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Should Pete Rose be in the Baseball Hall of Fame?

Should Pete Rose be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, even though he broke the rules and gambled on baseball by betting on his own team?

Yes, and here's why ...

PETE ROSE'S CASE FOR THE BASEBALL HALL OF FAME
by Michael R. Burch

First, persecuting an elderly man to the grave and beyond for sins long paid-for makes no sense at all. Whatever happened to the punishment fitting the crime?

Is that American? Is that Christian? Is that the best we can do?

Today Rose is an elder statesman. Why continue the persecution when he’s no danger to anyone?

As for Pete Rose's gambling: the New York Times investigated the matter, as did the baseball commissioner's office. Those investigations confirmed that all known bets placed by Rose were on his team, to win. The NYT also revealed that on his largest bets of $2,500, Rose only won an abysmal 7.2%, so he was obviously NOT rigging games. Rather, he was losing his ass 92.8% of the time! All the talk about what Rose “must have done” or “might have done” is vastly unfair, because we know what really happened. He had a gambling addiction, he was betting on his team to win, and he was losing so much money that no one in their right mind would have used his bets as “tips.” Yes, he broke the rules, but in reality the only person he hurt was himself. His bookies were laughing all the way to the bank, and there was no way they were going to use his disastrous losing bets as "tips." And there has been vast hypocrisy, because as I explain below, some of the biggest names in the Baseball Hall of Fame did far worse than Rose betting on his team to win.

Pete Rose is the all-time leader in hits, times-on-base, games played, wins, plate appearances and at-bats. He is the only major league baseball player to have appeared in 500 or more games at five different positions (1B, 2B, 3B, RF, LF) and he was an all-star 17 times at those positions. It was Rose's versatility and unselfishness that allowed the Cincinnati Reds' "Great Eight" to play together, when he shifted to third base to make room in the outfield for George Foster. Rose had won two Gold Gloves in the outfield and may have sacrificed up to 20 career WAR by playing out of position (more on this later). And while he is not usually considered a slugger, Rose has the most extra-base hits and total bases by a switch hitter, and he also holds the NL record for doubles. He has more total bases than immortal sluggers like Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott and Jimmy Foxx. Rose was also highly durable, holding the record of 17 seasons appearing in 150 or more games. And he was remarkably consistent, holding the record with ten seasons with 200 or more hits. He was the NL rookie of the year in 1963, the NL MVP in 1973, and the World Series MVP in 1975. He finished in the NL's top 25 in batting 17 times, and in the top 25 in OBP a remarkable 20 times. Hell, at age 44, he was on base nearly 200 times, with 86 walks, a .395 OBP and eight steals while only being caught once. That year, his walks and OBP both ranked fourth in the NL. That's insane! So it is absolutely ridiculous to keep Rose out of the Baseball Hall of Fame, considering some of the people currently enshrined (explained in detail below). For people with short attention spans or little time to spare, I will begin with a short list of reasons Rose belongs in the HOF:

#1 - Based on his performance on the field and impact on baseball history, Rose clearly belongs in the HOF.
#2 - Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker, two of the HOF's biggest stars, rigged a late-season game, then bet on it.
#3 - Rogers Hornsby, another of the HOF's biggest stars, was sued for nearly $100,000 by his bookie.
#4 - Dizzy Dean, another heavy gambler, was an unindicted co-conspirator in a Detroit mob gambling case.
#5 - Mickey Mantle was banned from baseball for his gambling associations, yet remains in the HOF.
#6 - John McGraw was arrested for public gambling; his bookie was Arnold Rothstein of Black Sox infamy.
#7 - Rube Waddell was accused of taking a $17,000 bribe (more than his salary) to sit out the 1905 World Series.
#8 - Leo Durocher was suspended for a year due to gambling debts and associations with known gamblers.
#9 - Thus, some of the biggest names in baseball—Cobb, Speaker, Hornsby, Dean, Mantle, et al—were gamblers.
#10 - The HOF has never been a hall of angels. It is hypocritical and unfair to single out Rose, considering the list above.

How Did Pete Rose Finish with Nearly as Many Total Bases as Babe Ruth?

Mickey Mantle once mocked Pete Rose for hitting so many singles. But Rose laughed last, finishing with 1,241 more total bases than the Mick. Rose also finished with more than 1,000 more total bases than immortal sluggers like Rogers Hornsby, Al Simmons, Joe DiMaggio, Ernie Banks, Sammy Sosa, Mike Schmidt, Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell and Harmon Killebrew. As a matter of fact, Rose finished with nearly as many total bases as the Sultan of Swat himself, Babe Ruth! How did he do it?

