Monday, December 29, 2014

The Best Books I Read in 2014

Big Hair and Plastic Grass, by Dan Epstein, 2010. That's Oscar Gamble with the amazing Afro.

Stars and Strikes, by Dan Epstein, 2014. Featuring Ralph Garr in shorts, and Mike Schmidt without a mustache.

The Russians, by Hedrick Smith, 1976.

Little Green Men, by Christopher Buckley, 1999.

How to Fight Presidents, by Daniel O'Brien, 2014.

Kirk Douglas promoting The Ragman's Son, 1988.

Ike's Bluff, by Evan Thomas, 2012.

Hustle, by Michael Sokolove, originally published in 1990, updated in 2005.
I had a very productive reading year, and I managed to read 27 books in 2014. Since it’s almost the end of 2014, and the end of the year is the prime time for best-of lists, here’s my list of the best books I read this year. (The links will take you to the full review of the book.)

Big Hair and Plastic Grass and Stars and Strikes, by Dan Epstein. Epstein is a great writer who has a big heart for both baseball and the 1970’s. I read both of his books about 1970’s baseball this year, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Big Hair and Plastic Grass is a season-by-season account of the 1970’s, and Epstein makes the larger-than-life personalities of the time come to life. Epstein writes that the decade of the 1970’s saw more changes in baseball than all the other decades before, and I have to agree with him. Stars and Strikes is an in-depth look at the 1976 season, and it’s a great portrait of a game on the edge of some huge changes, like free agency. Epstein’s enthusiasm for baseball and 1970’s pop culture comes through in both books, and I like that he clearly enjoys what he’s writing about. Reading Epstein’s books will make you want to buy a Pontiac Firebird with a t-roof, throw on some Eagles 8-tracks, and grow a mustache. You should follow his Facebook pages, in which he wittily wishes 1970’s baseball players a funky birthday.

The Russians, by Hedrick Smith. I read The Russians during this year’s Sochi Olympics, and the book helped me understand the contradictions of Russia much better. Even though Smith’s book was published in 1976, his insights into the Russian culture and character are still very relevant. Smith was the Moscow bureau chief for The New York Times from 1971-74, and in 1974 he won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for his articles about life in the Soviet Union. I was lucky enough to intern for Hedrick Smith during college in the fall of 2001, as he was finishing up the excellent documentary “Rediscovering Dave Brubeck.” In The Russians, Smith deftly exposes one of the many contradictions in Soviet society: that the supposedly classless society was actually just as stratified between the haves and have-nots as the West was, if not more so.

Little Green Men, by Christopher Buckley. Little Green Men is a tremendously funny satire. Christopher Buckley can make me laugh like few other authors can. When I read this book I really needed some laughs, and Little Green Men more than delivered. I wish there were a movie version with Stephen Colbert playing the book’s hero, the blowhard political commentator John Oliver Banion, who gets abducted by aliens and heads up the “Millennium Man March” on Washington.

How to Fight Presidents, by Daniel O’Brien. O’Brien mixes humor with historical fact in this book, which is a guide on how to fight former U.S. Presidents. The book assumes that you have to go back in time and engage them in hand to hand combat. This would be a daunting task, since most of our Presidents have been pretty badass. The chapter headings are hilarious. Two of my favorites are: “Thomas Jefferson just invented six different devices that can kill you,” and “Franklin Pierce is the Franklin Pierce of fighting, which is to say, he is a bad fighter.” If you’re a history buff, this book will make you laugh, and you’ll also learn something along the way. Like the one time when James Monroe threatened his secretary of the treasury with a set of fireplace tongs. 

The Ragman’s Son, by Kirk Douglas. An excellent Hollywood autobiography, Douglas pulls no punches as he tells the story of how he rose from abject poverty to become one of the biggest movie stars of the 1950’s and beyond. The Ragman’s Son is written with honesty, and Douglas isn’t afraid to show the reader his faults, which makes it a great autobiography. Douglas is a complex man, and The Ragman’s Son is a fascinating look at the life and mind of one of the greatest film actors of the last 60 years. Douglas just turned 98 in December, and old movie fans like me can be glad that he’s still with us.

