If we get the heroes we deserve, then Pete Rose may just be the man for America today. In his career as a baseball player, Rose embodied the democratic idea that hard work could overcome inherited setbacks. There were lots of players with greater natural talents than Rose. He wasn't the strongest, the fastest, or the smartest. But he worked the hardest, and he became the best.
Today Rose has come to embody the fact that, in America today, nothing matters except money - and perhaps fame, which matters because it can be turned into money. By now everyone knows the story of the square-jawed, helmet-haired old Red. In the first days of 2004, it was unavoidable. After nearly three decades in big league baseball, first as a player then as a manager, in 1989 Rose was banished from the sport for betting on games. That meant no baseball-related jobs and, worst of all, no induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In early January, Rose finally admitted that the old allegations were true and launched a campaign for his reinstatement.
In major league baseball, betting on the game is no ordinary offense. It is a violation equivalent to a public corporation issuing false earnings figures to its stockholders. The system simply doesn't work if the integrity of the rules is in doubt. As a former player and general manager of the Texas Rangers, Tom Grieve, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, "In every major-league and minor-league clubhouse in America there's a great big poster that says, among other things, that you can't bet on baseball and if you do you face a lifetime ban. The general manager reads it to the team on Opening Day every year. It's not a secret. [Rose] knew that, and he broke that rule."