Well, first, Rose didn't just hit singles. He holds the NL record for doubles (746) and the MLB record for total bases by a switch-hitter (5,752), easily besting Mantle. Rose had 11 seasons with 270 or more total bases; Mantle had 10 such seasons. But while Mantle had his last superior season at age 32, the highly durable Rose excelled for another decade. From age 35 to 45, when most players are over the hill or out to farm, Rose had 1,712 hits and 2,202 total bases. Either or both of those numbers exceed the entire careers of celebrated players like Hank Greenberg, Bob Meusel, Mickey Cochrane, Lefty O'Doul, Jackie Robinson, Joe Gordon, Elston Howard, Gavvy Cravath, Marty Marion, Hack Wilson, Charlie Keller, Ralph Kiner, Red Rolfe, Frank Thomas, Mark McGwire, Pedro Guerrero, Kirk Gibson, Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance. Want to hear a truly crazy stat? Rose nearly out-hit the famous Hall-of-Fame double-play combination of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance by himself! So please give the man his due: in the most competitive of games, stats-wise, Rose is the all-time leader in seven major categories. He was the leader of the arguably greatest team of all time: the 1975-1976 Cincinnati Reds. He then led the Philadelphia Phillies to their first World Series title at age 39. He really was "Charlie Hustle" and he was still a productive player at age 44, as the stats prove.

This comment by Joe Morgan explains the mystery of Pete Rose's outlandish production: "Pete played the game, always, for keeps. Every game was the seventh game of the World Series. He had this unbelievable capacity to roar through 162 games as if they were each that one single game." And this is why no one who knows Rose thinks he threw games. It wasn't in his nature to do anything but try to win every game with every ounce of his being. Yes, he had a gambling problem—a sickness, an addiction. Yes, he broke the rules. But there is no evidence and no reason to believe that he wasn't always trying to win, and was betting on his team, never against it.

Pete Rose's Consistent Greatness

Pete Rose was consistently great for more than 20 years. For evidence, let's consider how many times he finished in the top ten in the following categories:

Plate Appearances (19 seasons), #1 all-time
Times on Base (18 seasons), #1 all-time
At-Bats (18 seasons), #1 all-time
Hits (17 seasons), #1 all-time
Singles (17 seasons), #1 all-time
Doubles (15 seasons), #3 all-time
Runs (15 seasons), #4 all-time
Batting Average (13 seasons), #8 all-time in a tie with baseball immortals Rod Carew, Roberto Clemente, Rogers Hornsby, Wee Willie Keeler, Nap Lajoie and Ted Williams

Pete Rose is #4 all-time in postseason WPA (Win Probability Added).

Pete Rose is #10 all-time in runs created, ahead of Rickey Henderson, Tris Speaker, Carl Yastrzemski, Jimmie Foxx, Frank Robinson, Mel Ott, Mickey Mantle and Rogers Hornsby.

Pete Rose is #29 all-time in offensive WAR, ahead of Dan Brouthers, Manny Ramirez, Wade Boggs, Rod Carew, Gary Sheffield, Frank Thomas, Sam Crawford, Charlie Gehringer, Reggie Jackson, Harry Heilmann and Paul Molitor.

Pete Rose is #33 all-time in WPA (Win Probability Added), just behind baseball immortals Joe DiMaggio and Mike Schmidt and ahead of Tris Speaker, Roberto Clemente, Al Simmons, Paul Waner, Reggie Jackson and George Brett.

Pete Rose's Career WAR is Undervalued

Pete Rose has 79.7 career WAR, which is more than the career WAR of Joe DiMaggio, Brooks Robinson, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Reggie Jackson, Ozzie Smith, Frank Thomas, Jim Thome, Paul Waner, and other baseball immortals. But I believe Rose's WAR would be much higher if he hadn't been so unselfish about playing wherever his team needed him most. According to dWAR, his best position was left field. In 1973-1974 when Rose played left field exclusively, he had 1.4 and 1.5 dWAR, respectively. But when he played other positions, his dWAR suffered and he ended up with career dWAR of -13.2 (negative). It stands to reason that if Rose had been able to play his best defensive position for most of his career, his career WAR would have been around 20 points higher. That would make him a top 20 position player, somewhere close to his teammate Joe Morgan and players like Albert Pujols, Mike Schmidt, Frank Robinson, Nap Lajoie and Mel Ott.

But even with all his position changes, Pete Rose was a very capable defender. He led the NL in fielding percentage at four positions: 1B (.997 in 1980), RF (.997 in 1970), LF (.994 in 1972 and .997 in 1974), and 3B (.969 in 1976). He was also second in fielding percentage at 2B (.979 in 1964). Leading the league in fielding percentage at four positions, and nearly at five, is pretty remarkable. In the all-time defensive rankings, Rose has the seventh-highest fielding percentage for a right fielder, and the eleventh-highest fielding percentage for a left fielder. For three years, 1972-1973-1974, Rose led all NL left fielders in putouts, assists, range factor and zone runs. In 1968, Rose led all NL right fielders in assists, and in 1971 he led all NL right fielders in putouts. In 1965 he led all NL second basemen in putouts. In 1980 he led all NL first basemen in assists.

