Pete Rose lied to us. Somehow this is considered breaking news. In reality it is a broken record.
For the better part of 15 years Rose insisted he never bet on baseball. He portrayed himself as a victim who was railroaded by Commissioner Bart Giamatti into accepting a 1989 lifetime ban from the game.
He told anyone who would listen and sadly we did.
Then he told us it was a lie. Yes, he bet on baseball. Yes, he bet on his team while managing the Cincinnati Reds. He put it in print in his 2004 “tell-all” autobiography “My Prison Without Bars” and said in an ABC television interview: “It’s time to clean the slate, it’s time to take responsibility.”
His motives were suspect. There was money to be made from the book. The clock was ticking on his Hall of Fame chances. Under the rules at the time, a player was eligible to be voted in for 20 years following his retirement, making December 2005 the final opportunity Rose had to get his name on the ballot.
Motives aside, at least he found his way to the truth. That was worth something, right?
Only if it was the whole truth, which from the start seemed unlikely. Still, there was hope that Rose’s slate, filthy as it had become, was clean.
Now, hope is lost.
Monday’s ESPN “Outside the Lines” report produced a notebook from a former associate displaying bets Rose made on his own team while he was a player.
Rose had insisted he never bet on games in which he played, only those he managed. The lie had more staying power than the rest, lasting 26 years. It was a lie just the same.
Whatever credibility Rose had is gone. So is the small chance he had of gaining reinstatement from Commissioner Rob Manfred.
Likely, the two will meet anyway. Rose will plead his case. And when he’s finished, Manfred can look him square in those fiery eyes and say, “Why should I believe a word you say?”
That’s where Rose is now, face to face with the lifetime aspect of his ban. He is a victim all right … of his own actions and words. There is no escape from either.
It is difficult to find joy in that no matter where you stand on Rose. If you love the game, you want to be able to celebrate a guy who played in more games and had more hits than anyone else.
Rose was a blood-and-guts player who would do anything to win. He says he never bet against his own team, but how can we believe him?
Certainly it was a joy to watch him sprint to first base on a walk or belly flop into third with a triple. He didn’t play baseball, he embodied it.
It would be terrific to leave it at that, but we don’t have that luxury. The line between what Rose was and who he is has been forever blurred, creating a mixed bag of talent, triumph, disgust and mistrust.
Rose is scheduled to appear at the Corn Crib on July 9 as a guest of the Normal CornBelters. There is no reason for the Belters to back away from that commitment. Team management is to be commended for landing such a big name.
Nor should Rose back away from his trip to Normal. He has made a good living signing autographs and posing for pictures. He still has a place in the hearts of many fans, and that’s OK.
He’ll just never again have one in baseball.
It’s the cold, hard truth.