds lose in a game they were heavily favored? Charlie Hustle would run through a brick wall to win a game, but what if people are threatening to hurt his family? What could he do then? It is too easy to go from betting on your team to betting against your team, and subsequently influencing the game to ensure your team does not win.
Pete Rose made his own choices. His insatiable fire for competition made him great as a player, but it also led to his downfall. The man was a phenomenal baseball player, but no one is bigger than the game. When you break the rules, you must also accept the punishments that have been laid out before you. Rose accepted the lifetime ban from baseball. Commissioner Bart Giamatti did not banish him. Rose chose to accept his fate. You have to live with your decisions in life. He knew betting on baseball was against the rules, and if he was caught he would be punished severely. Rose gambled and lost.
Rose broke the unbreakable rule in baseball. Strike one. Rose lied about his betting on baseball for over a decade, and finally came clean in part to help sell a book. Strike two. Not telling the full truth regarding his gambling on baseball, does nothing to help his credibility and convince people he has changed his life. Strike three. Sorry Charlie, you are out.
The New York Yankees signed Chase Headley to a 4 year contract worth $52 million. This solidifies the Yankees at third through 2018. When the deal was announced, ESPN’s Buster Olney made the observation that this meant the Yankees did not have an everyday role for Alex Rodriguez. The 2015 Yankees would have a lineup of CF Jacoby Ellsbury, LF Brett Gardner, 2B Martin Prado, 3B Chase Headley, DH Carlos Beltran, C Brian McCann, 1B Mark Teixeira, RF Chris Young, SS Didi Gregorius.
Notice anyone missing from the Yankee lineup? What about Alex Rodriguez? Where will Rodriguez fit into the Yankees plans for 2015 and beyond? At this point in his career, Rodriguez has three options as far as playing. He can continue at third, move to first, or be the DH.
At third, Rodriguez will most likely serve as the backup for Headley. As a switch hitter, Headley will not yield at bats to Rodriguez based upon match ups. However, even if Headley were to get hurt or needs a day off, the Yankees could have moved Prado from second to third to keep the defense in the infield solid and give some time at second to young Jose Pirela. Prado’s trade to the Marlins means Pirela or Brendan Ryan will be at second. I believe the Yankees should put Pirela at second and have Ryan as the infield back up. The Yankees need some sort of youth movement if they are to continue playing competitively moving forward. Honestly, as Rodriguez approaches his 40-year-old season, after a year away from the game, and the preceding year cut short by yet another hip injury, it is doubtful Rodriguez still has the range to play an average third base defensively. Third seems does not look like a home, even temporarily, for Rodriguez.
At first base, Rodriguez would either be the backup to Mark Teixeira or platoon with him. I would vote to avoid the platoon. When healthy, Teixeira is a major asset to the Yankees and their success. A potential hindrance for Rodriguez at first could be if the Yankees try to begin transitioning Brian McCann from behind the plate to first, which they should. Teixeira only has two years remaining on his contract, so the Yankees will have to begin the process of finding his replacement either from their system, through trade or free agency, or from their roster. The Yankees need the most from their investment in McCann and continuing to catch will reduce his playing time and effectiveness. As a lefty, McCann’s power to the right field porch should give him an edge over Rodriguez. Again, Rodriguez’s hips and age, plus the move to a new position could greatly hinder his ability to play an average first base defensively.
As the DH, Rodriguez is facing some stiff competition. Carlos Beltran seems to be the preferred DH for the Yankees. Beltran is a switch hitter, this he will not be pinch hit for due to matchups late in games. Even when Beltran plays the outfield to give Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, or Chris Young a day off this does not mean there is an opening at DH. Any of these outfielders could be the DH instead of Beltran. Additionally, when Beltran needs a day off, McCann could DH, so could Teixeira, and Headley. Rodriguez has to six players to jump over to claim at bats as the DH. Strangely, this is his best option for at bats.
These three positions do not leave Rodriguez many opportunities to play every day. At this point in his career the likelihood of Rodriguez’s health allows him to play every day are growing smaller and smaller. He has essentially missed the past two seasons; it may be difficult for Rodriguez to rebound. He played 44 games in 2013 due to injury and served a suspension for all of the 2014 season. In addition to the aches and pains of entering his 40-year-old season, Rodriguez has undergone multiple hip surgeries. This has hampered his speed, range, and his ability to stay on the field. Rodriguez is showing his age and the impact of 20 seasons in Major League Baseball.
