The Reign of the MLB Hit King: Pete Rose still banned

The past few days, you have read and heard just about everyone who has an opinion say what they have to say about Pete Rose. Sentiment has surely changed in the public eyes these days, as more people seemingly feel he should be in the Hall of Fame now… at least more than used to think that way.

You hear the same reasons that people dislike Rose. He gambled. He cheated the game. He lied. He shows no remorse. Well, our guy Dunton is back with an interesting take on why he wants Charlie Hustle to stay out of Cooperstown. That reason? Mr. Kranz. Confused? Well then take a read.

We all have those teachers that we remember for the rest of our lives. You know the ones who positively impacted us and we can still remember sitting in their classrooms, hearing their voices? My favorite teacher is one of the reasons I have gone on to be an 8th grade Social Studies teacher.  He was also a huge sports fan. This is why the news about Pete Rose’s lifetime ban from baseball being upheld brought me back to Mr. Kranz’s class.

The year was 1989 and my friends and I we’re sitting at lunch having a grand debate. We had just learned that Charlie Hustle was guilty of betting on baseball and was going to pay the price for it. Again, this was a bunch of 13 and 14-year olds arguing amongst themselves, but this was before the 90s, when your opinion was actually yours and not taken from a tweet or one of the 26 sports talk shows on TV.

Anyway, we were going back and forth for a few days of whether or not Pete Rose should be punished, expelled for a short period of time or banned for life. We heard the different options on SportsCenter (again, this was 1989 — when SportsCenter was the show that gave you sports highlights and news, not yelling windbags and fancy graphics –but I digress). I knew who could settle this debate and went right to the source during class.

I think we were discussing the Industrial Revolution and the impact of unions or something when my hand shot up. Mr. Kranz looked my way and said, “Question, Mr. Dunton.” He was right. I did have a question.

“Mr.Kranz what do you think about Pete Rose being banned from baseball?”

The looks the other students gave me were priceless. They were probably thinking, “what the hell does that have to do with the Homestead Strike?”  But the look I received from our teacher was one mixed with pain, agony, and delight all at the same time. And then he looked directly at me and to this day, I’ll never forget his answer.

“Could not have happened to a nicer person. He deserves everything he gets.”

I had clearly opened some deep seeded locker of hate. He went on to tell the class how he grew up a Cleveland Indians fan and loved watching Ray Fosse play at catcher. Rose —  as any baseball buff knows now — violently and purposely collided with him in the 12th inning of the 1970 All Star Game.

“A meaningless game and it changed his career forever,” Mr. Kranz said with a sigh. “People praised his hustle and what not, but you don’t do that in an All Star Game. It means nothing. He ruined my favorite player’s career and since then I have never liked him.”

Years later, I was really able to put what he said in perspective. Let’s think about the recent MLB Divisional Round of the playoffs. Chase Utley went in hard to break up a double play and broke Ruben Tejada’s leg and the sports world was inflamed (and rightfully so, don’t get me wrong). That was the the playoffs. Rose did it in an All Star Game  — long before we had the ridiculous rule that the winning league earned home field advantage in the World Series, mind you.

We sat there and listened to Mr.Kranz open up to us and tell us his personal feelings about a baseball player who transcended sport at that time. Whether we were baseball fans or not, everybody knew Rose because his face was everywhere. This wasn’t a lecture that we had to take notes on and study. He had opinions about things. He felt like he could share them with us and felt that we were more than just kids in desks. It was the weirdest — but coolest — moment I had experienced in school.

As I sit here listening to the talking heads debate Rose’s baseball merits and whether or not the Hall of Fame will make an exception and let him in, many people are telling stories of interactions with Pete Rose. Mark Brunell just recounted a story from when he was 10 and waited to get Rose’s autograph only to find out what a jerk Pete was. Personally I can remember being at a baseball card show and having a similar experience and thinking to myself, “This guy is charging $20 an autograph.  At least pretend like you are interested in the kids who are anxiously waiting to meet you”.

But that was Pete. He makes no apologies for it. In fact his lack of apologies is why Rob Manfred had no choice but to uphold the ban from baseball. Pete had a chance to get back in baseball’s good graces and blew it.

That five minute interruption of the Industrial Revolution still lives with me today. Every time I hear Pete Rose mentioned, I think back to Mr.Kranz.  And I know somewhere… Mr.Kranz is smiling. 

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