Ike’s Bluff, by Evan Thomas. Evan Thomas’s 2012 book Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle to Save the World, completely refutes the stereotype of Dwight Eisenhower as a caretaker president who only cared about his golf handicap. Thomas focuses his book exclusively on Eisenhower’s foreign policy, and he paints a portrait of an engaged leader who was extremely skilled at using psychology to get what he wanted. Thomas is incisive about Eisenhower’s complex personality, using excerpts from the medical diary of Howard Snyder, Eisenhower’s doctor, to shed light on Ike’s mood swings. Despite his seemingly endless patience at the bridge table, Ike had a terrible temper which he struggled to keep under control, and he once hurled a golf club at Dr. Snyder. I learned a lot about Eisenhower from Ike’s Bluff, and he comes off as a canny man who did his best to keep the Cold War from turning hot. The book is an excellent study of presidential leadership.

Hustle: The Myth, Life, and Lies of Pete Rose, by Michael Sokolove. Sokolove examines many different parts of Pete Rose’s life and career in this excellent book. One chapter deals with Rose’s close friendships with many sportswriters, which probably kept the media off of his back until his gambling scandal exploded in 1989. Sokolove understands the contradiction of Pete Rose, and other athletes: that a man can be a great baseball player and at the same time be a terrible human being. Hustle is essential reading for any baseball fan.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Book Review: Hustle: The Myth, Life, and Lies of Pete Rose, by Michael Sokolove (1990)

Cover of Hustle, by Michael Sokolove, updated 2005 edition.

Pete Rose, after breaking Ty Cobb's all-time hit record. Padres first baseman Steve Garvey is behind him.

Pete Rose during his brief tenure as a Montreal Expo, 1984. Seeing him in an Expos uniform is just weird.
Pete Rose is a jerk who bet on baseball. That’s the conclusion I’m left with at the end of Michael Sokolove’s excellent 1990 book Hustle: The Myth, Life, and Lies of Pete Rose. Although Sokolove’s book is nearly twenty five years old, and appeared just a year after Rose was handed down a lifetime ban from baseball, it’s still an impressive piece of journalism. Sokolove did his homework, as he interviewed 112 people in the course of writing Hustle, and the book thoroughly covers Rose’s life and career. Hustle was reissued in 2005 with a new introduction, which covers Rose’s 2004 admission that he did bet on baseball.  Sokolove writes of Rose’s behavior in 2004, “In the broadcast interviews he gave to promote the book, he could barely bring himself to express what sounded like true remorse. Sometimes he complained that he just wasn’t very good at saying he was sorry-a trait common in people who actually aren’t sorry.” (p.7) 

I recently read Kostya Kennedy’s excellent 2014 book on Rose, Pete Rose: An American Dilemma, and while Kennedy’s book takes Rose’s story up to date, Sokolove’s Hustle is a more in-depth look at Rose’s gambling on baseball. Hustle is essential reading for any baseball fan. 

Sokolove is tough on Rose, but the book is by no means a hatchet job. With that being said, I don’t know how anyone could read Hustle and still be on Rose’s side. Looking back, it’s rather ridiculous that Rose kept denying he bet on baseball until finally admitting it in 2004. 

One of the best chapters in Hustle is “Playing the Press,” which details how Rose was able to keep sportswriters writing positive stories about him until the gambling scandal broke in 1989. Rose’s friendliness with sportswriters might have been a reason why sportswriters never wrote about Rose’s gambling problem until after the scandal began to break. Sportswriters loved Pete Rose, and even a baseball writer as smart as Bill James was an apologist for Pete Rose. In his 2001 book The New Bill James Historical Abstract, James spends six pages attacking the Dowd Report and casting doubt on the evidence that Rose bet on baseball. Of course, read today, it makes James sound foolish. It also makes it clear that James didn’t read Hustle.

