PETE, TY, AND TRIS
By John B Holway
One week before the infamous Chicago Black Sox signaled gamblers that the fix was on, two baseball Immortals, Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker, met in secret under the stands in Detroit and agreed to throw the next day’s game. Their motive: to help Detroit finish third and collect a share of the World Series money. Then they sent a runner off with $5,500 to bet on it.
When the American League president, Ban Johnson, found out seven years later, he threw the book at them. They could not play another game in the American League, he said, and ordered them to resign as managers. But Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis over-ruled him and did . . . absolutely nothing. “They have not been found guilty of fixing a game,” he declared. It was in stark contrast to the harsh and thunderous Old Testament verdict he had delivered to the Black Sox players.
Landis’ meek do-nothing policy was also in contrast to the righteous and draconian justice that Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti would deal out to Pete Rose in 1985.
Cobb would be the first man elected to the Hall of Fame, in 1936. Speaker followed a year later.
The game’s greatest right-hand batter (and second only to Cobb overall) may have been a compulsive gambler like Rose. He bet heavily on the horses. It wasn’t baseball, but the danger to baseball was just as real. If Rajah had run up a debt he couldn’t pay, he had one thing the gamblers would prefer in lieu of cash – he could throw a game for them. I don’t say he did, but that’s what makes any gambling a threat to baseball.
Pete was punished because he was in the grip of a powerful addiction called ludomania – the gambling disease – an addiction that few victims ever conquer. Ty and Tris were not addicts; they made clear, calculated decisions to throw a game to enrich themselves.
Yet they are in the Hall of Fame; Rose is in disgrace.
Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan, Tony Gwynn, and other steroid users also made clear-minded adult decisions to unfairly alter the outcomes of hundreds of games – and pad their own payrolls. They are also in the Hall of Fame.
I don’t think he could control himself, any more than a drug addict, an alcoholic, a chain-smoker, a sex addict, or a wife beater can control himself.
Baseball needs to do what it did not do in 1985:
Identity potential addicted gamblers before they can harm the game or themselves
Find a way to deter them.
Get medical and psychiatric help for the sake of the victim, his family, and the integrity of the game.
At present the game has no policies to address any of these problems.
The players’ union should be in the forefront of the effort.
The teams also have a self-interest to be involved in any addiction problem. The Reds paid a $3-million bonus to a first-round draft pick, Josh Hamilton, who promptly shot the entire amount into his arm. They lost every penny of their money, and he never repaid it, even when he signed a $17-million-a-year contract with the Angels.
Banning Pete Rose only seemed to be solving the problem of addictive gambling. In reality, it solved nothing.
Letters may be edited for length
We touched a raw nerve there. Never got so many letters!
Your thesis is interesting although too long. I’m wondering how old you and Mr. Schechter are; have you covered baseball; have you had personal interaction with Pete Rose? I believe I have read that if Mr. Rose had expressed regret for his mistakes, he would be enshrined in Cooperstown. Is this true? Thanks for stimulating this response. (Joe Gallagher)
(I’m 86. Gabriel is even younger. I’ve covered games since the 1948 World Series. Met Rose briefly once just before the scandal hit the fan. The point is that typically addicts don’t admit their addictions. I hope what you think you read is not true. If we open the prison doors and release every murderer and other criminal who says he’s sorry, we’d solve the prison over-population problem fast.) (John)
This is a very informative and insightful article.
In 2014 I interviewed Pete [on another subject]. I also question why MLB did not have Pete tested for addiction.
We will never know if there was a private agreement with Giamatti to review and/or reinstate Pete after a specified time, because the new commissioner, Faye Vincent, changed the rules so that Pete could not be reinstated.
Although I am not a fan of Pete’s personal history; I am a big fan of his performance as a player. Both of those views are instructional to young players and adult fans. His story belongs in the HOF as much as Mantle, Ford, Ruth – and A-Rod. (Larry Backus)
Many thanks, John, for taking up the cudgels for Pete Rose.
We all know Pete is a relatively ignorant, stubborn hardass. What he did was clearly against the prominently posted, well known regs. And he has been punished. Lavishly. But, as you rightly point out, he never did a thing which altered the outcome of a game, unlike all the PED guys. It is well past high time that Pete be inducted into the Hall of Fame, where he belongs.
