By Clyde Davis
I don’t do it — let’s get that part straight from the outset. When it reaches an astronomical number, I have been known to buy a lottery ticket; when I go into a casino for the markedly generous food, I have been known to slip in some quarters. But as a whole, I do not gamble.
When I was a student minister, on a field trip to the race track to “chaperone” the Senior Citizen group (I was their collective adopted grandson) I went so far as to use my betting money in the purchase of a souvenir beverage glass, with beverage, feeling that it was money better spent than it would have been on the ponies.
That said, why is Pete Rose being discriminated against for his gambling indiscretions of so many years ago, by being continually barred from the Baseball Hall of Fame? I really understand the argument that, had “Mr. Hustle” bet against the Reds, he could have thrown games to win bets. But he says he didn’t; at what point do we choose to believe him?
It is, to me, the Bill Clinton syndrome in reverse. Many said, and righteously argued, that Mr. Clinton should be judged on his merits as a leader and politico, not on his moral values and personality shortcomings. The Clinton corner argued that private values had nothing to do with his status and skill as a leader. I don’t know about that. But I feel that one of the greatest baseball players in history is being barred from a professional honor, which he well deserves, based on some personal ethical weaknesses.
Let’s take a look through the Hall of Fame, then, wearing glasses of judgment to view our heroes of the diamond. Over here we have Grover Cleveland Alexander, one of the greatest pitchers of the early 20th century. Oh yeah, I remember reading about him when I was a little kid. I learned a new word, when I had to ask my dad what “sober” meant. The sentence was something like “Alexander pitched many more games drunk than he did sober…”
Here we have the Bambino, who was given to numerous moral weaknesses but was so well loved that all were forgiven. Well loved by numerous women besides the one he married, if I recall.
Over in that corner, dusty but more recent than the Babe, is the outstanding Baron of the Bullpen, Sal Maglie. You may better know him as “The Barber,” for his habit of losing his temper and throwing at the heads of opposing batters. Survival of the fittest, perhaps — duck fast or lose your nose?
Here are two fellows from our time zone, who may or may not yet be in the Cooperstown Shrine, but doubtless will be someday. Darryl Strawberry over there is familiar with a fine white powder that has nothing to do with athlete’s foot. Next to him stands Kirby Puckett, whose frequent marital indiscretions have been the subject of much recent coverage.
You may dispute me on this; I would welcome feedback. My point is that we do not take anything away from these fellows — and many others — who line the walls of the Hall of Fame. Maglie was a great reliever — so what if he blew his cool? Etc., etc., etc.
It seems that somebody out there has decided to make an example of Pete Rose and continue to punish him long after he should have served his time. What do you think? Is it fair, or are we judging the man based on morals rather than Hall of Fame criteria? And if so, what do we do about the foibles of those already inducted?
Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and an instructor at Eastern New Mexico University. He can be contacted at