I was a Bart Giamatti guy. I was all for a Commissioner of Baseball who could quote poetry at length and write essays with titles like “The Green Fields of the Mind.” That particular essay posited that baseball was meant to break your heart. A case can be made. It’s a sentimental case, but so what? Anyway, Giamatti made it.
But even back in 1989, when Commissioner Giamatti banished Pete Rose forever from the game that’s meant to break your heart, I wondered about Giamatti’s injunction from on high: Rose would remain in baseball purgatory — undeniably famous, but locked out of the hall of same — until, as the commissioner told Rose, “you reconfigure your life.”
Pete Rose is a risk to nobody who’s been paying attention, because they know what they’re getting when they’re getting Pete.
I’ve followed Rose’s post-baseball career from a distance. I’ve read a lot about him and seen him at events from time to time, most recently in June of 2014 at a minor league ballgame in Connecticut, before which Rose entertained a couple of rows of reporters in folding wooden chairs in right field with the same old jokes and tired lines he was using in his day job, which was signing and selling his stuff in Las Vegas.
At no time has it seemed likely to me that Pete Rose would “reconfigure” his life, whatever that might have meant to Bart Giamatti.
But Commissioner Rob Manfred’s conclusion this week that Rose presented “an unacceptable risk” to baseball takes the original mandate to reconfigure a step further into Wonderland.
Pete Rose is a risk to nobody who’s been paying attention, because they know what they’re getting when they’re getting Pete. He’s a 74 year old self-aggrandizing jerk who’s made his living on the fringes of baseball since he got shut out of the main event, because what else was he going to do? Go to law school?
I’ve written before that Pete Rose ought to be in the Hall of Fame, since he is justifiably famous, and it is not the Hall of Admirable People. But perhaps the time for that argument is past. Four commissioners have said “no,” and the current guy finds him “risky.” What’s left to say? Have a good rest-of-your-life, Pete. At this point you can have it unapologetically.