‘Charlie Hustle’ Delves into Pete Rose, the Player and the Man

‘Charlie Hustle’ Delves into Pete Rose, the Player and the Man

By Joe Guzzardi

Pete Rose, aka “Charlie Hustle,” owns baseball’s all-time hits record, 4,256. Rose holds 14 other Major League records, and five other National League records. Some are less widely known than his hits record but are still nearly impossible to comprehend in this era when players routinely sit out games because of “tenderness” or “discomfort.”: Baseball’s only major league player to play 500 games at five positions, 1B (969), 2B (634), 3B (634), LF (671), RF (595), Rose won Gold Gloves at all the positions except 3B. No active player is anywhere close to breaking Rose’s hits record or exceeding most of his on-the-field achievements. Cincinnati native and journalist Keith O’Brien’s biography “Charlie Hustle: the Rise and Fall of Pete Rose and the Last Glory Days of Baseball” tells the good, the bad and the ugly about Rose, whose gambling addiction ended in a lifetime Hall of Fame ban. Over the years since Rose retired as a player and a manager, his name has become synonymous with gambling, and his contributions to the Big Red Machine’s world championships with teammates Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, and manager Sparky Anderson have faded in comparison to his flaws.

After reading O’Brien’s well-researched, meticulously written biography, the reader will likely conclude that Rose might not be his first choice for a dinner companion. Fans can, however, through Rose’s website, pay to dine with Charlie Hustle at an upscale Las Vegas restaurant. In his past, Rose, now 83, hung out with unsavory types, frequented Cincinnati’s Gold’s Gym where hoods congregated, and participated in multiple extramarital affairs. One of Rose’s many mistresses said that he loved only two things, baseball and himself. Despite or perhaps because of his flaws, the scrappy, undersized, blue-collar, Cincinnati-born Rose was a fan favorite.

The question fans pose is whether Rose is being treated fairly considering MLBs active promotion of baseball gambling through its partnership with the bookmaking website FanDuel which, it states, “provides customers the ability to watch and wager on MLB games via [the] Sportsbook app.”  MLB is also inexplicably tolerant of players who took Performance Enhancing Drugs, a federal felony. Without a valid medical prescription, the possession of, distribution of or use of PEDs violates the Controlled Substances Act, and is punishable by prison and/or significant fines. Rose’s crime was, at worst, a misdemeanor. Yet multiple MLB commissioners have denied Rose HOF ballot eligibility status, and rejected his appeals, hypocrisy at its apex since its FanDuel partnership encourages gambling. In 2018, the Supreme Court opened the door for states to legalize sports betting; since then, 38 states have legalized sports betting and five others are in active legislation to legally sanction betting. By 2023, U.S. gamblers wagered more than $500 billion. Gambling addictions can lead to severe emotional problems, lost jobs, and destroy marriages.  Bettor’s Eye, presented by BetMGM, is MLBs first daily betting-focused program which, it deceptively claims, provides a fun look at the latest baseball betting trends and information. One thing can be predicted with certainty: put cash down on those “fun looks,” and kiss your money goodbye.

MLB has consistently denied Rose a place on the HOF ballot, but PED abusers Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire have appeared on ballots or until their eligibility periods expired. Bonds, Clemens and others could eventually reach the Hall via the newly created and absurd “Today’s Committee” which will consider players that fell short on the traditional ballot. Only Rose, a better all-around player than any of them, remains on the outside looking in. The Baseball Writers Association of America elected Mike Piazza, an admitted PED user, and, on the first ballot, David Ortiz, another user. Bonds, who holds the career home run record, Clemens’ seven Cy Young awards and others career and season achievements are still in the record books, despite having been reached illegally. Baseball’s PED users are unindicted felons, unworthy of a Cooperstown plaque. MLB is investigating the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani for his possible involvement in a gambling scandal. Whatever the investigators may find, rest assured that a whitewash will exonerate baseball’s $700 million poster boy. Any other conclusion would be a black eye for Commissioner Rob Manfred, the Dodgers, and the baseball industry.

“Charlie Hustle,” a derogative nickname given to Rose by Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford, is a compelling must-read for fans who remember seeing the 1970s star as well as those who never watched baseball’s all-time great. Rose may not be a likeable guy, but his accomplishments as a player should give him an opportunity for Cooperstown induction.

Buy “Charlie Hustle” here.

Joe Guzzardi is a Society for American Baseball Research member. Contact him at guzzjoe@yahoo.com

‘Charlie Hustle’ Delves into Pete Rose

‘Charlie Hustle’ Delves into Pete Rose, the Player and the Man

2 thoughts on “‘Charlie Hustle’ Delves into Pete Rose, the Player and the Man”

  1. This is no longer our parents and grandparents great American pastime and hasn’t been for quite some time.

    All professional sports has been compromised. It’s well past time to stop feeding the beast be it NFL, MLB, etc.

    Go watch y(our) sons play little league ball and high school games. Spend nothing, time or money, on professional sports.

    Just one man’s opinion.

  2. The issue isn’t Rose’s specific action, and that MLB countenances things that are actual crimes. The issue is that MLB has a policy, Rose violated that policy, and when confronted, lied about it. Maybe that lies with his personality, but it is what it is. He was in the organization, agreed to its rules, violated them, then lied about it. He does not deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. Election isn’t a civil right.

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