Ron Costello

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What You Say About Pete?

Mark Twain once said, "the best throw at  dice is to throw them away."

Haaa, he should be here today. Between lotteries, college and professional sports, off-track, on-track, horses, dogs, raffles, bingo, slot machines, cards, and casinos — mob controlled, Native American controlled — even casinos on cruise ships.

Gambling is everywhere!

A guy in South Philly once told me that the mob is going out of business because the government is taking over it's top enterprise — gambling. Trust me, he knew what he was talking about, and you didn't argue.

Out of this comes addiction to gambling. It's not only moved into the top ten addictions, but depending on who's doing the survey, it's in the top three, climbing ahead of alcohol and settling in behind drugs.

As they say in my neighborhood, "Ron, what'da ya gonna do?"

And then there's the Pete Rose story.

During his career, he wasn't appreciated until you had him. As a Red, he was respected but not well liked in Philly until Bill Giles orchestrated a deal to bring him here in 1979. Living in Mansfield at the time — and coaxing the Cleveland's to get me an Inquirer or Daily News every day —  I followed his every move.

The city fell in love with him.

I did too.

Short of being gay, and outside of my family, I don't think I could have loved another man more than I did Pete Rose.

How could you not? He played the game with a reckless abandonment. Driving balls to the allies and running all out, his Prince Valiant hair flopping in the wind. It was a great move by Mr. Giles, because put in the mix of Bowa, Schmidt, Carlton and company, Rose led the Phillies to the 1980 World Series.

Who could forget in game six when Frank White hit a pop foul near the Phillies dugout and catcher Bob Boone gloved the ball. But it popped out of Boonies' glove and Rose was right there to catch it.

In 1981, my brother Tom and I met in the Vet parking lot prior to the game when he tied Stan Musial's NL record for hits. We bought two scalper tickets and were seated behind first base, maybe 20 rows back.

Pete stroked it clean up the middle and the Vet exploded with balloons, fireworks, and a standing ovation. Musial stood from his box-seat behind the Phillies dugout, they opened the gate and he walked out to first base to congratulate Pete.

On the way home, with the radio on, we heard Rose on the phone in the clubhouse waiting for the call from President Ronald Reagan. There was a  slight delay before the President was connected, and Pete commented: "Good thing there isn't a missile on the way." The room exploded in laughter. Obviously, the Phillies' players had surrounded Pete to listen.

Someone on the  line said, "Mr. Rose, hold on please," to which he responded, "I've waited 19 years for this, I can  wait another minute." More laughter.

Eventually, a deeper voice came on: "Hello, Pete, this is President Ronald Reagan calling," to which Rose responded, "Hey, how ya' doing?" This time, the laughter didn't seem to stop.

For Phillies fans, those were magical times.

But Rose fell from grace. His playing career over, it surfaced that as the Reds' manager Pete bet on games. Now, 26 years after he agreed to a lifetime ban from baseball, and currently an analyst with Fox Sports, new allegations surfaced that Rose bet on games as a player, too.

Should that surprise you?

If Rose was addicted to gambling and tied into the mob as a manager, sure, made sense that as a player he could have been, too. Addictions have no boundary lines.

But here's the thing. Baseball needs to get off it's high horse and forgive an addicted gambler. Forgiveness is a human act practiced by Christ, the Pope, the Dalai Lama, Buddha, and spiritual leaders from Billy Graham to Nelson Mandela.

After 20 years, when Mandela was released from a South African prison, he faced a crowd and said: "We especially need to forgive each other, because when you intend to forgive, you heal part of the pain, but when you forgive, you heal completely."

Rose needs to heal and so does the grand old game. For the "integrity of the game," forgive Pete Rose and let him back in.

Do it. Do it now.
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