one of the first baseball players I ever remember is Pete Rose. When I was growing up, he was one of the best players. "Charlie Hustle" was about a third of the way through his career, but definitely on a path to the Hall of Fame.
A Rookie of the Year, 17x All-Star, 3x NL batting champ, 2x Gold Glove, an NL MVP and a World Series MVP, Rose racked up the hardware, while moving as a starter from 2B to RF to LF to 3B and finally to 1B. He is the all time hits leader and was also the last Player-Manager.
Unfortunately, Rose's enshrinement in the Hall was derailed by his admitted gambling. This has been a source of debate for the last 30+ years.
The rules are clearly posted in ever MLB clubhouse. This wasn't an isolated incident and Rose knew what he was doing.
His case probably isn't helped by some of his actions. Making cash while signing "apology" baseballs might not have mattered, but it didn't look good either.
I met Rose at the National last year. After all these years, I'm still not sure how I feel about the HOF debate or Rose, for that matter. Still, I recognize him as one of the biggest sports stars ever, probably one of the biggest names in pop culture, too.
I had the chance to meet a baseball hero from my youth and I was happy to talk to him briefly. I don't need to put him on a pedestal to recognize and respect what he did on the field.
Rose accomplished a lot on the field. Nobody can take that away from him. Knowing his love of the game, I am sure it kills him not to be in the HOF.
Just like the steroid issue, I hate that gambling has affected Rose's place in baseball history. Baseball stats and the HOF no longer mean what they did when I was younger. These things were revered. It's a shame.
As for Rose at the National, he was polite, but overly talkative. It wasn't a bad experience, but it wasn't a particularly memorable one either, aside from who Rose is. I guess like I wrote about Rose, regardless of what happens, I am still there, next to one of the elite in baseball.
Pete Rose and me in Rosemont, IL-August 2017.