Saturday, March 17, 2007

Baseball & The War of the Rose

I grew up in a baseball family, and some of my earliest childhood memories are of sitting in the kitchen after dinner with my mother and grandmother listening to radio broadcasts of the long suffering Philadelphia Phillies. (My father worked a night shift at the time.)

So I knew what a change-up pitch, a hit-and-run play and a suicide squeeze bunt were before the training wheels were off my bike. Listening to baseball on the radio and later watching it when we finally got a TV was a singular pleasure topped only by my father taking me to a game at Connie Mack Stadium, a rust bucket of a ballpark in North Philadelphia where the Phillies lost more games than any team in major league history.

In baseball, hope springs eternal each spring and this year is no exception. For the first time since forever, the Phillies are favored to win their division. (They did win a World Series in 1980; my father died the next year a happy man.)

Perhaps it’s a generational thing, but baseball is not the sport that it was when I was a youngster, and while there still is a beauty to the game, it is being dragged down by pretty boy superstars whose paychecks are bigger than their performances, as well as a lurking steroid scandal that the major domos of the sport have been reluctant to confront head on. (Yeah, I’m talking about you, Barry Bonds.)

Then there’s Pete Rose.

Nicknamed “Charlie Hustle” for his balls-out style of play, this fireplug of a switch-hitter is the all-time Major League hit leader. Rose played for the Cincinnati Reds before coming to the Phillies, where he was a big part of the nucleus of the 1980 world champions.

While I admired Rose as a player, his off-the-field conduct was not that of an all-star. He was an arrogant bully and violated a cardinal rule of the sport by betting on games and the cardinal rule of that cardinal rule – betting on games in which he played and managed. And as he revealed this week after years of denials, “bet on my team every night.”

I bring this up for three reasons: First, it’s Saturday and I’m sick of blogging about the Iraq war. Second, with the 2007 season around the corner, there again is talk of whether Rose should be admitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame. (No way.) And finally, Rick Moran has posted a whip smart commentary on the whole sordid affair at his Right Wing Nuthouse.
If you’re a baseball fan, it’s a must read.

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