Whenever I feel the fall air, I can't help but think about former Cincinnati Reds' and Philadelphia Phillies' great Pete Rose. Like some hardcore baseball fans, I still have full respect for his on-field production and seemingly unresolved ideas about his other 'activities'.
I can never forget what Rose's free agent acquisition meant to the Phillies' organization in late 1978, how it enabled Mike Schmidt's career to blossom, and what it sparked by the fall of 1980. But, those great memories will always be intertwined with mixed feelings about what was announced nine summers later by commissioner Bart Giamatti.
Read, or re-read, the Dowd Report, if you must. I've reviewed it and still find myself looking for more to the story. Failure to use logic can make someone seek unreachable conclusions.
Defending his mentor
The arrival of Rose on December 5, 1978 is rightly targeted as the day the Phillies' championship chances increased. Number 14 is the person who Schmidt credits with helping him to improve his overall approach to the game. By the spring of 1981, number 20 had a fresh National League MVP award listed on his resume and was wearing a World Series ring on his finger.
Schmidt was one of Rose's most ardent defenders after his ban from baseball, which was natural considering how one of the game's all-time greatest hitters had helped 'Herbie' (Rose's nickname for Schmidt) to literally come out of his career shell.
It's no coincidence that Schmidt won his first National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1980. Rose's presence helped to shift focus from the Phillies' third baseman. 'Charlie Hustle' also served as Schmidt's mentor, which helped him to realize his full potential.
Gambling on a continued ban
Now, I want to present some wild hypothetical scenarios: Major League Baseball hasn't kept Rose out of the game because of any personal grudge. Instead, it has proof that he bet on his own team(s): Reds, Phillies, and the Montreal Expos while he was a player? Maybe, the commissioner's office has proof that he bet against his team(s) while playing and while managing?
Anyone who engaged in either of those actions would never be allowed to return to the game. But, if Rose didn't behave in that manner and later did admit to gambling purely on the Reds while he was their manager, why hasn't he been reinstated?
Many moments of public controversy have no conspiracies connected to them. That doesn't stop people from randomly speculating, as I did above. That might be a way to try and transform the unthinkable into something more believable.
But, the facts as we know them are: Rose didn't bet on baseball while he was playing. He did bet on the Reds to win while he was managing that team in 1987, which was later proven. He was banned for life, but did not admit or deny (at that time) that he had gambled on baseball. Eliminating his presence from the sport was seen as the strongest possible deterrent for anyone who might consider repeating his actions in the future.
Some people didn't (or don't) want to accept that Rose's situation was that straightforward.
Winning and losing
Sometimes in life a hero leaps into Tug McGraw's arms after the Kansas City Royals have just been defeated and the World Series has been won.
Then, there are other times when we watch a man stand at the plate and take a called third strike in the last at bat of his career. He walks off the field, takes off the uniform, puts on his street clothes, leaves the clubhouse, drives away, and never returns to the stadium again.
It took a long time to actually accept that it all ended that way for Rose and that there is absolutely nothing that can be done to change the outcome. Not one thing.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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