By Mark Carpenter –
In October 1781 at Yorktown, Virginia, the British army under the command of Lord Cornwallis surrendered to the combined American and French forces, thus ending the American Revolution. A band that was on hand appropriately played a tune called “The World Turned Upside Down.” They might want to bring that band out of retirement and have them fire up that tune one more time, because lately our world has certainly seemed to be turning upside down.
From Great Britain deciding to secede from the world, we’ve then progressed to hearing words together in sentences that we never thought we would-Cleveland and Champions, Clayton Kershaw and loss, and Pete Rose and Hall of Fame.
I was in the stands both Friday and Saturday at Great American Ball Park and if you have gathered nothing else from reading my columns all these years, you should know that I am hopelessly nostalgic (not hopelessly romantic). Like many of you who grew up in this area in the 1970s, I was baseball spoiled by the exploits of the Big Red Machine. I am sure that when I was a teenager I had no comprehension of how really great the Reds of the 70’s were, but I, like many of you, thought that baseball in Cincinnati would always be like that.
I must confess that I was getting pretty teary-eyed on Friday night as the heroes of my youth one by one walked out to their designated spots on the first base line. I don’t think my wife and son on each side of me noticed thankfully, but they wouldn’t have understood the connection, though my son seriously lives and dies with the present-day New York Mets.
Concepcion, Geronimo, Griffey, Foster, Bench, Perez, Rose. The memories of baseball cards and frequent trips to spring training flooded through my mind and I longed for that way-back machine of Sherman and Peabody. It is especially difficult to hold the emotions in whenever Johnny Bench is around, making me think of my grandmother and her love for #5. I can go home and dig in my closet and find her purse that was made out of my Bench baseball cards and then I think of her with her little transistor radio listening to Marty and Joe and knowing that George Foster was my favorite, always telling me not to worry, just wait and “George would do it.”
Though it was so thrilling to see the 1976 Reds on the field one more time, the whole weekend at GABP was about one man, love him or hate him, Peter Edward Rose. There is no debating that Rose is one of the greatest baseball players of all-time and the statistics back up his name “The Hit King.” What he did on the field cannot be denied, what he did off the field is another matter, but we’ve all made mistakes and we’ve all gotten second chances in life, and last weekend after 30 years, Pete got his second chance.
Though in some ways it is certainly not fair that the doors to Cooperstown have been barred for Rose, the Hit King seems to have come to terms with that fact, which is why his induction into the Reds Hall of Fame last weekend was so important to him. But it also brings up the double standard of Major League Baseball. If we can make a few bucks (and the Reds made more than a few last weekend), let’s trot Pete out there and act like nothing ever happened, but of course, let’s still not let him anywhere near the hallowed halls of Cooperstown. I read a blog post post recently from sports talk host Mo Egger that may have said it best. It has to be either be all of one or all of the other and it might be nice if Pete told MLB just that.
I waver back and forth many times on the whole Rose issue. It’s hard to forget how dynamic a player he was on the favorite teams of my youth, how we used to imitate his batting stance in our backyard wiffle ball games, or how excited we were when there was one of Pete’s baseball cards right there behind the bubble gum when you opened the pack. But then there’s the dark side. He did break the Golden Rule of baseball, which I’m sure many others have too, they just didn’t get ratted out by their buddies. There’s all the years of avoiding the truth, when the truth may have saved him before the Hall of Fame doors slammed shut. But is it really a Hall of Fame when the best hitter in history is not enshrined? He never cheated on the field and he certainly never cheated the fans out of entertainment with his reckless abandon on the diamond, making up for a lack of natural ability with a desire that needs to be injected into a few of the 2016 Reds.
Perhaps it is time for MLB to slack off and rethink this whole Hall of Fame deal. Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Palmiero, Sosa—just let them in with an asterisk. No one will care 100 years from now. The pair of 2016 inductees are very, very deserving in Griffey and Piazza, but down the road will baseball finally be forgiving? Probably not as long as the writers do the voting. sports writers can get very old and set in their ways. (Not this one of course).
While I was in the ball park last weekend, I was in the forgiving mood for Pete. I didn’t want to think about gambling or lying or any of that, I wanted to think about that head first slide into third in the ninth inning of Game Seven in 1975, or the home run in New York after the Bud Harrelson fracas, and Johnny Bench going deep off of Dave Guisti in 1972, or George Foster racing across the plate that same year to win the pennant. So congratulations Pete on your shining moment, now don’t so anything stupid, just keep talking baseball. There’s no one batter at that.