Rodriguez is not the same player he once was before his troubles with his hip, a PED suspension, and his popularity taking a nosedive. He has not hit above .276 since 2009. Rodriguez has played an average of 110 games a season since 2008, without playing more than 138 in any season, excluding his suspension for all of 2014. During his last three seasons played (2011-2013), Rodriguez has no more than 18 home runs and 62 RBIs in a season. His Offensive WAR has gone down every year since 2007, from a high of 9.5 to 0.8. Only once since 2005 has Rodriguez been above a 1.0 Defensive WAR, with four of those seasons being in the negative. He has only been over a 2.0 Defensive WAR once, in 2000 at 2.3. Clearly, his skills have deteriorated.
Alex Rodriguez was once one of the best players in all of Major League Baseball. However, growing older, injuries, PED use and suspension, and becoming the face of what is wrong with the game have left Rodriguez as a tired act. He is in the swan song of his career, and he has becoming the most polarizing figure in the game. Rodriguez is approaching some of the most hallowed numbers in the sport, which should create a buzz about the 2015 season. Instead, his march into history pains those who love this game. He sits 61 hits shy of 3,000. He is 6 home runs away from tying Willie Mays, 60 away from Babe Ruth, and 101 away from Hank Aaron. He currently has a career batting average of .299, if he has one more good year at the plate he could assure himself a .300 career batting average. He is 81 runs short of scoring 2,000 for his career. He is 31 RBI short of 2,000 for his career. All of these statistics place Rodriguez in the upper echelon of baseball history, but primarily through his own doing, many in baseball simply want him to go away.
Alex Rodriguez has served his time. Regardless if you think he should have gotten more or less time, or wish he had received a permanent ban from the game, Rodriguez will not be the last player to cut corners to gain an advantage over his competition. Hopefully, Rodriguez will be the final chapter of the Steroid era on the field. Rodriguez is a sad figure, much in the same way Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have become. These players had Hall of Fame caliber talent, but they tried to hang on to their skills through various forms of cheating, and in so doing so they have ruined their legacies. Alex Rodriguez has earned more than $356 million, and unless he and the Yankees can reach an agreement to part ways, his earnings will surpass $400 million, which is the most career earnings in baseball history. Derek Jeter earned $265 million, the second highest career earnings in baseball history, the difference in the legacies of Rodriguez and Jeter are night and day. Will the extra $100 to $150 million Rodriguez will earn be worth it?
The return of Alex Rodriguez will soon be upon us, whether we like it or not. There does not seem to be many at bats awaiting him with the Yankees as he attempts to chase down some of the biggest names in baseball history. Does Rodriguez belong in the same conversation as the greats like Mays, Ruth, Aaron, Clemente, Gehrig, Williams? Statistically yes. On the field he has proven for 20 seasons he has Hall of Fame caliber skills and can do it all with the bat. No player ever accidentally amasses the sort of numbers he has collected.
Does Rodriguez belong alongside these Hall of Famers in terms of class? Not even close. He has cheated multiple times, and continues to play the victim. You can argue he is no better than Mays and his reported use of amphetamines, but what makes Rodriguez different is the amphetamines do not alter your abilities, steroids do. He admitted to using PEDs from 2001 through 2003. While we can debate whether one believes that after 2003 Rodriguez discontinued his use of PEDs, what is not up for debate is his admission to using them during these three seasons. These also, consequently were the most prolific three year span of his career. In 2010, Rodriguez was connected to Canadian doctor Anthony Galea, who at best has a checkered past with the law enforcement for providing and administering PEDs to elite athletes. The latest run in for Rodriguez has been through his association with Biogenesis and Anthony Bosch. While Rodriguez never failed a drug test, Commissioner Bud Selig suspended Rodriguez for 211 games, later reduced to the 2014 season. Major League Baseball suspended Rodriguez:
“for use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances…over the course of multiple years” and “for attempting to cover-up his violations of the Program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner’s investigation.”
The crime gets you in trouble; the cover up is what tears you down. Rodriguez later admitted to the Drug Enforcement Administration that he had indeed used PEDs. Rodriguez has a pattern of cheating, even after the installation of the Major League Baseball Drug Policy. Everyone makes mistakes, however Rodriguez does not seem to have learned from his mistakes.
It seems three strikes does not mean Alex Rodriguez is out. He has three seasons remaining on his contract with the Yankees. He has become so toxic within baseball, and outside of baseball, that after the 2017 season his career with baseball as a whole is almost certainly over. Unless the Yankees can work out a deal with Rodriguez to buy out the remainder of his contract, or his hips force his retirement, it is unlikely he will leave before his contract is up. Alex Rodriguez is a survivor, through it all he continues to come back for more. What a shame that this sort of resiliency is wasted on Rodriguez. There are so many great people in and around baseball; unfortunately, Rodriguez has the ability to survive regardless of the damage he does to the game. He takes the headline away from the people and events, which make baseball the great sport it is.
