By Mark Vasto
If ever there was a more relevant irrelevant athlete in the history of sports, it is Pete Rose.Everyone remembers that kid in class when we were growing up who just couldn’t seem to control himself or stay out of trouble but was the first guy you’d pick for your kickball team. Wherever Pete Rose went to school, he was that guy.
Pete Rose manages to stay in the news, and he does it better than any other player with the exception of Jackie Robinson. Nobody sits around these days and talks about, say, Walter Johnson, George Sisler, Johnny Mize or Nap Lajoie. But we still talk about Pete Rose. The kid stays in the picture.
The Philadelphia Phillies wanted to induct Rose into their hall of fame a week ago, and they had planned on passing out little bobbleheads of his likeness to all the fans in attendance. As per the norm, the deal didn’t go down because Rose has some alleged NSFW issues.
The Phillies had good intentions, but if there’s anything Pete Rose does better than hitting a ball with a bat, it’s staying out of halls of fame.
I love Philadelphia, and I love Philadelphia fans. I can relate a story about the time I was in a very famous resort town in New Jersey, and one day, over ice-cream sodas, conversation occurred with a few darling tourists from Dallas.
Texas and New Jersey have some sort of kindred spirit. We don’t ever care about the price of gas, we don’t mind talking loud, and you have to presume that we’re packing heat. The person across the way started talking smack about Eli Manning and the Giants, and the Giant fans, in turn, returned fire about Tony Romo and Gov. Chris Christie, whom everyone in New Jersey hates. (There were no Jets fans in attendance because nobody ever talks about the Jets.)
For dangerous fun, I pointed out one of the patrons in an Eagles hat and said to the Dallas fans to pay close attention.
“At least we’re not EAGLE fans,” I said with exaggeration, and like clockwork, within a microsecond, the Eagle fan’s head shot up.
“DON’T EVEN GO THERE!” In context, it wasn’t a very genial reply, but it did beg my next question.”Go where? The Super Bowl? Where the Eagles will never go in your lifetime?”
The barstool screeched across the floor. He tried to make a rush, but just like the Eagles front line he was subdued with ease, and the staff quickly punted him out the door.
“See?” I said to the Dallas fan. “That’s a Philadelphia fan. Half of that city will literally fight you if you talk smack about their team.” And this is the town that won’t stand by Pete Rose and toss around a little doll?
I’m not in any way suggesting that the allegations regarding Rose are something to make light of, but they are just that — allegations. We don’t know what happened in his private life, but I think we all know far too much about Pete Rose’s life anyway. And seriously, Pete … Philadelphia didn’t back you up? That’s hall of fame stuff right there.
We know you’re the hit king, but after a while you have to admit that you’ve taken too many hits, too. Sooner or later you have to call the game.
Mark Vasto is a veteran sportswriter who lives in New Jersey.(c) 2017 King Features Synd., Inc.