Pete Rose: Why he should be in the Hall of Fame

Pete Rose should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame! Here's a poem I wrote in the spirit of the 2015 Christmas Season:

Christmas is coming,
Pete Rose is getting old ...
if you're far from perfect
why be a friggin' scold?
'Cause if you ever gambled
and seldom got a hit,
why damn the all-time leader?
Don't be a hypocrite!
—Michael R. Burch

REVENGE OF THE BEAN COUNTERS

Baseball's "morality" bean counters would have us believe that of all the men who ever played in the majors and excelled, Pete Rose is among the absolute worst. But the Cooperstown Hall of Fame is no hall of angels! Ty Cobb described himself as "sadistic" and has been called a sociopath by other players; he beat his son with a whip for flunking out of Princeton, got into bloody fights with umpires, honed his spikes to intimidate opponents, once leaped into the stands to beat up a handless heckler, and told sportswriter Al Stump: "In 1912—and you can write this down—I killed a man in Detroit." As the author of Baseball Hall of Fame—or Hall of Shame? asks: "Once you've already let in Ty Cobb, how can you exclude anyone else?"

Is gambling baseball's unforgivable sin? If so, Ty Cobb was accused of conspiring with Tris Speaker to fix a game in order to get player incentive bonuses. Once the game had been rigged, they bet on the results.

THE FIX IS IN: A TIMELINE OF HOW TY COBB AND TRIS SPEAKER FIXED A GAME
by Michael R. Burch

Sept. 25, 1919: According to letters in the possession of Dutch Leonard, a Detroit pitcher at that time, Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker fixed, then bet on a late-season game played between the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians on Sept. 25, 1919. This was just prior to the infamous Black Sox scandal that would soon rock the baseball world. The proximity of the two events suggests that such fixes were more than "blue moon" events in 1919. At the time Tris Speaker was the player-manager of the Cleveland Indians and was in the perfect position to rig the game. What was the motivation? Money. A third-place finish for the Tigers would mean a share of the post-season money for the Tigers of around $500 per player. The Indians had just clinched second place and had nothing to play for. Thus, the fix was on. And once the fix was on, betting on the game would produce even more money for both sides. According to an article by Dan Holmes on the subject, Speaker assured Cobb that he “wouldn’t have to worry” about the outcome of the game. Players involved in the fix included Cobb, Speaker, Leonard and Smoky Joe Wood. According to Cobb biographer Charles Alexander "the four agreed that they might as well bet some money on the game. Cobb was to put up $2,000, Leonard $1,500 and Speaker and Wood $1,000 each. Cobb suggested a park attendant named Fred West would be a good man to place the bets. But because Detroit was a 10-7 favorite and because the local bookmakers were unwilling to handle so much money, West only managed to get down $600 against the bookmakers' $420 for three betting partners." The Tigers won the game 9-5 in an "astonishing" one hour and six minutes, as the Indians committed three errors and Cleveland starter Elmer Myers reportedly "floated" pitches to Detroit batters.

I have included both letters at the end of this timeline, and they are VERY DAMNING, since the second letter explains the math of how the gambling winnings were calculated and divided!

Winter 1919: After the season was over Cobb and Wood wrote letters to Leonard about the incident, sharing regrets (not remorse as some erroneous reports have claimed) that they were unable to get their bets down in time and that their ingenious scam had fizzled.

1921: Ty Cobb becomes the player-manager of the Detroit Tigers, despite being greatly disliked by many of his teammates. And Dutch Leonard would soon become one of the disenchanted, if he wasn't before. In the first letter below they sounded like friends in 1919. But there is the possibility that Leonard felt Cobb had cheated him out of the real profits from their scam. Did one of the scammers get scammed?

July 1925: Cobb, now managing the Tigers, left Leonard in a game in which he surrendered 20 runs to the Philadelphia A's and lost 12-4. Cobb allegedly laughed at the suggestion that he pull the struggling pitcher. Philadelphia manager Connie Mack reportedly asked Cobb to take Leonard out, saying: “You’re killing that boy!” Cobb declined. Leonard lasted just one more start and was waived. After Cobb had released Leonard he allegedly discouraged other teams from signing him. Leonard was understandably unhappy and rumors began to circulate that he was claiming to "have something" on Cobb.

May 1926: Leonard informed Detroit owner Frank Navin in May of 1926 that he had proof, in the form of two letters, that Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker had conspired to fix the 1919 game. Leonard was about to sell the letters to a newspaper, but Navin bought the letters for $20,000 (a huge sum of money at the time) in order to keep them from going public. Navin at some point gave the letters to American League president Ban Johnson.

Oct. 1926: Around this time there were two secret meetings. The first secret meeting was between baseball commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis and Cobb, Speaker and Wood. The second secret meeting was between AL directors, and this one apparently led to the unpublicized resignations of Cobb and Speaker. So they were not found "guiltless" as some reports now insist. Apparently, Ban Johnson told Cobb and Speaker they would have to retire. In exchange, presumably, the story would be kept silent and they could preserve their dignity and reputations. But Landis and Johnson were not in agreement and any promises of privacy would soon go up in smoke.