Pete Rose. Just the mention of his name can flood the minds of baseball fans with memories of Charlie Hustle. Sprinting to first after drawing a walk. Sliding head first into third. Colliding with Ray Fossee during the 1970 All-Star game. Standing on first trying to hold back tears after passing Ty Cobb for the all time hits record. Shoving Umpire Dave Pallone during an argument. Commissioner Bart Giamatti announcing Rose has been banned from baseball for life. Being interviewed by Jim Gray during the All Century Team ceremony and avoiding all discussion of his ban from baseball. Everyone of these memories and countless others are how we remember Pete Rose, but the good is overshadowed by the bad. Pete Rose was and continues to be banned from baseball for betting on games he managed.
Baseball, and those who run it, have long been concerned about keeping the integrity of the game intact. They have gone through gambling scandals, recreational drug using players, racist and insensitive players, owners, and executives, steroid and performance-enhancing drug using players, and numerous other unsavory episodes throughout baseball’s history. However, the one which has the greatest ability to damage baseball is gambling. Fans want the games to be played on the level with everyone trying to win. Fans often do not care what a player thinks about different issues, nor do steroid using players do so to lose the game. They are seeking an advantage over their opponent. If you take away the belief that everyone is playing to win, then you could reasonably see the death of any sport, including baseball.
Baseball’s first Commissioner, Kennesaw Mountain Landis, understood this in the years following the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Gambling could destroy baseball and something had to be done. In 1927, after several more isolated occurrences of gambling in baseball, Landis created Rule 21 in 1927. Section D of Major League Baseball Rule 21 states:
- Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform, shall be declared ineligible for one year.
- Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible.
It is plain and simple, you do not have to translate the rule from legalese to understand that if you bet on baseball you will be suspended for a minimum of one year, if you bet on your own team, even to win, then you are gone forever. Not just for life, forever. Or as Michael “Squints” Palledorous from The Sandlot would say, “Forever. FOREVER. FOR-EV-ER. F-O-R-E.-V-E-R!”
The latest round of attention on Pete Rose and his banishment from baseball is from the book by Kostya Kennedy, Pete Rose: An American Dilemma. Sports Illustrated has an excerpt from the book in its March 10th edition. We are also approaching the 25th Anniversary of Sports Illustrated reporting that Rose bet on baseball, which the magazine first reported on March 21, 1989. The question of whether it is time to reexamine the ban on Pete Rose is posed in the except. Rose remains extremely popular in Cincinnati and with his former teammates. Fans flock to see him and to get his autograph at shows. Portions of the media, including baseball fanatic and ESPN’s Keith Olbermann support the reinstatement of Rose. While I enjoy listening to Olbermann talk about baseball and its history I could not disagree with him more that Rose deserves to be reinstated.
Rose should remain banned from baseball for his transgressions, as there are some violations of the rules which deserve a death penalty of sorts. Yes, America is the land of second opportunities but Rose chose to abuse his second chance. Rose broke the rules, much like the performance-enhancing drug users I have referenced in previous here. The difference is Rose sought to alter the game through means which had been against the rules of baseball for 36 years prior to his first appearance. The performance-enhancing drug users were going around baseball’s lack of drug testing and enforcement to gain an advantage. Once the rules changed, only then the rules were reflective of creating a level playing field based upon what a player could and could not consume.
Gambling was and is forbidden by Major League Baseball and yet Rose chose to ignore the rules. He had opportunities to come clean long before he did, but never did. He could have admitted what he did to then Commissioner Bart Giamatti and pleaded for mercy. I am in no way suggesting that admitting he had bet on baseball, specifically on Reds games, would have softened the penalty levied against him by the Commissioner. I would suggest however that being honest and forth coming could have changed the hearts and minds people over the last 25 years and potentially allowed for Bart Giamatti in the weeks after handing down the ban, or his successor Fay Vincent, or Bud Selig, or the next Commissioner of Baseball to alter the punishment. The truth could have set Rose free. He could have been credited with good behavior and had his sentence commuted to time served. Instead he continued to lie and to profess his innocence against the charges against him until he released his autobiography, My Prison Without Bars, in 2004. Even his confession was unbecoming a player of his stature. Rose tried to stick it to Major League Baseball as he was making money on his confession through the sale of his book, instead of coming to Major League Baseball to beg for mercy. He never faced the truth until it was also a way for him to benefit from it. I have no issue with people making money off of their accomplishments, such as former Presidents writing books about their time in office or entertainers selling their memorabilia to the highest bidder. The problem with Rose is that he could have made money off of his accomplishments and come clean, but he chose to do them both at the same time. To say the least this is in poor taste. This raises the question: are you confessing because you are ready to tell the truth or because you want the book to sell more copies?
