June 9, 2010

Pete Rose Corked His Bat Too

When I was a kid, I began to really enjoy baseball by following the 1981 Milwaukee Brewers, and then Pete Rose's pursuit of Ty Cobb's hit record; Rose would have been one of my first baseball heroes and his fall from grace after it was revealed that he bet on (and against) his own team was one of my first personal doses of real-world cynicism.  (I've written elsewhere about how my father spared me the cynicism of losing faith in the President of the United States after asking why he was resigning.)  I can remember listening to the game where he broke Cobb's record on the radio.

So now it appears Pete Rose used a corked bat while chasing Ty Cobb's record.  Does it really matter?  Charlie Hustle's reputation is already lower than a West Virginia coal mine not just for betting against his own team but for lying about it afterwards for decades; he has already been banned from baseball forever; and he's been exposed a tax cheat to boot.  When Rose tried to argue that steroid use makes a mockery of baseball, everyone just laughed because it was kind of like Ted Kennedy lecturing someone on sexual harassment.  So why not add a corked bat to the list of reasons to shake your head in sadness about a guy who ought to be enjoying a great retirement as one of the greatest players ever who instead gets to wear a scarlet badge of disgrace.

And there is still no reason to believe that anyone on the '81 Brewers had played dirty.  Cecil Cooper, Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, and Rollie Fingers are still my boyhood baseball heroes.  I can still remember watching on TV as the crowd back at County Stadium cheered for the Royals to send out their best pitcher against the home team, so that Milwaukee could feel like it earned the right to play off against the Yankees.  And yes, my heart broke when Reggie Jackson hit his monster in gave five, but that, at least, was an honest baseball heartbreak.  And I was made into a Dodger fan for life by the team that beat those Yankees in the World Series that followed.

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