Pete Rose4

The Greek gods and goddesses called Mount Olympus home.

Hestia. Hermes. Hera. Hephaestus. Hades. Aris. Artemis. Aphrodite. Apollo. Athena. Zeus. Poseidon. Each one had his or her own myths. None was infallible. Not a single one was perfect.

Major League Baseball’s heroes call Cooperstown home.

Babe Ruth. Ty Cobb. Willie Mays. Lou Gehrig. Mickey Mantle. Joe DiMaggio. Christy Mathewson. Tris Speaker. Hank Aaron. Ted Williams. Walter Johnson. Stan Musial. As in Greek mythology, each of the gods of America’s diamonds has a story. They are not without faults.

On Monday, current MLB commissioner Rob Manfred upheld Pete Rose’s lifetime ban from baseball, denying him his seat in the shrine.

Rose was originally suspended for life on Aug. 24, 1989 by late-commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti for gambling on baseball and the Cincinnati Reds while he served as the team’s manager. Rose is baseball’s all-time leader in hits, at-bats and games played, among others.

Rose would be the first to admit he was no saint. That doesn’t make him a rarity among the gods.

Cobb and Speaker were racist. Speaker was alleged to have been a member of Ku Klux Klan. The great men who ran the sport did not allow black players to play Major League Baseball until 1947. Cobb claimed to have killed a man in 1912. Mantle and Ruth were alcoholics and both were guilty of adultery on dozens, if not hundreds, of occasions. Williams, Aaron and Mays were surly with media and fans. Mathewson was disliked by large factions of teammates.

None of those faults kept any of those men out of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Pete Rose3Rose was the ultimate teammate, agreeing to move from left field to third base in order for manager Sparky Anderson to solidify what had become the Big Red Machine by moving George Foster into left. He didn’t drink overly much as he wanted to be sharp. Sure, he was driven by statistics, but no great athlete is ignorant of his numbers. He did like his women.

All told, he probably sits right in the middle between Gerhrig, Musial and Mathewson and Cobb, Speaker and Ruth on the scale of saintliness.

Rose admits he gambled on baseball. He has, in later years, even admitted to betting on his own team. But gambling on baseball isn’t exclusive to Rose when speaking of the greats.

Cobb and Speaker were accused of betting on the very same 1919 World Series famous for the eight Chicago White Sox players who were later barred for life for fixing games. Since neither was found guilty of fixing any games, each was allowed to remain in baseball. The incident led to the rule that later allowed Giamatti to ban Rose, though the late commissioner proved to be shady in his own right in the deal.

After the incident with Speaker and Cobb in 1926, commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis mandated that any player found guilty of betting on baseball would be suspended for a year and that any player found to have bet on his own team would be barred for life. Cobb later claimed that the attorneys representing him and Speaker had brokered their reinstatement by threatening to expose further scandal in baseball if the two were not cleared.

Rose agreed to his ban with the agreement he could apply for reinstatement after a year, no doubt leading the all-time hits leader to believe he would be reinstated at some point.

Giamatti died of a heart attack just eight days following his banishment of Rose. What has followed is a battle of wills between Rose and Major League Baseball.

Neither party is 100-percent in the right and neither is completely wrong. Rose admitted in September that he still gambles on baseball. He refuses to change his lifestyle in order to appease baseball.

Baseball, on the other hand, has been heavy-handed with its punishment of Rose while first hiding, then playing down the use of steroids in baseball.

Say what you will about Rose and his habits. He was not a man who would ever purposely endanger his team’s ability to win a baseball game. Quite the contrary, actually. Rose would run over his own mother at a family picnic if it meant winning. His nickname, “Charlie Hustle,” stems from the way Rose played the game he loved.

Pete Rose2The one thing Rose would not do was cheat, which is exactly what Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens, who in later years broke most of baseball’s sacred records, did in using steroids. Their actions changed not only the outcomes of games and seasons, but altered the record books and irreparably damaged baseball’s reputation with fans. Every great feat is first met with the question of whether the player was clean of steroids before it is applauded. Fans have become disenchanted with the game.

Not a single fan left the baseball world after Rose was found to have gambled on the game he gave his life to.

Rose is no better and no worse than any of baseball’s all-time greats.

Baseball has no better living ambassador than Peter Edward Rose.

During one of the greatest games in baseball history, Cincinnati’s Game 6 extra-inning loss to Boston in the 1975 World Series, Rose was reported to have told anyone who crossed his path – opponents and umpires included – what a great game the teams were involved in.

It’s time Major League Baseball takes the high road and honors Rose with his place in Cooperstown.