Mondays With Murray: Baseball is Erasing History

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Last weekend, for the first time in 35 years, the NFL suspended a player for betting on NFL games. CB Josh Shaw of the Arizona Cardinals won’t be eligible to petition for reinstatement until Feb. 15, 2021.

This got us thinking about another player who was caught betting on his sport . . . Pete Rose. The big difference is Shaw, unlike Rose, will be able to petition to get back in the game. Rose was never offered that luxury but rather was banned from baseball, and his inevitable induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, for life.

Maybe now, after 30 years (Rose was banned in August 1989), MLB will consider lifting his ban and letting the all-time hits leader into the hall that should have a wing named after him.

Please enjoy Jim Murray’s 1991 column headlined “Baseball Is Erasing History” about Rose’s many accomplishments that will go unrecognized in Cooperstown.

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January 13, 1991, SPORTS

Copyright 1991/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

Baseball Is Erasing History

  Pete Rose never got 4,256 hits. Pete Rose never got 746 doubles. Pete Rose never played in 3,562 big league baseball games. Pete Rose never played in six World Series, seven playoffs.

 Pete Rose never slid head first into home plate, scattering the catcher and the ball as he went. Pete Rose never ran out a base on balls.

  There’s no such person. Pete Rose never existed. He is a non-person. He is like one of those Soviet despots they expunge from the history books.

 Pete Rose never paced a dugout with that funny little gap-toothed grin, waving his mondaysmurray2Popeye arms and explaining with gestures and rolling slides in the dirt exactly how the game should be played.

  Pete Rose never played the game for 24 years with the little boy’s zeal and wonder until, if you closed your eyes, you could picture him with his cap on sideways, knickers falling down to his ankles and dragging a taped ball and busted bat behind him, looking for all the world like something that fell off Norman Rockwell’s easel.

  Must have been some other guy. Because Pete Rose ceased to exist on Thursday. He was erased from society by a group of judges they must have found in Salem.

 What are they trying to tell us? There was no Charlie Hustle? There was no swaggering, pixieish No. 14 who for two decades filled notebooks and headlines and seemed to epitomize all that was fine and right with the grand old game?

  There was no guy who spoke up for baseball and promoted it all he could, who never hid in the trainer’s room or ducked out a side door in defeat, who never just took the money and ran?

  There was no guy who, when the World Series in Boston was rained out four days out of five, came dutifully to a news conference to keep the scribes in print and the Series, which was to become one of the greatest ever played, alive?

  There was no such guy as the Reds’ third baseman in that Series who turned to a base runner from the other team and said, “Ain’t this great? Ain’t this fun?”

  Pete Rose was a figment of our imagination? He was a cartoon character like Yogi Bear?

  We’re supposed to forget he was ever real? We’re supposed to expunge all his records? Banish him to a corner of the sports world inhabited only by the Black Sox of 1919 and one or two other non-persons in the game?

 Get outta here! What for? Because he had a gambling addiction? Because he couldn’t pass a bookie parlor or a 9-5 shot or the overs-and-unders on the Bears’ games without wagering a few bob?

  What about the guys who had other addictions? The crowd that got caught in the cocaine busts in Pittsburgh? Hey, Babe Ruth had an addiction, too. He liked rye whiskey. And that was as illegal as cocaine in his time.

  I wish we could get some of those judges who voted to take Pete out of circulation to sit in on rape trails once in a while. I wish they could serve on some of those appellate court benches where they throw a serial killer’s conviction out because the cop interrogating him forgot to call him “sir” or didn’t have a warrant to take his knife away from him.

  I wish I could figure out why guys who kill eight nurses in five states get people holding candle vigils outside their prison cells while Pete Rose gets the book thrown at him.

  Do you want to stand there and tell me Pete Rose wasn’t good for baseball? Lord, he was baseball. He’s a menace to the game? Gimme a break!

  I’m a law-and-order man myself. I’ve been known to deplore the fact that society has lost its capacity for indignation, has shrunk from punishing its criminals.

  And I completely understand that you hold the highly successful to a different set of standards than the less privileged. You want to kick a president out for hushing up a robbery, that’s OK with me.

  But hey! Pete Rose didn’t go to Harvard. Pete Rose never took prelaw. Stop and think about it, Pete made a living in an industry where it’s not only all right to steal, it’s expected of you.

  Pete never discussed Stendhal. Pete never went to the opera. You don’t take Pete to Buckingham Palace. Pete played baseball for a living. It was probably that or mow lawns.

 A lot of people have sympathy for Shoeless Joe Jackson. He was even the hero of a movie, for cryin’ out loud!

  But wait a minute! Shoeless Joe Jackson was a crook. He was an accessory before the fact. He was part of a conspiracy to throw the World Series, no less. That’s major league trifling with the faith of a nation. Whether he threw the Series or not is beside the point. He agreed to do it. His silence made him a co-conspirator.

 If Pete threw ball games, why don’t they tell us about it? Why don’t they prove it? Ax murderers get a better day in court than he did.

  He couldn’t have thrown any World Series. His team won three of the six he appeared in.

  Oh, he cheated on his income tax? He didn’t declare some income he earned?

  Noooo! Who could believe a person would do that? Try to pay as little as they could to the government?

  He didn’t fill ballparks for all those years. He didn’t have the dirtiest uniform in the National League. He didn’t wisecrack around the batting cage each spring: “I’ll tell you three things gonna happen this summer — the grass gonna get green, the sun’s gonna get hot and Pete Rose is gonna get 200 hits.” He’d like to tell you: “I may not be the best hitter on this club, but I’m the best white hitter!”

 But he never did those things. They never happened. He never happened. Ty Cobb’s the only guy in history who ever got more than 4,000 hits. They’re going to take Pete Rose away.

  I don’t know about you, but I’m going to miss him.

-——

Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 60753, Pasadena, CA 91116

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What is the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation? 

  The Jim Murray Memorial Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, established in 1999 to perpetuate the Jim Murray legacy, and his love for and dedication to his extraordinary career in journalism. Since 1999, JMMF has granted 104 $5,000 scholarships to outstanding journalism students. Success of the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation’s efforts depends heavily on the contributions from generous individuals, organizations, corporations, and volunteers who align themselves with the mission and values of the JMMF.

Like us on Facebook, and visit the JMMF website, www.jimmurrayfoundation.org.

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A dozen years ago, Linda McCoy-Murray compiled a book of Jim Murray’s columns on female athletes (1961-1998). While the book is idle waiting for an interested publisher, the JMMF thinks this is an appropriate year to get the book on the shelves, i.e., Jim Murray’s 100th birthday, 1919-2019.  

Our mission is to empower women of all ages to succeed and prosper — in and out of sports — while entertaining the reader with Jim Murray’s wit and hyperbole.  An excellent teaching tool for Women’s Studies.

Proceeds from book sales will benefit the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization providing sports journalism scholarships at universities across the country.

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