Nov. 2, 1926: Cobb left a letter of resignation at Navin's office on Nov. 2, 1926. The next day he boarded a train for Atlanta, where he informed the press that he had resigned. Shortly thereafter, on Nov. 29, 1926, Speaker's resignation was also announced, without explanation. The retirement of two great players at the same time was surely not a coincidence. How was this not an admission of guilt?

Dec. 1926: When the press broke the story in December 1926, it created a scandal. Cobb was once again summoned to the office of commissioner Landis. However, Leonard declined to appear and testify at this hearing, saying he feared a physical attack from "that wild man." He also observed that people got knocked off in Chicago. If the bets in question had been intended to rip off the Chicago mob, his life might have been in danger. Would the mob make an example of him? In the absence of Leonard's testimony, Landis found Cobb and Speaker not guilty, according to some reports. Or did he, since Cobb and Speaker were not reinstated at that time?

Dec. 21, 1926: Landis released more than 100 pages of testimony documenting Leonard’s claims. (That's a lot of documentation if nothing untoward happened.) The release of the letters and Leonard’s charges became a gigantic news story, almost as big as the Black Sox scandal itself, or perhaps bigger in a way because of the titanic names involved. Congress got involved. Sports sections were overwhelmed. Petitions were circulated and protests arranged. There were furious editorials: some castigating Cobb and Speaker but more attacking Leonard for impugning their good names. West and Cobb claimed the bet mentioned in the letters was a horse racing bet. That was patently absurd because the Wood letter specifically mentioned a bet “on Detroit.” Meanwhile Swede Risburg claimed the White Sox had bribed Detroit players to throw consecutive doubleheaders played on September 2 and 3 of 1917. And the White Sox had swept all four games: 7-2, 6-5, 7-5, 14-8. The Tigers committed nine errors and the White Sox stole 19 bases during the series, lending plausibility to the charges.

Jan. 16, 1927: Ban Johnson made a lengthy statement to the press in which he had "a complete and utter meltdown." Johnson said he had to "strap" Cobb "as a father straps an unruly boy." He called Speaker "cute." And it turned out that most of what he claimed was nonsense. Johnson retired soon after his meltdown. And he left Landis in a bit of a bind, to put it mildly.

Early 1927: Cobb hired a lawyer and sent threatening letters to Leonard, Landis and Johnson. Two days after Johnson resigned, Cobb received a "back-channel invitation" from Landis to unretire. But it seems telling that neither Cobb nor Speaker were retained by their teams once their eligibility was restored. In February, Cobb signed with the Philadelphia A’s. Speaker then signed with the Senators. What sort of pressure, exactly, did Cobb put on Landis? One possibility I have heard expressed is that Cobb threatened to expose how prevalent such "fixes" were at the time. Did Cobb decide to fight the charges by threatening to "go public" about the real extent of the game-rigging at that time? Did Cobb, in effect, “strong-arm” the commissioner and threaten the integrity of the game, in order to protect his reputation? Without a witness, did Landis capitulate?

1928: Speaker joins Cobb in Philadelphia. Cobb retires after the 1928 season at age 41. Speaker retires after the 1928 season at age 40.

1936: Cobb is elected to the Hall of Fame as the leading vote-getter of the first class, with more votes than Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and Honus Wagner.

1937: Speaker is elected to the Hall of Fame in the second class (ironically, along with Ban Johnson).

2022: Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson remain pariahs and eternal outcasts, as far as the Hall of Fame is concerned. Why?

Throwing a game, betting on it when the results were known, then intimidating the authorities into silence was far worse than anything Pete Rose ever did. I do not claim to know if the intimidation actually happened, or, if so, exactly how it was accomplished, but in any case the resignations of Cobb and Speaker seem to be clear admissions of their guilt. Thus the first two charges were confirmed by the culprits. And Shoeless Joe Jackson didn't mastermind the Black Sox game-rigging, while Cobb and Speaker were the masterminds of their game-rigging. It remains questionable if Shoeless Joe participated in the Black Sox fix, since he played exceptionally well in the 1919 World Series. But in any case, it makes no sense to persecute him to the grave and beyond, when Cobb and Speaker admitted their guilt with their resignations. And Pete Rose is the least of the four, in terms of damage to the game, since there's no evidence he did anything worse than bet on his own team to win.

These are the two letters Dutch Leonard turned over to Frank Navin in return for $20,000:
The Ty Cobb letter:

Augusta Ga., October 23, 1919

Dear Dutch,

Well, old boy, guess you are out in California by this time and enjoying life.

I arrived home and found Mrs. Cobb only fair, but the baby girl was fine, and at this time Mrs. Cobb is very well, but I have been very busy getting acquainted with my family and have not tried to do any correspondence, hence my delay.

