Why Pete Rose belongs in Cooperstown, warts and all

By Michael Dixon

Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame.

On Monday, Commissioner Rob Manfred officially upheld Rose’s lifetime ban from Major League Baseball, which includes the Hall of Fame. It’s unfortunate because again, Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame. Actually, let’s get this one right. Pete Rose belongs in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, but not for anything that he did on the field.

Rose’s career exploits are so well known that there’s no real need to go over them all. He’s Major League Baseball’s all-time hit leader and will hold that record for the rest of my life, your life, the lives of any of our unborn children, and even their children. That said, Rose deserves a spot in Cooperstown not for any of that, but because of his gambling and lifetime ban from Major League Baseball.

Imagine a museum devoted solely to the history of the Boston Red Sox. If you, the customer, pay to get in there and walk around to see every exhibit, you should expect to see some mention of the 1918-2004 World Series drought, or the fact that the franchise sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees. If that isn’t mentioned, then the exhibit that you’d surely see about the 2004 American League Championship Series and World Series would lose a great deal of its weight.

More to the subject, a museum devoted to the Chicago White Sox would not be a good museum if it excluded any mention of the 1919 World Series, or subsequent banning of the eight White Sox players. That’s a part of the White Sox history, even if it’s not something they’re likely to brag about.

So, if museums devoted to individual teams would be doing a poor job to exclude any of their negative history, why wouldn’t the same logic apply to a museum devoted to the history of the sport as a whole?

Any museum that omits a part of the history of the subject because it’s not positive is simply not telling the full story. As such, they are not being fair to their patrons. The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum really needs to alter the way that things are done in Cooperstown.

Now, the section that honors the players who have been voted in should not be altered. The plaques to honor Cy Young, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and the rest of the game’s enshrined legends should go completely untouched.

But the museum itself needs another wing. For the sake of this argument, we’ll call it the Wing of Dishonor.

People featured in that wing should include:

  • The eight members of the 1919 White Sox, and anyone else banned from Major League Baseball for gambling or any other reason. Of course, this includes Pete Rose.
  • Anyone who actively participated in keeping the game segregated. It would too simple and incredibly unfair to include anyone who was a part of baseball before 1947 as a part of this. But with a little research, it wouldn’t be too hard to find specific people who should be included.
  • Steroid guys. This one is a little trickier because there’s so many of them and excluding those who have tested positive for Performance Enhancing Drugs and those who have admitted to using them, there’s a lot of speculation, but that could be covered. Everyone who was named in the Mitchell Report could be named on a wall, as could everyone who’s tested positive or been suspended, with certain players being highlighted. If at one point one of these guys receives the votes needed to earn admission to the regular wing of the Hall of Fame, they can be taken away from the Wing of Dishonor.

In that wing, you could also include what those players, managers, or executives accomplished on the field, just as long as a strong mention of why they’re not honored with the others is also included.

Pete Rose gambled on baseball. He was banned in 1989, and while Donald Trump may disagree, Rose’s continued ban from Major League Baseball is easily justified. It’s also easily justified to keep him from being honored in the Hall of Fame.

But what can’t be defended is the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum omitting anyone who’s a significant player in the history of the game. Rose’s gambling saga and subsequent ban is a huge part of the game’s history. So, while he shouldn’t be honored there, Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame.