John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.
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The Maris family and Tony La Russa were disappointed, and every baseball fan in America should feel cheated, after slugger Mark McGwire’s admission that he used steroids during his career.
But the guy who should be the most upset is Charlie Hustle. And after what’s gone down the past couple of years in professional baseball, I’m starting to understand why there is a chip on Pete Rose’s shoulder.
Rose, who is best known for his years with the Cincinnati Reds, is the all-time leader in hits, games played and at-bats for all of Major League Baseball. Rose was a member of three World Series-winning teams and owns three batting titles and two Gold Gloves. He earned the Rookie of the Year Award and made 17 appearances as an All-Star.
He spent most of his career in Cincinnati (1963-78 and 1985-86) but also spent five seasons in Philadelphia and a short stint in 1984 with the Montreal Expos before finishing out his playing days with the Reds. He retired as a player in 1986 but managed the Reds from 1984 until 1989.
He left the game under a cloud of suspicion and controversy. Unlike McGwire, he didn’t cheat the game by pumping his body full of performance-enhancing drugs. It was his gambling problem that tarnished baseball’s image.
His post-baseball life seems like a pathetic attempt to be reinstated and find a place in the Hall of Fame. For those of us who grew up watching Rose, his efforts to overcome the roadblocks that have kept him out of the game are no surprise. He was scrappy and determined on the field, and his efforts to get reinstated reflect that personality.
To have one of the greatest baseball players left out of the Hall of Fame and to have him removed from a game where he shined is a true disappointment for baseball fans.
I’m not trying to defend what Rose did, and I can’t say I don’t agree with the punishment. But I would argue that the former star has good reason to be angry with the leadership of Major League Baseball. Especially in light of McGwire’s admission, and the suspicion that surrounds so many of the game’s stars.
As a fan, I think Rose has good reason to be angry.
I can’t understand why McGwire’s admission has been so accepted, or why he will be allowed to act as the St. Louis Cardinals’ hitting coach next season. Rose was banished from baseball after his gambling problems came out. McGwire got a pat on the back for coming forward and admitting something we all knew in our hearts.
Shouldn’t we hold players like McGwire to the same standard as Rose and the other players who have their names on baseball’s ineligible list? I mean, McGwire owned one of baseball’s most coveted titles and then admitted that he cheated to get it. Doesn’t that tarnish the game?