Wood and myself were considerably disappointed in our business proposition, as we had $2,000 to put into it, and the other side quoted us $1,400, and when we finally secured that much money it was about 2 o’clock and they refused to deal with us, as they had men in Chicago to take up the matter with and they had no time, so we completely fell down and of course we felt badly over it.

Everything was open to Wood and he can tell you about it when we get together. It was quite a responsibility and I don’t care for it again, I can assure you.

Well, I hope you found everything in fine shape at home and all your troubles will be little ones. I have made this year’s share of world series in cotton and expect to make more.

I thought the White Sox should have won but I am satisfied they were too overconfident. Well old scout, drop me a line when you can. We have had some dandy fishing since I arrived home.

With kindest regards to Mrs. Leonard, I remain,
Sincerely, TY

A couple of brief explanations, provided by Joe Posnanski: "The $2,000 and $1,400 figures were — according to Leonard and backed up by various research — the 7-10 odds they could get on the Indians-Tigers games in question. The details about “men in Chicago” almost certainly refers the money men behind the bookies. What Cobb was saying — and what Wood’s letter confirmed — is that the bookies simply did not have time to get the Chicago mob to to take such an enormous bet. One other fascinating bit in the letter is the part about the White Sox — soon to be known as the Black Sox — and their losing of the 1919 World Series. Cobb would admit to laying two baseball bets in his entire life, on Chicago in Games 1 and 2 of the 1919 World Series. He says he lost $150 and never again bet on a baseball game." Let it also be noted that in his letter Cobb admitted (1) betting twice on the 1919 World Series and (2) a clear effort to bet a huge sum of money for that time on a game he was playing in. If he wasn't a betting man, why would he have bet so much money on that game, unless he knew he had a sure winner?

The Smoky Joe Wood letter is more specific:

Cleveland, Ohio, Friday.

Dear Friend Dutch,

Enclosed please find certified check for sixteen hundred and thirty dollars ($1,630.00).

The only bet West could get down was $600 against $400 (10 to 7). Cobb did not get up a cent. He told us that and I believed him. Could have put up some at 5 to 2 on Detroit but did not as that would make us put up $1,000 to win $400.
We won the $420. I gave West $30, leaving $390 or $130 for each of us. Would not have cashed your check at all, but West thought he could get it up at 10 to 7, and I was going to put it all up at those odds. We would have won $1,750 for the $2,500 if we could have placed it.

If we ever have another chance like this we will know enough to try to get down early.

Let me hear from you, Dutch. With all good wishes to Mrs. Leonard and yourself, I am,

JOE WOOD

Comments provided by Joe Posnanski: "OK, a couple more points of clarification. It seems that Leonard had put up a $1,500 stake — that’s why he got a $1,630 check (his $1,500 plus his $130 in winnings). Joe Wood tried to get the whole amount down at those 7-10 odds but West (Fred West, a Detroit clubhouse attendant who Cobb had suggested for the job) could only get the bookies to take $600. That bet won $420 and, after paying off West, it left $130 for three people. Wood was one. Leonard was two. There was no mention of who the third person was and it remains a mystery. Leonard filled the void in his charge: He said the third person was Tris Speaker. But you will notice that Speaker’s name was not mentioned in either letter. There was, in fact, no evidence connecting Speaker to any of this except for the word of Dutch Leonard."

OTHER HALL-OF-FAME GAMBLERS

Rogers Hornsby was sued by his bookie for not paying nearly $100,000 in losses, and was traded several times because of his out-of-control gambling.

Dizzy Dean, another heavy gambler, was an unindicted co-conspirator in a Detroit mob gambling case involving the notorious game-fixer Donald "Dice" Dawson.

John McGraw was arrested for public gambling in 1904; his bookie was Arnold Rothstein of Black Sox infamy.

The perpetually broke Rube Waddell was accused of taking a $17,000 bribe to sit out the 1905 World Series. (That was more than his salary.)

Mickey Mantle was banned from baseball in 1983 for his association with gambling, but he remains in the Hall of Fame.

Leo Durocher was accused of "slimy underhand transactions" with gamblers. Durocher's shady friends included Meyer Boston, Memphis Engelberg, Sleepout Louie, Cigar Charlie and the Dancer. Bookies roamed Durocher's clubhouse; the Dodgers' locker room was described as an "open sewer."

Other "Morality" Issues

And there are, of course, worse things than gambling ...

Cap Anson has been described as a "relentless" racist who refused to take the field against black players and helped perpetuate the color barrier. Anson, Cobb, Hornsby and Speaker have been accused of belonging to the KKK. Charles Comiskey once "outed" a black player, Charlie Grant, who had been posing as a Cherokee.

Juan Marichal clubbed John Roseboro over the head with a bat, opening a gash that required 14 stitches.

Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Paul Waner, Grover Cleveland Alexander and Hack Wilson were notorious drinkers accused of playing under the influence of alcohol. (Casey Stengel called Waner "graceful" because he could slide without breaking the liquor bottle in his hip pocket.) Tim "Rock" Raines lived up to his nickname by stashing a cocaine rock in his uniform. (He would slide headfirst to avoid breaking it.) Ferguson Jenkins was arrested by customs officials for having cocaine in his luggage. Orlando Cepeda served ten months for smuggling 150 pounds of marijuana.

Kirby Puckett, Roberto Alomar and Hornsby were accused of domestic abuse. Hornsby was accused of womanizing, abusing three wives, and multiple cases of reckless driving, including running over an elderly man!

Early Wynn, Don Drysdale, Bob Gibson and Pedro Martinez were notorious and feared headhunters. Wynn confessed that he would throw at his own grandmother, while Drysdale said that he would throw a second knockdown pitch to make sure the batter knew the first one was not accidental.

Gaylord Perry doctored baseballs with spit, Vaseline and other substances, which he later admitted in his autobiography Me and the Spitter.

George Brett famously cheated with pine tar, then had a tantrum when he was caught.

 Wade Boggs admitted being a sex addict to Barbara Walters, on national television.

How many steroid users will end up in the Hall of Fame? How many amphetamine users already belong, since Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Mike Schmidt and Mantle have been linked to "greenies"?

What did Pete Rose do to warrant eternal damnation, really? He bet on his own team, is that so terrible? Why not let him be where he belongs, with other stars who were judged strictly by their performance on the field!

Credentials

One way to judge the value of a player is by how many times he makes an all-star team, how many Gold Gloves he wins, and how many times he places in the MVP voting. In the following table I "add up" such awards to determine each of the Great Eight's "star rating," giving two points for each all-star selection and each finish in the top 25 in the MVP voting. I have awarded ten extra points for winning the MVP and five for finishing in the top ten. To balance offense and defense, I have given two points for each Golden Glove (GG) and one point for every superior offensive season (SOS) with either a 100+ OPS or more than 162 total bases (an average of a base per game). On this scale, 0 is average, 1-25 is above average, 26-50 is a star, 50-100 is a superstar, and anything over 100 is a baseball immortal.

(#1) Pete Rose: 1 MVP award, 15 MVP nominations with seven top tens, 17 all-star games, 2 GG, 21 SOS = 134 (immortal)
(#2) Johnny Bench: 2 MVP awards, 10 MVP nominations with five top tens, 14 all-star games, 10 GG, 15 SOS = 128 (immortal)
(#3) Joe Morgan: 2 MVP awards, 7 MVP nominations with five top tens, 10 all-star games, 5 GG, 19 SOS = 108 (immortal)
(#4a) Tony Pérez: 7 MVP nominations finishing as high as third with three top tens, 7 all-star games, 17 SOS = 60 (superstar)
(#4b) George Foster: 1 MVP award, 5 MVP nominations finishing 1-2-3-6-12, 5 all-star games, 13 SOS = 58 (superstar)
(#4c) Dave Concepción: 3 MVP nominations finishing as high as fourth with two top tens, 9 all-star games, 5 GG, 13 SOS = 57 (superstar)
(#7) Ken Griffey: 2 MVP nominations finishing as high as eighth, 3 all-star games, 16 SOS = 31 (star)
(#8) Cesar Gerónimo: 1 MVP nomination finishing 25th, 4 GG, 6 SOS = 16 (well above average)

Pete Rose leads all HOF third basemen in games, plate appearances, at-bats, hits, singles, doubles, runs, times on base and total bases, and ranks fifth in WAR (79.1) and JAWS (69.1). If we put him in left field or right field, he still leads the pack in games, plate appearances, at-bats, hits, singles and times on base, and ranks in the top ten in the other categories.

More Reasons

Let me also point out that in addition to starring on two World Series winning teams with the Red in 1975-1976, Pete Rose changed positions yet again, to first base, then led the 1980 Philadelphia Phillies to the team's first-ever World Series victory, after a century of futility. Playing at age 39, the indestructible, indefatigable Rose led the Phillies in games (162), plate appearances (739) and hits (185). He also led the NL in doubles (42) and HBPs (6), scored 95 runs, and made the all-star team. In 1981, at age 40, he batted .325, led the NL in hits, won a silver slugger award, made the all-star team and finished tenth in the MVP voting. In 1982, at age 42, he again played every game (162), scored 80 runs, stole 8 bases, and made the all-star team. In 1984 at age 43, rejuvenated by his return to the Reds as a player-manager, in 26 games he hit .365 with an OPS of .888. In 1985, at freaking age 44, he had 107 hits and 86 walks for an OBP of .395, stole 8 bases while only being caught once, and made the all-star team. In 1986 at you-gotta-be-kidding-me age 45, he was still good for better than a base per game, with 52 hits and 30 walks in 72 games, and stole three bases without being caught. Hank Aaron got 262 hits in his forties. Rose had 806 hits in his forties. Hell, Rose scored more runs, 366, in his forties than Aaron had hits. Double hell, Rose even had more RBIs, 271, than Aaron had hits!

