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
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.
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.