This is about the Supreme Court giving you the legal right Monday to do what you’ve already done illegally by betting on sports teams, but I’ll begin with a confession: Nobody is a bigger Pete Rose guy than me, and that’s an understatement.
The whole thing began when we moved to Cincinnati in 1968, and I saw Rose sprint to first base after a walk at Crosley Field before he made a diving catch across the way in right field. The bond strengthened after I met him for the first time in 1975 as a scared freshman journalist at Miami (Ohio) University, and guess what? He remembered my name two years later when I got an internship at the Cincinnati Enquirer. When I began working at the Enquirer full-time a week after a graduated from Miami on May 7, 1978, my first story involved a new soft drink for . . .
If that wasn’t enough, Rose spent the next few years evolving into my all-time favorite baseball player to interview. He was always available, he was always insightful, he was always charismatic, and he was always the same Peter Edward Rose no matter what.
So, maybe for a moment or three after I heard what those Supreme Court justices said about gambling in sports, I was a mixture of relieved and ecstatic. You know where I’m going. I thought their ruling that says states beyond Nevada can allow legal betting on sporting events pushed Rose out of the baseball slammer and closer to Cooperstown’s limits.
There are 4,256 reasons (OK, hits, if you prefer) why the man called “Charlie Hustle” for his enthusiasm throughout ballgames deserves to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He also confessed — sort of — about a decade ago that he previously lied to former baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti, his Cincinnati Reds organization and the rest of the world. Back in August 1989, I sat in the front row at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, where Rose said during a national news conference that he hadn’t violated the deadly sin of Major League Baseball by betting on the game while in uniform.
Just so you know, Rose did all of that, and he confessed — sort of, but when it came to his promise to Giamatti that he would reconfigure his life away from gambling, that never happened. To hear Rose’s estranged wife, Carol, tell it through court documents, her former husband still is involved in “high-stakes gambling” between his long-time job of signing memorabilia for a Las Vegas casino. She also said he owes tons of money to the IRS.
Not good, but here’s another confession. As that Rose guy for life who also happens to be Baseball Hall of Fame voter, I’d put a check mark next to his name right now, but he never has been on the ballot. He was permanently banned from baseball in 1989, and if he ever is reinstated, he only can reach Cooperstown through a special committee composed heavily of current Baseball Hall of Famers, which means he’ll never get in.
Many of Rose’s peers don’t like him.
Bottom Line: Since Major League Baseball and other professional leagues will retain their right to order those under their contracts to refrain from gambling on their sport or else, and since Rose continues to give baseball executives no reasons to believe he has changed his betting ways, I’ll put it this way . . .
The Supreme Court’s ruling can’t save the all-time hits leader from himself.