Come on folks, Pete Rose was a baseball freak, a hitting machine, a human dynamo―"Charlie Hustle!" We have all gambled and done silly and stupid things, but none of us ever got 806 hits in our forties against the best pitchers in the world! Bean counters and moralists should have no say in who is eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame, and especially not when Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Cap Anson, Mickey Mantle and other rouges are enshrined there.

And just in case you're not yet convinced, please consider these facts:

Pete Rose has more than a thousand total bases more than great sluggers like Rogers Hornsby, Mickey Mantle, Sammy Sosa, Cap Anson, Al Simmons, and teammates Tony Pérez and Mike Schmidt
Pete Rose had more than a thousand runs more than Steve Garvey, Ron Santo, Keith Hernandez, Kirby Puckett, Orlando Cepeda, Bill Terry, Johnny Mize, and teammates Johnny Bench and Ken Griffey Sr.
Pete Rose has more than a thousand hits more than George Brett, Tony Gwynn, Rod Carew, Paul Waner, Nap Lajoie, Rogers Hornsby, Al Simmons, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams
In fact, Pete Rose has more than a thousand hits more than all but twelve players in baseball history!
Pete Rose had more than two thousand hits more than hall-of-famers Joe DiMaggio, Bill Terry, Duke Snider, Chuck Klein, and many others
In fact, Pete Rose had nearly two thousand more hits than the average hall-of-famer (4,256 to 2,402)
Pete Rose nearly outhit the celebrated hall-of-fame infield trio of Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance by himself (4,256 to 4,623)
Pete Rose has more than two thousand more plate appearances than all but two players in baseball history
Pete Rose more than doubled the career hits of great hitters like Mike Piazza, Duke Snider, Dale Murphy, Felipe Alou and Johnny Mize; they would have to clone themselves and play another career to catch him!
Pete Rose nearly doubled the doubles of the average hall-of-famer (746 to 411)
Pete Rose out-doubled Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance by himself (746 to 679)
Pete Rose doubled the doubles of Jim Rice, Bill Terry, Pie Traynor, Nellie Fox, and many other hall-of-famers
Pete Rose hit more home runs than hall-of-famers Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Tris Speaker, Paul Waner, Bill Terry, George Sisler, Lou Brock, Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs
Most hall-of-famers are sissies compared to Pete Rose: he had nearly seven thousand more plate appearances than the average inductee (15,890 to 9,026)!
Pete Rose played in nearly as many winning games as the average hall-of-famer played total games (1,972 to 2,140)!
Pete Rose is the all-time leader in games played, winning games played, plate appearances, at-bats, hits, singles, and total times on base.
Pete Rose, while often called a "singles hitter," is also the all-time leader in extra-base hits (1,041) and total bases (5,752) by a switch hitter: more than Mickey Mantle, Eddie Murray and Chipper Jones.
Pete Rose was an all-star seventeen times at five different positions. He is the only player to log 500 games at five different positions. Most players do well to master one position.
Pete Rose played seven different positions altogether: 1B, 2B, 3B, RF, CF, LF and playing-manager with the Reds at the end of his career.
Pete Rose was the NL rookie of the year, once an all-star starter, and twice a top-ten MVP candidate at second base (1963-1966).
Pete Rose was an all-star and a top-ten MVP candidate at left field (1967).
Pete Rose was twice a gold glove winner twice and four times an all-star as a right fielder, although at the time (1968-1971) he also played some center field.
Pete Rose was three times an all-star and won the NL MVP award as a left fielder (1972-1974).
Pete Rose was four times an all-star and a top MVP candidate as a third baseman (1975-1978).
Pete Rose was four times an all-star and an MVP candidate as a first baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies (1979-1983).
Pete Rose alternated between first base and left field for the Montreal Expos (1984).
Pete Rose acquired a new position (playing manager) for the Reds, and played in his seventeenth and final all-star game as a first baseman (1984-1986).

There are currently 172 position players in the HOF, not including players who were elected as managers. Pete Rose has a higher career WAR (79.1) than all but 34 other position players. So he has higher career WAR than 80% of the greatest hitters ever to play the game. And of course he leads them ALL in games, plate appearances, at-bats and hits. Rose has higher career WAR than legends of the game like Joe DiMaggio, Brooks Robinson, Robin Yount, Ozzie Smith, Paul Molitor, Johnny Bench, Reggie Jackson, Tony Gwynn, Al Simmons, Ryne Sandberg, Ernie Banks, et al. It is absolutely insane for beancounters to keep Pete Rose out of the Hall of Fame. Let him in!