Sokolove also details that major league baseball knew that Rose had a gambling problem long before 1989. Baseball had been investigating Rose since the early 1970’s, and while their investigation didn’t show that Rose was betting on baseball, it was clear that he was a big racetrack gambler. As Sokolove writes, “Before Rose was even halfway to Cobb’s hit record, the office of baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn had identified him as a problem gambler-and a probable violator of the game’s rules against gambling ‘associations.’” (p.199) For whatever reason, major league baseball didn’t want to touch Pete Rose, perhaps because of his standing as one of the most popular players in the game. However, Bowie Kuhn, commissioner of baseball from 1969-1984, was very tough on star players connected to gambling, as he handed down a three month suspension to pitcher Denny McLain in 1970 for associating with gamblers. Kuhn also handed out lifetime bans to living legends Willie Mays in 1980 and Mickey Mantle in 1983 for merely being greeters at casinos. Mantle and Mays were both reinstated by new commissioner Peter Ueberroth in 1985, perhaps the most popular decision any commissioner has ever made. So why wasn’t Kuhn tougher on Rose? If baseball was willing to act against Denny McLain, who was coming off of back to back Cy Young Awards, why didn’t baseball act against Pete Rose? There’s no easy answer to that question.

Throughout Hustle, Sokolove details the many ways in which Pete Rose didn’t expect the rules of life to apply to him. Rose lived a selfish life, with little regard for what the consequences might be. When those consequences never came, Rose was further emboldened in his bad behavior. One of the most shocking revelations of Hustle was the fact that Rose would never fully repay his gambling debts. When he began losing too much, he merely moved on to another bookie. Rose was lucky he never ended up with a broken hand from an irate bookie. Sokolove writes about Rose: “Rose continues to rail against the Dowd Report and major league baseball’s treatment of him because he truly believes he was treated unfairly. He wasn’t. He was treated, for the first time, like an adult, which was so unfamiliar to him that he mistook it for unfairness.” (p.291)

 Sokolove also understands the contradiction of Pete Rose, and other athletes: that a man can be a great baseball player and at the same time be a terrible human being. Rose went to jail in 1990 for income tax evasion, and Sokolove writes in the afterword of the book, “What Pete Rose leaves to the game he loved, his legacy, is not romance but a disquieting reality: A man can belong both in the Hall of Fame and in federal prison.” (p.292) 

I used to be more ambivalent about Pete Rose. I was 8 years old when he was banned from baseball. I knew that he was a great player, but I didn’t really have an opinion on whether or not he bet on baseball. As I got older, I assumed he probably had because why else would he have accepted the lifetime ban? When I was in college, around 1999 or 2000, I remember reading an article on Sports Illustrated’s website about the Dowd Report, and wanting the evidence that Rose had bet on baseball to be more compelling. Then when Rose finally admitted in 2004 that he did bet on baseball, I was disappointed in him for lying for so long. I remember watching Rose on “The Tonight Show” in 2004 and thinking to myself, “He just doesn’t understand that he did anything wrong, he doesn’t get it.” I softened a little on Rose when I watched his stupid reality show, “Hits and Mrs.” in 2013. But reading Hustle has made up my mind firmly on Pete Rose: he doesn’t deserve to be reinstated and let back into baseball. If and when Pete Rose ever truly changes his ways, maybe he can get back into baseball. But until then, he will remain on the outside looking in.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Recapping the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Golden Era Committee Ballot

Jim Kaat pitched for an amazing 25 seasons.

Tony Oliva, with the Twins in the 1960's. Oliva won 3 AL batting titles.

Me and Tony O, 2012. He is one of the nicest athletes I've ever met.

Gil Hodges, first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Ken Boyer, third baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Like many baseball fans, I was disappointed when the Golden Era Committee for the Hall of Fame announced on December 8th that no one had been elected to the Hall of Fame. The Golden Era Committee examined players who made their primary contribution to baseball between 1947 and 1972. The Committee had nine players on their ballot, along with former Cincinnati Reds general manager Bob Howsam. 

