Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Pete Rose

By Ron Halbrook

On the baseball field Pete Rose was a smashing success, but in the game of life Peter Edward Rose has been a crashing failure. Rose, dubbed “Charlie Hustle, ” played baseball with such zeal and abandonment that it seemed to be the only thing that mattered in his life. He holds 19 major-league records and is the all-time leading hitter.

The baseball Commissioner’s office faced Rose on 20 February 1989 with charges that he had violated baseball’s Rule 21 against misconduct which reflects on the game. Gambling has a corrupting influence on all sports and Rose was guilty on both legal and illegal gambling. After denying all charges on 20 February, in the face of evidence presented to him by the Commissioner’s office on 20-21 April he admitted betting on sports other than baseball. On 9 May the Commissioner’s investigator submitted evidence detailing 412 wagers by Rose between 8 April and 5 July 1987, including 52 bets on the Cincinnati Reds (the team managed by Rose from August 1984). The report concluded that Rose is an avid, high stakes gambler.

Finally, on 24 August the baseball Commissioner announced that Rose was banned from baseball for life for dishonoring the game. “The banishment for life of Pete Rose from baseball is the sad end to a sorry episode,” Commissioner Giamatti said. “One of the game’s greatest players has engaged in a variety of acts which have stained the game. And he must now live with the consequences of those acts” (Houston Chronicle, 25 Aug. 1988, p. IA).

Sports can provide clean recreation and reinforce such values as persistence and hard work toward a goal, but America has too often made sports into a religion and sports heroes into gods. Athletic prowess and fame are not the marks of a truly successful life. Writers for the Associated Press noted under the banner “Charlie Hustle: Once a hero, now a wilted Rose,” “With baseball came the fast lane – fast money, fast cars, fast women. It all seemed to end so fast, too” (BrazosportITX] Facts, 27 Aug. 1989, p. 2B). The seductive temptations and sinful passions of this world all-too-soon pass away, “but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 Jn. 2:15-17). If lasting happiness and satisfaction cannot be found in sports, where then are they found? “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13).

If gambling is the “clean,” “honest,” and “moral” activity it is claimed to be by its defenders, if it is “wholesome” family fun as is implied by churches and the Knights of Columbus who use it for fund raising, why does it have such a corrupting influence on sports and such a debilitating impact in the lives of people? If we truly love God, we must love our neighbor as ourself. This love is embodied in the law of God, teaching us, “Thou shalt not steal . . . . Thou shalt not covet. . . . Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Matt. 22:37-40; Rom. 13:8-10).

Gambling corrupts and debases the soul because it violates the demands of love and respect for our fellow man. It is an exercise in covetousness which causes us to try to take base gain from others. Rather than trying to bless our fellow man while also feeding our own family, as is done in honest labor and in the honest exchange of goods and services, gambling is an effort to take and to get without regard to the welfare of others (Eph. 4:28). It is “every man for himself!” The more we exercise our hearts in such a philosophy, the more we become debased, immoral, and driven by ungodly passions.

This debasing influence is passed from one generation to another as the iniquities of the fathers are visited upon the children “unto the third and fourth generation” of them that disobey and hate God (Exod. 20:5). Where did Pete Rose learn his passion for gambling? A bartender in Pete’s old neighborhood in Cincinnati said, “Pete’s dad would bet on which cube of sugar a fly would land on” (Houston Chronicle, 25 Aug. 1989, p. 8C). Pete was devoted to his dad, who took him to the horse track when he was a small child. Like father, like son! Some of us fathers desperately need to wake up and begin leading our children in the paths of righteousness (Eph. 6:4).

Little League baseball can be an excellent activity for young boys, but it too is stained and dishonored in many communities by the use of raffles to raise money. “Raffle” comes from “a dice game” and means “a lottery in which the prize is won by one of numerous persons buying chances” (Webster). Little League can ask for donations as gifts based on love for our youth without enticing people to wager in the hope of getting a prize. The raffle is degrading to Little League, to our community spirit, and to the boys who are sent out selling tickets as the agents of a lottery.

Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 20, pp. 609, 631
October 20, 1989