The Great Leadoff Debate

Few baseball fans would argue that Johnny Bench was one of the greatest catchers of all time. Few would contest that Joe Morgan was one of the best second basemen of all time. And it's hard to argue with Tony Pérez's 1,652 RBI, Concepción gold gloves and superior offensive stats for a shortstop of his era, or the reason that George Foster was called the "Destroyer." But for some odd reason, many baseball fans are all-too-ready to radically undervalue Pete Rose. Was he one of the two best leadoff men of all time, or does he belong further down the list? I think it is child's play to prove that Rose is either the best or second-best leadoff man of all time. First, let's ask: "What is the main goal of hitting leadoff?" Isn't the goal to get on base and score or help create runs? Yes, stealing bases is a factor, but would you rather have a leadoff hitter who steals bases, or one who scores runs in bunches? I think any baseball coach or manager would chose getting on base and producing runs over steals. So let's examine the evidence from those angles:

Hits: Pete Rose #1, Craig Biggio #22, Rickey Henderson #23, Ichiro Suzuki #25, Lou Brock #26, Omar Vizquel #42, Johnny Damon #54, Max Carey #71, Tim Raines #80, Kenny Lofton #120, Billy Hamilton #198

Times on Base: Pete Rose #1, Rickey Henderson #4, Craig Biggio #19, Tim Raines #48, Omar Vizquel #50, Lou Brock #60, Johnny Damon #62, Max Carey #69, Ichiro Suzuki #76, Billy Hamilton #111, Kenny Lofton #120

Total Bases: Pete Rose #8 (just 41 less than Babe Ruth!), Craig Biggio #36, Rickey Henderson #45, Johnny Damon #72, Lou Brock #69, Ichiro Suzuki #100, Tim Raines #121, Omar Vizquel #129, Max Carey #151

Runs: Rickey Henderson #1, Pete Rose #6, Craig Biggio #15, Billy Hamilton #27, Johnny Damon #32, Lou Brock #47, Tim Raines #54, Max Carey #57, Kenny Lofton #63, Omar Vizquel #81, Ichiro Suzuki #96

Runs Created: Pete Rose #10, Rickey Henderson #11, Craig Biggio #34, Tim Raines #61, Johnny Damon #73, Lou Brock #85, Ichiro Suzuki #91, Kenny Lofton #116, Max Carey #136, Omar Vizquel #144, Billy Hamilton #192

WAR: Rickey Henderson 110.8, Pete Rose 79.1, Lou Brock 45.2, Tim Raines 69.1, Kenny Lofton 68.2, Craig Biggio 65.1, Billy Hamilton 63.3, Ichiro Suzuki 59.0, Johnny Damon 56.0, Max Carey 54.2, Omar Vizquel 45.3, Lou Brock 45.2

Other leadoff hitters I considered, but who didn't break the top 100 in runs, include Brady Anderson, Luis Aparicio, Richie Ashburn, Bobby Bonds, Brett Butler, Bert Campaneris, Vince Coleman, Earle Combs, Dom DiMaggio, Stan Hack, Harry Hooper, Chuck Knoblauch, Davey Lopes, Pee Wee Reese, Lloyd Waner, Devon White, Maury Wills, Willie Wilson and Eddie Yost. I also didn't consider players who spent a lot of time hitting in other positions, such as Wade Boggs, Paul Molitor and Lou Whitaker. Pete Rose had nearly 3,000 hits batting leadoff, so I am comparing him to other players who were primarily leadoff hitters.

What these numbers tell us is that there is a considerable gap among leadoff hitters, after Pete Rose and Rickey Henderson. Rose leads all leadoff hitters in four categories. Henderson leads in runs and WAR. If you want to claim that Henderson was the best leadoff man of all time, you have a decent argument, although Rose leads Henderson by wide margins in hits and total bases. But I don't think there is much of an argument to choose anyone other than Rose for the other top slot.

The "eye test" gives me the following ranking: Rose #1, Henderson #2, Biggio #3, Brock #4, Damon #5, Raines #6, Suzuki #7, Carey #8, Vizquel #9, Lofton #10, Hamilton #11 (BTW, this tends to support Bill James, who has ranked Biggio much higher than many other baseball gurus)

If we included Boggs and Molitor, they would both be in the top five, but I don't think they would jump over Rose and Henderson.

I think the 1976 Reds were remarkable because in my opinion they had the best leadoff hitter of all time playing third, the best catcher of all time, and the best second baseman of all time. If they were not the best, they were certainly among the very best. And that is more remarkable than having power hitters at power positions like first base and the outfield. Toss in Pérez and Concepción and you easily have the best infield of all time. Then look at the stats of the outfielders, who were easily the best outfield in all MLB in 1976. This is just more evidence that the 1976 Reds stand alone as the best team of position players, from top to bottom, in the history of baseball.

Related Pages: All-Time Cincinnati Reds Baseball Team, The Greatest Baseball Infields of All Time, Cincinnati Reds Trivia, Is Mike Trout the GOAT?, Best Baseball Nicknames, Weird Baseball Facts and Trivia, Baseball Hall of Fame: The Best Candidates, Why Pete Rose Should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame

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