If Bud Selig or any future Commissioner decides that Pete Rose should be allowed back into baseball and is removed from the permanently ineligible list I believe it would do two things. It would set an extremely bad precedent and it would also be unfair to the other individuals on the permanently ineligible list. Why should Pete Rose be allowed back in and not the others. Allowing Rose back into baseball would enable people in the future to cite his reinstatement as the precedent for reducing their penalties. Imagine if Rose had been reinstated three years ago. Would Alex Rodriguez been able to point to Rose and argue that his season long suspension should be reduced to 100 games? Would Ryan Braun been able to argue that his first failed test should not count against him because he had not been previously warned not break the rules? The what ifs are too great. The reinstatement of Rose has the potential to allow the worst of baseball to remain in the game and to continue robbing the game of its integrity and the fans of their belief in the sport.
George Bechtel, Jim Devlin, George Hall, Al Nichols, Bill Craver, Dick Higham, Jack O’Connor, Harry Howell, Horace Fogel, Hal Chase, Heinie Zimmerman, Eddie Cicotte, Happy Felsch, Chick Gandil, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Fred McMullin, Swede Risberg, Buck Weaver, Lefty Williams, Joe Gedeon, Gene Paulette, Benny Kauff, Lee Magee, Phil Douglas, Jimmy O’Connell, and William Cox. These are the 26 men who for various reasons ranging from gambling, to jumping between teams before free agency, to car theft are on the permanently ineligible list for Major League Baseball. Pete Rose is #27. If you reinstate only Rose, then I fully expect an explanation as to why he received special treatment. Is it because he is the only living member of this exclusive “club”? If you allow Rose back in for time served then the rest of these men should have been reinstated a long time ago. William Cox is the only person to be banned since 1925 besides Rose. If reinstatement is to happen then you cannot pick and choose. Baseball would be at best hypocritical to allow Rose in while keeping another one of the games great hitter, Shoeless Joe Jackson, out of the game. I firmly believe that Jackson’s banishment should be reexamined as there is sufficient evidence that suggests he was not a part of the Black Sox Scandal. It is impossible to know for certain, however I do know that the cries for letting Rose back in should fall on deaf ears so long as there is not a serious consideration of allowing the rest of the banned players, an umpire, and an owner back in. They should all be in or all be out, not split up. None of those who were thrown out for betting on baseball were breaking the rules, they are the reason the rule was put into place. They were thrown out because they broke the trust between players and fans about playing to win every game. Rose does not have that argument, as the rule was in place long before he got to the Majors and he still chose to ignore it.
Rose is banned from baseball but he is still getting along fine. He is a constant presence in Cooperstown during the Hall of Fame inductions each summer. The Hall of Fame in which his accomplishments are recorded, but which he will never become a member. He makes a good living doing public appearances and signing autographs, and so long as he pays his taxes he has little to worry about financially. The realization that time is no longer on his side and the ban from the game he love has teeth is becoming, I believe, more painful every year. His ban does have some holes in it. He has been allowed back on the field for being a part of the All Century Team and on the anniversary of breaking Ty Cobb’s hits record. He was on hand when his son, Pete Rose Jr. made his Major League debut. Rose has not been totally thrown out in the cold. He is close enough to the proverbial fire to feel a little of its warmth but not close enough to bask in its glow, and for me this is as close as he should ever get.
Rose broke a single rule of baseball. The impact which his transgressions could have on the entire game warranted the measures Commissioner Giamatti took and all subsequent Commissioners have upheld. What Pete Rose accomplished on the field should be celebrated by those who love baseball, but he should also serve as a warning. No one, regardless how great they are, is bigger than the game. There is no dilemma about Pete Rose for me. He is and should remained banned from baseball. His gambling could have fractured the foundation upon which the game has been built upon for over 100 years. Everyone is playing to win. He should not receive special treatment while the other members of the permanently ineligible list are ignored. Major League Baseball cannot pick and chose who they will and will not reinstate. You either reinstate them all or you leave them as they are, banned. Pete Rose made his mistakes and now he has to pay the price, the only living member of a club no one wants to join.
For those of use who want to understand everything we can about baseball there is another outlet for us. The man leading the charge is Dr. Alan Nathan. He is the Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research is regarding the physics of baseball.
Dr. Nathan’s research can be found here. Videos of his research are available here. He appeared on the ESPN podcast Behind the Dish with Keith Law (start a little before 9:00) discussing his research and answering physics questions related to baseball. Dr. Nathan is doing what we all wish we could do. Spending our entire day learning, watching, and trying to understand baseball.