Baseball writer Joe Posnanski had a great post about the math behind the Golden Era Committee, and why it was almost impossible for them to elect anyone. The members of the committee were limited to voting for just four players, which lessened the chance of anyone being elected. 

As a Minnesota Twins fan, I really wanted to see Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat get elected. In my Hall of Fame philosophy, I’m more of a “big Hall” kind of guy. I feel that there are a number of really excellent players who deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, like Jim Kaat, Tommy John, Vada Pinson, Al Oliver, Ted Simmons, Tim Raines, Dave Parker, and Fred McGriff. That being said, there are a number of players in the Hall of Fame who I think don’t belong. I don’t think they should be removed from the Hall of Fame, but I think they were bad choices. Most of these players were selected by some form of the Veterans Committee. My list of Hall of Famers who don’t belong would include: Chick Hafey, Jesse Haines, Fred Lindstrom, Travis Jackson, George Kelly, George Kell, Addie Joss, Rick Ferrell, Ray Schalk, and Dave Bancroft. 

It annoys me when people say or write things like “The Hall of Fame is for players like Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle.” Well, yes, but it’s also for players like Billy Williams, Goose Goslin, and Bert Blyleven. There are 211 players in the Hall of Fame. Obviously, not all of them can be as great as Mays and Mantle. You can have a Hall of Fame in your mind that is only made up of Mays, Mantle, Hank Aaron, and other players who were first-ballot, no doubt about it Hall of Famers, as long as you know that your Hall of Fame does not bear any resemblance to the actual Hall of Fame. You can’t stick your head in the sand and pretend that the bottom barrel HOFers don’t exist. But, at the same time, we shouldn’t use those bottom barrel players as benchmarks for who to elect in the future. If we start putting in everyone who is better than the worst Hall of Famer, we’ll have a Hall of Fame that will be overstuffed. 

The “Golden Era” ballot of 2014 was full of very good candidates who all have their pluses and minuses. You can make really good arguments for or against all of these players. Here are my thoughts on the candidates on the ballot, except for Bob Howsam, who I don’t have an opinion on. I don’t think executives should be on the same ballot as players.

Dick Allen: No matter where Dick Allen played, controversy followed him. Allen was one of the best sluggers of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. But injuries and Allen’s knack for pissing off every team he ever played for led to him playing his last game at the age of 35. I understand that Allen was a really great player, and he was definitely one of the best players in baseball from 1964-1974, but his counting numbers are really low for the Hall of Fame. Allen finished his career with just 1,848 hits and 1,119 RBIs. There are 178 players who have played from 1901 to the present who have more than 1,800 hits and 1,100 RBIs, which doesn’t exactly scream “elite player.” Allen’s Hall of Fame case is all about his hitting, as he was at best an indifferent fielder. He has negative fielding WAR for every season except 1964, when he has a paltry 0.3. I get that Allen’s peak as a player was really high, but I just have a problem with putting someone in the Hall whose counting stats look like Lee May’s. 

There’s a great bio of Dick Allen on the SABR website, which helped me understand more about some of the controversies surrounding Allen’s career:

Ken Boyer: From 1956-64, Boyer was one of the game’s best third basemen, putting up 8 seasons of 90+ RBIs, and leading the NL in RBIs in 1964 with 119, the same year he won the MVP award and led the St. Louis Cardinals to the World Series. Boyer’s peak is very impressive, but unfortunately the magic quickly faded, and Boyer’s career from 1965-69 was undistinguished. I think Boyer was a great player, but for me he falls short of being a Hall of Famer. 

