Monday, August 24, 2009

pete rose...

i've been blessed to have seen some pretty amazing things on the baseball field. my dad and i saw juan samuel hit a game winning grand slam. i went with a group from my church to a game and saw a triple play. and-- only because we had nothing else to do on a random summer night-- my friends wendy, jeremy and i got to see terry mulholland's no hitter. i'm not sure anything can beat that.

but, coming somewhere close is seeing pete rose stretch a lazy double into a triple with his trademark head first dive. the crowd went ballistic. i couldn't have been more than ten years old, but i remember specifically thinking, "i am never going to forget this." of course i don't know, but i'm pretty sure that's a bit of an odd thing for a ten year old to have thought, but... i was a pretty odd ten year old. more than that, though, pete rose was an exceptional baseball player.

i absolutely loved him. my sister and i were such huge fans. we flipped out when he caught a pop up in foul territory-- with his bare hand-- that bob boone let jump out of his glove in the ninth inning of the final world series game in 1980.

we always wanted to eat at a restaurant back in south jersey called the ponderosa, because in it there was a plaque on one of the booths that read, "pete rose sat here." and, believe me, we were pissed whenever we walked in and saw some other family sitting there! honestly, we would wait them out, and move our seats to that booth whenever they left!

pete rose ran to first base every time he got a walk-- and that meant something to my sister and i. "charlie hustle" wasn't just his nickname to us, it was an extraordinary example of how to live life: do better than what's expected of you. anybody can do their best. go beyond that. exceed even your own expectations. and live every moment-- even the most routine of moments-- with passion.

today marks the 20th anniversary of the day pete rose was banned for life from baseball for betting on the game. he denied it so frequently that i believed him for years and years.

i wanted to believe him.

the evidence against him eventually became public, though, and was so overwhelming that it instantly became impossible to believe anything but this: pete rose lied. to his friends, his family, to his teammates, his detractors. to me. he finally came clean a few years ago. in an exclusive interview, and on a book tour. signing autographs to help pay the bills.

for twenty years, i've heard every possible argument about pete rose and his lifetime ban. i've heard every possible angle to the question, "does pete rose belong in the hall of fame?" and, y'know... i still don't know what to think.

how many memories does anyone have from their childhood that were at once so crystal clear, and undeniably pure and beautiful? and how often are those same things tainted years later with a harsh and bitter truth that was lying underneath the surface the entire time?

i know it's only baseball, but to me, it's very much like the few and faint memories i have of the happier times between my parents before they split up. singing in the car, laughing at a joke... i don't have that many of those memories-- not just because there weren't enough of them, but because, while they were there, i didn't think enough of them. i didn't think to capture them in my mind. these were just routine things, and nothing at all as dramatic as pete rose diving into third.

is pete rose a hall of famer? i don't know. my opinion on this changes all the time. but, really, he's just a man, as flawed as the rest of us. he's as perfect as anyone could ever hope to be. and he's just as tragic as anyone could fear. pete rose was my hero. and pete rose broke my heart.

the five things i fell in love with today...

1) bringing your glove to the ballpark.
2) the 1986 new york mets.
3) the camden riversharks.
4) the crack of a wooden bat belting out a line drive.
5) playing catch with my dad.

song of the day...
"centerfield" by john fogerty

movie of the day...
"field of dreams"


  1. Great Blog love the subject. I wrestle with the same debate in my heart all the time. You nailed it, He's just a Man but on the field he could be as perfect as anyone could be and that's why he is beloved but off the field as flawed as anyone if not more. But he will always be a great memory from my past like the smell of my glove makes me think of my Dad.

  2. thanks, newt!

    that's exactly why field of dreams is my favorite sports movie of alltime! because, more than baseball, it's about those relationships that will last a lifetime.