Sunday, November 12, 2017
Pete Rose's Hit Record Will Endure as Will His Awful Legacy
Baseball has many hallowed records, many of which have stood for generations. That's what makes some of the game's greats seem like immortals.
Some records are thought to be unbreakable, making them almost sacred, such as Ted Williams .406 batting average in 1946 or Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak that same year.
Another such record is Pete Rose's career hits record. Rose notched a whopping 4, 256 hits in his 24-year major league career. Considering that only four other players have topped 3,500 hits and that the leading active player is Ichiro Suzuki, who has 3,080 hits, it's safe to say that Rose's remarkable record may remain unmatched.
To break Rose's record, a player would have to average 200 hits a year for 21 years. To do so, that player would not only need to remain elite into his 40s, he would also need to remain healthy and injury free. Additionally, he would need to maintain tremendous motivation, the kind that doesn’t fade after 15 or so years and perhaps $100 million in career earnings — the kind of money that would allow someone to live the rest of his life on an island, sipping pina coladas, long before reaching age 40.
For perspective, Ichiro Suzuki amassed 200 hits in 10 straight seasons. However, over his last seven seasons, he has averaged just 119 hits.
At age 38, Rose played in 163 games, notching 208 hits. At age 39 he played 162 games. At age 41, Rose played in 162 games and at age 42, he played 151 games. It's hard to imagine that happening again, most especially in the National League.
Rose was an All Star and finished in the top-10 in the MVP balloting at age 40. He was again an All Star at age 41. Rose batted .286 at age 43 (Ichiro batted .255 this season, at age 43) and posted a .395 on-base percentage at age 44. Rose didn’t merely have longevity; he had sustained greatness.
In an era of pronounced strikeouts, quite remarkably, 25 players struck out at least 150 times this season, led by the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who fanned a whopping 208 times. Also notable is that 136 players struck out at least 100 times.
However, over his last 16 seasons, Rose never struck out more than 54 times in a season. That now seems other worldly.
What complicates or even tarnishes Rose’s legacy, of course, is the fact that he bet on baseball, while managing the Cincinnati Reds.
In August, 1984, the Expos traded Rose back to the Reds, who immediately named him player-manager. He remained in that role, until he retired as a player after the 1986 season. However, Rose remained manager of the Reds until August 24, 1989.
At the start of the 1989 season, a Sports Illustrated cover story detailed allegations that Rose had placed bets on baseball games.
Subsequently, and at the request of MLB, lawyer John Dowd investigated charges that Rose bet on baseball, while managing the Reds. Dowd interviewed numerous Rose associates, including bookies and bet runners, and delivered a summary of his findings to Commissioner Bart Giamatti in May, 1989.
Dowd documented Rose's alleged gambling activities in 1985 and 1986 and compiled a day-by-day account of Rose's alleged betting on baseball games in 1987. The report showed that Rose bet on 52 Reds games in 1987, wagering a minimum of $10,000 a day.
Consequently, Rose voluntarily accepted a permanent ban from baseball on August 24, 1989, recognizing that there was factual evidence supporting his ban.
Despite this, Rose vehemently and publicly denied the allegations for 15 years, until finally admitting them in his autobiography My Prison Without Bars, which was published in January, 2004.
Though the Dowd Report says, "no evidence was discovered that Rose bet against the Reds," Dowd stated in a December 2002 interview that he believed Rose probably bet against the Reds while managing them.
Yet, there were still more events that further sullied Rose's name and reputation.
On April 20, 1990, Rose pleaded guilty to two charges of filing false income tax returns that failed to show income he received from selling autographs and memorabilia, as well as from horse racing winnings. He was sentenced to five months in a medium-security prison.
Then, just this summer, Rose faced allegations that he had consensual sex with a 14 or 15-year-old girl in the 1970s, while he was in his 30s and married, with children. The woman, now in her late 50s, verified the accusation in a sworn statement. The age of consent in Ohio, where Rose lived while playing for the Reds at the time, is 16. Rose admitted the sexual relationship, but said he thought the girl was 16 at the time, as if that somehow absolved him.
In 2010, Deadspin reported Rose used corked bats during his 1985 pursuit of Ty Cobb's all-time hits record. Two sports memorabilia collectors who owned Rose's game-used bats from that season had the bats x-rayed and found the telltale signs of corking. Rose had previously denied using corked bats.
Until that point, Rose's greatness as a player and his accomplishments on the field were indisputable. Since then, a shadow has been cast over his playing career.
What remains indisputable is that Pete Rose has been revealed as a man who is entirely lacking in ethics, principles and morals.
Rose's clear lack of character have forced him to live, and eventually die, in infamy, even though his hits record will endure through history.