Gil Hodges: Another great player with a terrific peak but a shorter career, Hodges was the slugging first baseman for the “Boys of Summer” Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1950’s. Hodges put up 7 consecutive seasons of 100+ RBIs, and when he ended his playing career in 1963 his 370 home runs were good for 10th on the all-time list. Hodges faded quickly after his age 35 season in 1959. Hodges has been one of the most discussed Hall of Fame candidates, as he has consistently fallen just short of election time and again. In his 15 years on the BBWAA ballot, Hodges was named on more than 50% of the ballots 11 times, so it’s pretty crazy that he didn’t get in. As Joe Posnanski points out in this excellent blog post, every player who has received 50% of the BBWAA vote, except for Hodges and Jack Morris, has been eventually elected to the Hall of Fame, either by the BBWAA or by some incarnation of the Veterans Committee. Everybody liked Gil Hodges, and by all accounts he was a really great guy, which you think would have helped him get elected to the Hall. Hodges also managed the “Miracle Mets” in 1969, and he died young, of a sudden heart attack at age 47 in 1972. He was considered one of the best fielding first baseman of his era, winning 3 Gold Gloves, even though the award wasn’t established until 1957. For me, Hodges falls just short of a Hall of Fame career.

Jim Kaat: One of the most durable pitchers ever, Kaat pitched for 25 seasons, from 1959 to 1983. At 283 wins, he fell short of the magic number of 300, and I think that has kept him out of the Hall. Let’s say, hypothetically, that Kaat lost one close game every year of his career. If we could give Kaat that one more win for each year of his career, he’d be at 308 wins and would be in the Hall of Fame for sure. So if Kaat would have been a Hall of Famer with just 17 more wins, why is he not a Hall of Famer at 283 wins? I don’t know exactly how sportswriters would answer that question, but I have some ideas. Kaat was not an overpowering pitcher, and he didn’t have much of a peak to his career. He was a compiler, putting up big numbers through longevity, not sheer dominance. He wasn’t Tom Seaver. Kaat won 16 Gold Gloves in a row, and he was such a good athlete that he was used as a pinch-hitter or pinch-runner in 106 games during his career. Unfortunately, Kaat got injured during the 1972 season while pinch-running, and that no doubt cost him several wins, as he was 10-2 with a 2.06 ERA when he got injured. Kaat might have lost some support for the Hall of Fame because he spent the last five years of his career as a swingman alternating between the bullpen and spot starting. Voters might have seen Kaat as just hanging on too long trying to get to 300 wins. Personally, I would love to see Jim Kaat in the Hall of Fame. He was a great pitcher and he’s been a great broadcaster for many years. 

Minnie Minoso: While some fans might remember Minoso for his publicity stunt pinch-hitting appearances with the White Sox in 1976 and 1980, he was actually one of the best players in the American League during the 1950’s. Like practically every other player on this ballot, Minoso faded quickly after age 35, which is ironic, given his late-career pinch-hitting appearances. But during his prime, Minoso was a 9-time All-Star, and a three time Gold Glove winner. Minoso also finished 4th in the MVP voting 4 times. Oh, and he has the same number of 100+ RBI seasons as Mickey Mantle: 4. Should Minoso be in the Hall? Again, I think he falls just short.

Tony Oliva: Tony O is one of the nicest guys I have ever met. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Tony several times over the past few years, and he always has a huge smile on his face, ready to talk about baseball or the cold Minnesota weather. My favorite story about meeting Tony was one cold April day when my wife and I were walking to our seats at Target Field. We had just passed Tony O’s Cuban sandwich stand, and I was telling my wife what a great player Tony Oliva was in his prime. And then of a sudden, as if on cue, Tony O was right there at the next section of seats! It was pretty cool. So I admit, I’m a Twins fan, and I’m biased, I’d love to see Tony Oliva elected to the Hall of Fame. He was a great player and he’s a really wonderful person. I know that Oliva’s peak as a player was short, but he was one of the best hitters in baseball during the offensively challenged 1960’s. If Oliva hadn’t gotten injured and messed up his knee in 1971, I think he would have been in the Hall of Fame a long time ago. Despite the brevity of Oliva’s career, he had many highlights, as he was an 8-time All-Star, won three batting titles, led the league in hits five times, and in doubles three times. 