The same goes for Joe Jackson, in spades. He was not banished for all time. He was banished for life. His life is OVER. While what he did, accepting money to throw a game, was indisputably wrong, I know of no evidence that he actually did that. Therefore, one might say he was guilty of cheating the gamblers.
Shoeless Joe has been in the limbo of infamy long enough. Put him in the Hall (posthumously), where he belongs. (Ernie Nagy)
Interesting take on Pete Rose. (Dan Shirley)
Forgive me…..but you are a “victim” of the new “victim” syndrome. Everyone is a victim; no one is accountable or responsible for their actions any more. I saw Pete play more than 50 games and I have seen probably 500 starting in the ’40’s. Pete was the best and most tenacious I ever saw…….BUT HE BROKE THE RULES! Life is “choices” and we make our fate.
Forget the fact that he was a nasty person, a philanderer, etc. He broke the rules and he should suffer the consequences. (Brandt Ross)
(If all the nasty persons were thrown out of the Hall, you could begin with Cobb and Hornsby, above. If the philanderers were tossed out too, you’d have to start with Babe and Ted. Drunks such as Alexander and Mantle would go. PED users like Ryan and Gwynn would get the boot. By the time you were done, you might have about 12 plaques left, and one of them would be Mother Teresa if she could hit a curve.)
I can forgive Pete for his gambling and I recognize that it is a disease. I cannot forgive the dishonesty. He lied repeatedly about his gambling and dug the hole deeper. He does not belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame because his character is seriously flawed and he did it to himself. When caught, come clean immediately and the world forgives. Lie, lie and lie again and respect goes out the window. It cannot be recovered. Bart Giomatti had more character in his little finger than Pete Rose had in his gifted body. (Alan Morris)
(Dishonesty is part of the disease. Do you think we should have forgiven him if he had admitted it?)
Where and how does self-responsibility figure?
What about “Shoeless Joe Jackson,” a man of far less formal education and fewer big-city “street smarts” than Rose who was surrounded and badgered by clever, unscrupulous men, who were masters at manipulating huge sums of money for personal advantage? (Bob Reising)
Great article. Pete Rose is long overdue for the Hall. (Ed Walsh)
(The rule of “full disclosure” requires me to reveal that Ed is my cousin)
Pete decided to play a game that had at least two conditions to be considered the best: a game of skill and a game of integrity. No different than golf where you are required to penalize yourself for certain infractions. Can you imagine Rose on the golf course when he had a bet to cover?
He has been a liar and a cheat in every aspect of both his professional and personal life. There is nothing wrong with gambling as long as you can afford your losses. At some point Pete losses were more then his income and he could not afford the losses. The only solution is to gamble more. It is not a disease but a decision.
But this should not result in degrading the rules of a game that has integrity as part its by-laws. If baseball allows its players to gamble, all sports will be ruined.
Pete is still one of my favorite characters. I have autographs, posters, figurines, and all his Topps cards. (Frank Mooney)
(I don’t think Pete ever won more than he lost. A normal person would quit. An addict keeps throwing more money in. And I’ve never heard of a runner, who was called safe on a close play and told the ump, “He had me by an inch – I was out.”)
I enjoy your posts. Your recent one on Pete Rose was right on. (Steve Bratkovich)
RUTH Vs GIBSON
There is no question that pitchers throw much harder than decades ago. I don’t think anyone could possibly hit .400 against mid- and upper-90s fastballs. (Mark Chalpin)
(You’re right. Babe surely could not have hit 60 homers in 1968, when the A.L. batting champ, Yaz, hit .301. That was the average for the whole NL in 1930! Let’s change the question from a hot one – “was Gibson better than the Babe?” – To the less controversial “was he as good as Roger Maris?” Would readers’ letters have been less emotional?)
It’s a big world –
Outside the Stadium
A Vermont farmer explains to his neighbor, Enoch, why he’s a socialist:
Enoch: you mean if you had two tractors, you’d give one of ’em to me?
Josiah: Ay-ah. I would.
Enoch: And if you had two cows, you’d give me one?
Josiah: Yep. I would.
Enoch: And if you had two hosses, you’d give one of ‘em to me?
Josiah: Dammit, Enoch! You know I got two hosses!