I grew up in Southwestern Ohio in and around Cincinnati – where my father’s family has long been based. Baseball is practically a religion there and we worship the Cincinnati Reds. While the feeling has waned a bit over the decades Cincinnati is still the only major league town left that has an Opening Day Parade every year. And better yet, I came of age in the years of the Big Red Machine.
That group was likely the greatest baseball team ever assembled on one field and my favorite was Peter Edward Rose. While a good player he did not possess the innate grace or natural skill for the game. He more than compensated by giving 100% of his effort 100% of the time. His head first slide and full out effort, even in a ceremonial All Star Game, captivated and inspired me to give everything I had in any part of my life.
He returned to Cincinnati to become player/coach and the team had several second place finishes I was enthralled and looking forward to another pennant. When he was dethroned due to gambling revelations I was troubled, but being a bit of a gambler myself, somewhat ambivalent. I finally settled on the position that while Pete should not be permitted back into the game (which he desperately wanted) he should be inducted into the Hall of Fame. A rule tailored to Pete specifically preventing suspended players from gaining entry was passed as punishment. I always knew Rose as a bit of a blowhard and showman but still rooted for his inclusion into Cooperstown.
But the latest revelations have shaken me. Pete’s arch-nemesis, John Dowd, claims that a Rose associate (who ran bets for Pete) also shuttled very young women to him while he was on the road for sexual hook ups. At least one women has claimed she was 14 or 15 years old and Dowd has claimed they came as young as 12. Rose admits the liaisons but claims none were younger than 16 years old – the age of consent in Ohio – and all happened in the Buckeye State, making it all legal.
I’m no prude and Pete wouldn’t be the first ball player to cheat on his wife and kids while away from home. But to be in his thirties and deliberately using underage girls has given even a diehard fan such as me pause. Power dynamics in relationships must be mutually agreed by sufficiently mature adults. Otherwise it is coercion. Is it true that the older we get the better we understand our heroes to be flawed mortals? I’ll always treasure the contribution Pete Rose made to my still favorite team. But I’ll never view him the same way again.