In new editions of dictionaries next to the word “irony,” photographs of Pete Rose should be included.
The all-time greatest Cincinnati Reds player is banned for life from Major League Baseball for gambling on the sport, including playing, coaching, managing or being placed on the Hall of Fame ballot for voters’ consideration.
Yet just days ago, his old team, for which he competed most of his lengthy career, announced that BetMGM, a sports betting and IGaming operator, has become an “Official Sports Betting Partner.”
As if that is not enough to qualify for being No. 1 ranked in the irony category, BetMGM will be opening a sportsbook at Great American Ball Park in 2023.
Betting on baseball, basketball, football, hockey, you name it, once was pretty much only a Las Vegas thing. Over the last few years, following court rulings, numerous states have legalized sports betting and special deals have been cut between betting operators and the governing bodies of big-time sports organizations. It is basically impossible to watch a game on television these days without seeing a commercial for some sort of betting outlet.
Given the pervading climate, one can’t blame the Reds for seeking to maximize revenue. And the Reds certainly have not been remiss in honoring Rose, the all-time big-league hits leader within the confines of the team’s Hall of Fame and with a Pete Rose Way adjacent to the ball park.
No, it is Major League Baseball that should be called out for hypocrisy when developments such as betting parlors within parks keep occurring. MLB is most assuredly in a marriage of convenience with gambling. Love may not be involved, but vows have been exchanged.
Clearly, the sports fans’ attitude and the games’ climates have changed since Rose was exiled from baseball in 1989. Now 81, Rose has been on the outs for 33 years after spending 24 years playing and between 1984 and 1989 managing.
A lifetime .303 hitter, winner of two batting titles, a rookie of the year award, an MVP honor, a symbol of hustle in the game, Rose is most famous for owning the all-time hits record, breaking the seemingly unbreakable mark belonging to Ty Cobb and finishing with 4,256 hits.
Given the complete flip in outlook toward sports betting by the public at-large and by MLB, not to mention his time served, it would be appropriate for the commissioner’s office to parole Rose and reinstate him in good standing to baseball.
Obviously, Rose is not going to play at his age. Nor is he going to manage a team again, especially since he seems to be in declining health. Within the last couple of years, Rose has made declarations suggesting his health is giving out and essentially that he is disabled. Mostly, his active involvement with baseball has been exercising his right arm to sign autographs.
Really, the tangible issue is whether Rose, whose on-field credentials long ago would have qualified him for election to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, will be placed on the ballot for potential election during his lifetime.
Members of the Chicago White Sox 1919 team that fixed the World Series remain banned for life, a taint on their names for trying to lose. But in a parallel to Rose’s case, the byproduct is that “Shoeless” Joe Jackson has never been considered for the Hall of Fame, an entity that did not even exist yet when he was playing. Jackson died in 1951, but some still attempt to gain him reinstatement.
Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa have been tarred with the label of being steroid users, of cheating to improve performance. They are not banned by MLB, but voters have taken retribution in sufficient numbers to keep them from enshrinement.
Pete Rose sought every edge on the field. He broke rules, but he didn’t cheat. Next season, he can stop by the Great American Ball Park and legally bet on the Reds to win, just like the other 40,000 fans in attendance.
Even those who argue Rose originally deserved his MLB sentence should favor reinstatement because the baseball betting world has seismically changed during his lifetime.