The End of Hero Worship

I keep my collection of Cincinnati Reds memorabilia on a shelf in my study. It includes a baseball autographed by the entire team during Pete Rose’s rookie year. I have autographed Pete Rose mugs, pennants and a cardboard cutout of him at bat.

As a lifelong Reds fan, I’ve lived and died with the team’s ups and downs, celebrating the amazing seasons of the Big Red Machine and enduring the years-long drought that seems to never end.

Pete Rose had been one of my heroes. Baseball’s all-time hit leader, Rose epitomized the solid, blue-collar work ethic of Cincinnati. He also was an overachiever who overcame his natural limitations by working harder than anybody else in baseball.

During most of Rose’s banishment from baseball, I’ve held the view that given his accomplishments on the field, he deserved to be in the Hall of Fame. Maybe not allowed to manage again, but at least he deserved to be recognized for all the records he set.

Like a lot of fans, I gave Rose the benefit of the doubt when he asserted that he never bet on baseball. After all, he had denied it time and time again. He could hardly have been more adamant.

Then came the revelation that all those words, all those denials, were, in fact, lies. In his book, My Prison Without Bars, he confessed that he did bet on baseball. But never from the clubhouse, he asserted, never using inside information.

But his bookies and bet runners have already come forward to refute that. Most recently, one of Rose’s former bookmakers, Ron Peters, said that not only did he take bets from Rose from the ballpark, Charlie Hustle once phoned in a bet from the dugout itself.

So there‚Äôs ever indication that Pete Rose still hasn’t come clean. Yet he expects us to believe him when he claims he never bet against his own team.

Even if that is so, it doesn’t matter. He’s admitted to corrupting the game, he’s betrayed his friends, and he’s cheated his fans.

For years, Rose has paraded about the country taking people’s money for autographs under the false pretenses that he was some sort of victim, some misunderstood soul. He still argues that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.

Nonsense. He agreed to a lifetime banishment from baseball to avoid the humiliation of having to admit that he bet on the game. Now, in a calculated effort to be reinstated, he’s coming clean – sort of. Just enough to squeak back into the game, he hopes.

But all indications are that Rose’s strategy may be backfiring. A recent poll in Cincinnati showed that an overwhelming number of fans wouldn’t want him back managing the Reds.

During a television interview broadcast Thursday, Rose said that he could fill all those empty seats at the Great American Ball Park. But that’s also nonsense. Winning teams fill ballparks, not notorious managers. With all due respect to Rose’s accomplishments as a player, there are plenty of managers who can run the team as well or better than he can.

Which leads us to the question: Should Rose, now that he’s admitted his sins – or some of them, anyway – be allowed back in the game?

I think not. He has disgraced himself and tarnished the game.

Pete Rose has earned a place in baseball history. That’s undeniable. Maybe someday, posthumously, perhaps, there might be a place for him in the Hall of Fame. But not now.

And he certainly has no business running a team.

I’ve been sufficiently disenchanted by all this that I thought about boxing up my Pete Rose memorabilia and giving it to Goodwill.

But I’ve decided that I’ll leave it on the shelf, as a reminder of my gullibility and the dangers of hero-worship.