Friday, April 13, 2007

Everything I Ever Needed To Know About Banning Pete Rose From The Hall Of Fame, I Learned From The Jews

A few months ago, I wrote a post about the Baseball Hall of Fame getting it right, and at the end of it I mentioned that I'd get to the Pete Rose issue another time. Under mounting and overwhelming pressure from my readers (Translation: last week, one guy half-heartedly mumbled "What about that Pete Rose thing?") we're now getting to it.

Pete Rose is one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Without question he's top-ten, more likely he's one of the top five greatest players ever. Let's run down his credentials:
  • 17 time All-Star
  • 44 game hit streak
  • 1963 Rookie of the Year, 1973 NL MVP, 1975 World Series MVP, three World Series championships
  • Rocked the "Moe" haircut more diligently than the entire People's Republic of China, or indeed Moe himself
  • All-time Hit King in baseball: 4,256 hits in his career
So the question gets asked all the time on sports-talk radio, "Why isn't Pete in the Hall?!" To answer that we set the Wayback Machine to 1919. The Chicago White Sox conspired to throw the World Series, accepting a few scraps in return. They bet against their own team and then went out and lost. This was the apocalypse for baseball because people simply didn't trust what happened on the field after that. If MLB didn't come down hard on the Black Sox team, no one would ever believe the box scores again. Gambling threatened in a very real way to turn Major League Baseball into professional wrestling*. It would have become nothing more than a curiosity, with a few inbreds occasionally tuning in to see if anyone would hit each other with a bat or if the bikini-clad female "managers" would have a catfight.

Baseball knew just how serious a crisis this was. It banned all the players for life (the cheating White Sox players, that is. If it banned all the players baseball might become more boring than it already is). Then the owners went out and got a commissioner who would act in the best interests of baseball and act impartially. Finally, they put a sign in every locker room: NO BETTING.

The argument for putting Pete Rose into the Hall is generally, "Well, there are a lot of dirtbags in the Hall, just add him to the list". True, there are racists, wife-beaters, drug abusers and worse in the Hall. Exhibit A is the player that Rose surpassed in the all-time hits category: Ty Cobb, one of the worst human beings who ever lived. But here's the thing: if a player beats his wife, you don't open the paper the next day and wonder if the Phillies really beat the Mets, or if the whole thing was fake. If a whacked-out cokehead of a relief-pitcher plows through a playground of second-graders in his SUV, you don't start questioning if the Mariners will purposely blow the opening game of that double-header this weekend. Individual criminal acts may sour you on that particular player or even on the team he plays for, but they don't make you question the basic reality of the sport.

Ask Boxing about that. Fifty years ago the three major sports in America were Baseball, Horseracing (somewhere, Pete Rose perks up and rubs his sweaty hands together without knowing why) and Boxing. When there was a heavyweight fight it was a must-see event. They held gigantic parades for the Champ when he came home. Now? Quick, who is the Heavyweight Champion of the World? No? I don't know either. Boxing has been eroded for three reasons:
  • Too many different governing bodies. There are at least a half-dozen different "belts" proclaiming the wearer champion of the world. It's absolutely baffling to try and figure out which are legitimate. It's as if the NFL was just as popular as the USFL, AFL and XFL, and they all had their own Super Bowls.
  • The greatest prize-fighters in the world today are playing middle-linebacker in football. Better to tear up your knee than stagger around drooling from brain-damage in your 50's.
  • Most importantly, we don't believe it anymore. Any time a guy gets knocked out we ask, "Do they both fight for Don King?" We joke that he had gambling debts to pay off, wonder if they took a dive, examine the punch in slow-motion to see if it really connected... in short, we just don't buy it. There's been too much corruption in boxing for too long.
"NO BETTING" is the Golden Rule in Baseball. Pete Rose broke that rule willingly and repeatedly, then lied about it for years and years, going out of his way to destroy people's careers to protect that lie. Sports sideline weasel/reporter Jim Gray asked Pete about his betting at one World Series and it almost cost him his job, with New York Yankee outfielder Chad Curtis refusing to even speak to Gray after the game because of it (you might remember Chad Curtis' famous quote from last week: "Have you considered all the benefits of a term-life insurance policy?").

To sum up, I finally reference the odd title of this post. For the Jewish People, the all-time hit king has to be Moses. He stood up to the Pharaoh, turned staves into snakes, wasted every first-born in Egypt, rained frogs and blood, parted the Red Sea and led the Chosen out of bondage and into the Promised Land. Not a bad week. But Moses didn't get to enter the Promised Land himself because when he was about to part the Red Sea, for a split-second he doubted whether God would actually make it happen for him. One screw-up and he's out, and Moses is a top-five Jew (#4, right behind Sammy Davis Junior if you were wondering).

Now, do the Jewish people turn around and say, "Well, it's been a few thousand years... he's learned his lesson... we've let other worse Jews in..." Fuck, no. Moses, you squat out there in the dirt with the Gentiles. There's a big "NO DOUBTING" sign in every Temple (okay, I'm guessing here. They won't let me in, more power to 'em) and every time someone considers Doubting God's Law, all they have to do is point to Moses. Look at him, there's the all-time hit king. He was the best of the best, but he flouted our biggest and most important rule so he's out. He's not out until he apologizes, he's not out until he writes a book about it or goes on a talk-radio show and cries, he's out period. Now every rank-and-file Israelite can look over at Moses and think to themselves, "If he's out for doing this, I better not even think about doing it".

Every season, Major League Baseball players will be tempted to bet on baseball, both for and against their own team. Virtually all of them will be will be far, far worse players than Pete Rose was. They'll think about it, then they'll peer out of the corner of their eye and see one of the greatest there ever was shuffling morosely outside the ballpark gates. "If he's out for doing this..."**

Congratulations, Pete. You now serve a very important function in Baseball: The Cautionary Tale. Which, by an odd coincidence is the name of the horse you've bet to Place at the track this weekend. Good luck, just take my advice and don't bet on boxing.

Word has it, it's rigged.


*It bears mentioning that Pete Rose has participated in multiple Wrestlemania events, and has even been elected to the WWE "Hall of Fame". Seems entirely appropriate.

**That's right, I compared Pete Rose to Moses. If you're looking for me in Hell, I'll be sitting next to Ty Cobb.


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Anonymous said...

Doesn't it look like Pete Rose has a steel plate in his head? Would explain some stuff.

blammo said...

Wow, I just started reading this blog because of the inflammatory title. But you do make some good points: baseball is boring (I still love it), Moses was Jewish, and Ty Cobb was better for the game than Pete Rose (duh). You forgot to add that Pete is a "degenerate" gambler. Did not know about the WWE stuff, what a loser. That was the first blog entry of yours that I have read, looking forward to more. 8^]

Michael McGovern said...

Thanks, blammo! Much appreciated.