By LARRY WOODY
Normally this space is devoted to wacky issues and tongue-in-cheek observations, and is not intended to be taken internally.
But occasionally I digress, and today I’d like to veer out of the base-path of humor and go sliding spikes-first into the smug, protected home-plate of Major League Baseball.
New incoming Commish Rob Manfred last week announced that under his watch, Pete Rose’s Hall of Fame ban will remain in place.
Manfred said he won’t consider lifting it. No how, no way.
Fine. Another reason to hate baseball.
For the benefit of Millennials who weren’t around 25 years ago when Rose’s lifetime ban was imposed, here’s what happened: he bet on some games in which he was involved as manager of the Cincinnati Reds.
There was no evidence or suggestion that Rose wagered on any of the thousands of games in which played, any of the record 1,972 wins of which he was a part, any of the games in which he hammered out 4,256 hits -- the most in baseball history.
Rose’s transgression, as bone-headed as it was, occurred AFTER his playing days. It had no bearing on his performance on the field, and shouldn’t taint his amazing accomplishments.
If bad off-field behavior is part of baseball’s Hall of Fame criteria, they’d better scratch off the names of many -- perhaps most -- of its superstars.
Juiced-up, drug-using, drunk-driving, wife-beating players have done more to undermine the image and integrity of the game than a manager who bet on his team to win 25 years ago.
If Commissioner Manfred starts throwing stones, there won’t be any windows left in Coopertown’s hallowed Hall.
The immortal Babe Ruth was, well, mortal. It was joked that the Bambino once broke nine of the 10 Commandments on one barnstorming trip alone.
And the great Ty Cobb was a brawling, racist roughneck whose behavior was so disgusting that he was shunned by many of his own teammates. Even members of his family tended to avoid him. The Georgia Peach was far from peachy, yet he’s in the Hall of Fame along with the boozing Babe.
I once had the opportunity to interview Mickey Mantle. It was a painful experience. Mantle at the time was struggling with alcoholic self-destruction, pitiful and heart-rendering.
Mantle, like Cobb, Ruth, Rose and many others, was flawed. But that doesn’t lessen their baseball achievements. Nobody’s suggesting they be enshrined in the Choirboy Hall of Fame.
We’re talking baseball, and the game’s most enduring, iconic image in the 1970’s and 80’s is of Rose diving head-first and hell-bent into home plate, bushy hair flying. They called him Charlie Hustle, and he played the game with a pride and a passion that has never been matched.
And he did it without the aid of steroids or other chemical enhancements. He didn’t cheat his way to those incredible stats. He earned them, and now at 73, he deserves to be recognized for them. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
If it would make the smug Hall of Fame’s “protectors of the game” feel better, along with his records include the fact that later, as a manger, he was kicked out for gambling. Record the good, the bad, and the ugly and let history judge how Pete Rose, the baseball player, should be remembered.
I think Charlie Hustle could live with that.