Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas
Hank Aaron (thankfully) has brought the Pete Rose issue back into focus. Rose isn’t a good guy, he gambled on baseball (but only on his team to win, a huge difference – see below), he made a buck by writing a book confessing to gambling (after writing a book years ago stating he didn’t do it) and on and on and on.
But even the Rose naysayers should admit that next month, the 20th anniversary of his lifetime ban, should be more than enough of a punishment for the all-time hits leader. No, he didn’t go to jail. But banning him from baseball and Hall of Fame eligibility is the equivalent of jail for a baseball lifer like Rose. Many murderers do far less than 20 years. Baseball druggies, banned “for life” many times (see Howe, Steve, among others), could apply for reinstatement after one year and were often reinstated after one year.
It would seem that the 20-year mark has awakened many Hall of Famers. They say that enough is enough is enough. It’s a simple way of saying “When does the punishment fit the crime?” Aaron, Frank Robinson, Joe Morgan, Ozzie Smith and other Hall of Famers all see the obvious: Pete Rose has more than paid the price and should be eligible to the Hall of Fame.
THE STUPIDITY OF RULE 21(d)
It all goes back to the 1919 Black Sox scandal. In the wake of the White Sox throwing the 1919 World Series, baseball banned gambling (prior to 1919, some players and managers would routinely gamble on games). When Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis (who is in the Hall of Fame despite keeping African-Americans out of the game for over 25 years – who hurt baseball more, Rose or Landis?) “cleaned up” baseball, an anti-gambling rule was instituted.
Major League Rule 21(d) states, in pertinent part: “Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible.” The rule also states that if you bet on a game in which you have no duty to perform, the suspension is one year.
The rule is stupid on its face. By betting “any sum whatsoever,” you can have the absurd situation of friends passing each other on the field before the game and one says to the other, “I’ll bet you fifty bucks that we beat you tonight.” If the other guy says OK, in theory you could have two lifetime bans over a $50 bet. Is that absurd? Of course it is.
Nor is there any differentiation between betting on your team to win and betting on your team to lose. Clearly if Pete Rose had bet on his team to lose, ban him for life and throw away the key. But that’s not what happened. Understanding the personality of Pete Rose, even his enemies would understand that Rose would only bet on his team to win.
And if that’s true, how can the punishment for betting on your team to win be the same as betting on your team to lose?
CHANGE THE PENALTY!!!
So, we would all agree that, if you bet on your team to lose, you should be banned forever. If you bet on a game that you’re not involved in, you should be banned for a year. BUT THERE SHOULD BE A MIDDLE GROUND IF YOU BET ON YOUR TEAM TO WIN. And that middle ground (you pick the number) should be two or five or even ten years. But under no set of facts should it be twenty years. And that’s what it is next month for Pete Rose.
So, when does that great American legal principle, that the punishment should fit the crime, come into play? Never? That’s absurd.
WHAT ABOUT THE “DETERRENT” EFFECT?
Fay Vincent, over the years and this week, talked about the deterrent effect of the gambling lifetime ban and how Bud Selig would be making a mistake by reinstating Rose. But Vincent himself, back in June of 2008 on WFAN radio in New York City, admitted that, had Rose “come clean” earlier, he probably would have been reinstated after a few years. So the notion of “deterrence” disappears by Fay Vincent’s own words. That’s not too hard to understand, is it?
WHAT ABOUT GAYLORD PERRY?
Still the greatest example of hypocrisy in the Hall of Fame, Perry wrote a book entitled “Me and the Spitter” (seriously). In it, he explained how he threw a spitter, then changed to a Vaseline ball, etc. While stating in the book that he had stopped, Gaylord Perry went on to pitch TEN MORE YEARS in the major leagues. He’s in and Pete Rose is out? Come on. Who hurt baseball more, Gaylord Perry or Pete Rose? It’s not even a conversation.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
Well, the latest reports are that Selig isn’t seriously considering reinstating Rose. But the pressure has begun to mount on him and, when Henry Aaron speaks, Bud Selig listens. Maybe with a rush of support from numerous living members of the Hall of Fame, enough pressure will be brought to bear on Selig so that he will see the obvious – that Pete Rose has more than served his time, has admitted his guilt (better late than never) and should have a chance to enter the Hall of Fame.
And, after Rose is reinstated, we can start talking about Shoeless Joe Jackson.
© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.