Billy Pierce: Pierce was one of the best left-handed starting pitchers in the American League during the 1950’s. Pitching for the White Sox, Pierce led the league in wins in 1957, and won the ERA crown in 1955. Pierce was an excellent pitcher, and his career record of 211-169 is quite similar to Hall of Famer Don Drysdale, who had a record of 209-166. I think Pierce was very good, but not a Hall of Famer.

Luis Tiant: Tiant was a superb pitcher in the 1960’s, winning 21 games and leading the American League in ERA in 1968. After injuries sidelined him for much of 1970 and 1971, Tiant returned with an array of different windups and deliveries, and he was able to rejuvenate his career. Tiant went on to win 20 games for the Red Sox in 1973, 1974, and 1976. Unfortunately, Tiant did a number on my Minnesota Twins both coming and going, as the Twins gave up a young third baseman named Graig Nettles as part of the trade with the Cleveland Indians to acquire Tiant. Tiant dealt with injuries during 1970, his only season with the Twins, and the Twins released him at the end of spring training in 1971, just before he started his resurgence. Oops! I think Tiant should be in the Hall of Fame, he was a great pitcher who was overshadowed on the Hall of Fame ballot by the other great pitchers of the 1960’s and 70’s.

Maury Wills: Wills led the National League in stolen bases six years in a row, from 1960 to 1965, and he stole a then-record 104 bases in 1962. Wills got a late start, as he spent nine years in the minor leagues before finally breaking in with the Dodgers at the age of 26 in 1959. I don’t think Wills should be in the Hall of Fame. All he had to offer was speed, and while he put up a decent career batting average of .281, his OBP was .330 and his slugging percentage was .331. Okay, so Ozzie Smith’s slugging percentage was actually lower than his OBP, but Smith was a better player than Wills. 

Those are my thoughts on the 2014 Golden Era Committee ballot. Hopefully the next time the Committee meets to vote on players from this era they actually elect someone.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Book Review: Pete Rose: An American Dilemma, by Kostya Kennedy (2014)

Cover of Pete Rose: An American Dilemma, by Kostya Kennedy, 2014.

Pete Rose collecting hit number 4,192, breaking Ty Cobb's all-time record, September 11, 1985.

Special Topps cards from 1986 commemorating Rose passing Ty Cobb.

Pete Rose playing for the Phillies, illustrating why he was nicknamed "Charlie Hustle."

Rose during his brief stint with the Montreal Expos in 1984. He collected his 4,000th hit with the Expos.
Pete Rose is baseball’s all-time leader in hits, games, at-bats, and plate appearances. He’s 6th all-time in runs scored, 2nd in doubles, and 7th in total bases. Rose led the league in hits 7 times, doubles 5 times, runs scored 4 times, won 3 batting titles, was the 1963 NL Rookie of the Year, and the 1973 NL MVP. He was a 17-time All-Star, and made the All-Star team at 5 different positions, a record that will most likely never be broken.

Pete Rose played in his last major league game in 1986 and has been banned from major league baseball since 1989, yet he might still be baseball’s most divisive figure. Lots of ink has been spilled over Rose in the past 25 years, and Kostya Kennedy’s 2014 book Pete Rose: An American Dilemma, is the latest attempt to dissect the life and career of baseball’s all-time hit leader.  

Kennedy does a good job of analyzing the different parts of Rose’s life, with detours into the history of Cincinnati, and Pete’s relationship with his brother Dave. A highlight of the book was the section on the baseball career of Rose’s son Pete Rose Jr., who played professional baseball from 1989 until 2009, accumulating just 16 plate appearances and 2 hits in the major leagues in 1997. Like his father, Rose Jr. is a player with a tremendous work ethic. Pete Rose Jr. is now a manager in independent baseball, continuing his love affair with the game.
Pete Rose: An American Dilemma assumes a great deal of familiarity with Rose’s playing career, as it jumps around in chronology and doesn’t cover every year of Rose’s 24-year playing career. I was already quite familiar with Rose’s career, but I wish the book had provided more context for Rose’s remarkable accomplishments. 

Throughout the book, Kennedy never really comes down on one side or the other, for or against Rose. Does he think Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame? Does he think that Pete Rose should be reinstated? Kennedy never really says. Kennedy is harsh on Rose throughout the book, yet he clearly feels that the Hall of Fame’s treatment of Rose was unfair when it singled him out and changed the rules in 1991 so he wouldn’t appear on the ballot. The new rule stated that anyone on baseball’s ineligible list could not appear on the ballot for the Hall of Fame. Since Rose was the only player on the ineligible list, the rule change was obviously targeted at him. The Hall of Fame clearly didn’t want to deal with the possibility of Rose being voted into the Hall of Fame while at the same time being banned from baseball, which seems like the biggest oxymoron imaginable. 

Pete Rose’s behavior since 1989 is oftentimes incomprehensible to rational people. When it became clear during Major League Baseball’s investigation of his gambling habits that Rose would be banned, Rose and his lawyers fought for a paragraph in the document banning Rose that said he neither admitted nor denied having bet on baseball. This was a ridiculous assertion to make, and I don’t understand why then-Commissioner Bart Giamatti allowed such unclear language into the final document. If Rose wasn’t admitting that he bet on baseball, why was he being banned? If Rose hadn’t bet on baseball, why did he accept the ban? Major League Baseball should have forced Rose to admit in 1989 that he did bet on baseball. Instead, Rose lied for 15 years, not telling the truth and admitting that he bet on baseball until the release of his 2004 autobiography, My Prison Without Bars.
If Pete Rose were a smarter guy he might have been reinstated and be back in baseball by now. But I think he’s a dumb guy who really doesn’t understand what he did wrong. He knows that he broke the rules, but he’s never seemed ashamed that he broke the rules. As Kennedy says, Rose isn’t sorry for what he did, he’s only sorry that he got caught. Rose’s half-hearted apologies have never seemed sincere. 

In my opinion, in order to have any chance of getting back into baseball, Rose needed to do three things:

1. Come clean and tell the whole truth about betting on baseball
      2. Apologize for betting on baseball
      3. Stay as far away from gambling as possible

Rose has failed miserably at those three tasks, as he didn’t tell the truth or apologize until 2004, and he spends most of his time in Las Vegas, signing autographs at memorabilia shops. But signing his name for money has proven to be most lucrative for Rose, as according to Kennedy, Rose pulls down a guaranteed income of $70,000 a month in Las Vegas. Rose also might not have told the whole truth in 2004, when he said he bet on baseball “four or five times a week.” He amended that to saying in 2007 that he bet on baseball “every night.” Is there anything else Rose is saving for his next book?

Pete Rose is a contradiction. On one hand, he seems guileless, unflinchingly honest, and yet he lied about betting on baseball for 15 years. During his playing career, Rose was extremely savvy about cultivating his image as “Charlie Hustle,” by always running to first base on a walk, and always sliding into bases headfirst, whether it was necessary or not. But since he was banned from baseball, Rose seems tone-deaf to how he comes off to the public. 

Part of me likes Pete Rose. He was a great baseball player, someone who gave it his all out there on the field every single day he played. I met Pete Rose at a baseball card show to get his autograph, and he seemed like a nice guy in the thirty seconds I talked to him. I even watched his terrible reality show on TLC, “Hits and Mrs.” But he’s also a jerk who bet on baseball and doesn’t really seem to get why that’s such a big deal. And that’s the contradiction of Pete Rose. I think that Rose deserves to be in the Hall of Fame as a player, but I don’t think Rose should be in the Hall of Fame as long as he’s banned from baseball. I know that the Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball are different organizations, but for me, personally, if you’re banned from one, why should you be in the other?

If you’re interested in Pete Rose’s baseball career, and his post-baseball life, you should read Pete Rose: An American Dilemma. It’s a great introduction to one of baseball’s most controversial figures.