Since it was so much fun the other day, let’s run out one more ground ball on the whole Pete Rose/reinstatement/Hall of Fame discussion.
A clear majority of the 134 and counting comments to that article were in favor of Pete Rose being reinstated and voted into the Hall of Fame. A majority of those comments — echoing Mike Schmidt’s own defense of Rose — trotted out some variation of “how can you not let Pete in when all of the evil, evil steroids users are allowed to live and play baseball and eat pie and kick puppies and do all of the awful things they do?!!” [note: people didn’t actually say that; most comments were far more impassioned].
Lost in all of this — and brought to my attention by reader Jason Fisher — is the fact that Pete Rose is not some being separate and apart from the business of steroids. Or do you not remember Tommy Gioiosa?
Gioiosa says Rose listened with glee whenever his bodybuilder buddy talked about the fights he started in ‘roid rages. Rose also would watch him shoot up and ask questions about what he was using. Good stuff, Gioiosa would reply. Parabolin. Human growth hormone. A German extract from the pituitary gland of monkeys. Pete had been tempted to take a shot himself, especially in 1985 and 1986 when he was losing bat speed. But he told Gioiosa it was too late to try something new. (Rose, through a spokesman, declined comment.)
How about Paul Janzen, the steroids dealer who, according to the Dowd Report, became Rose’s primary bet-placer?
In the middle of February 1987, Rose invited Janszen and Marcum to come to his home in Florida while he was at Spring training. Janszen and Marcum accepted the invitation . . . They stayed for six weeks at Rose’s rented house in Tampa, Florida. Janszen had quit his job at the Queen City Barrel Company and was essentially living off the proceeds of his steroid business.
I have no idea if Rose ever used steroids as a player. In fact, I actually kinda doubt that he did for the same reason Gioiosa says Rose declined to shoot up: he was too old and even Rose knew it would be too little too late.
We do know, however, based on ESPN’s reporting and the Dowd Report, that he worked out at a gym that he knew to be a hub of steroids users and dealers, many of whom he was very close friends with. One of the dealers was such a close friend of Rose’s that he actually lived in Rose’s house and was entrusted with running Rose’s illegal gambling and tax evasion activities (Janszen placed bets for Rose and brought him his unreported cash in brown paper bags from card and autograph shows). We also know, again, based on the same sources, that Rose turned a blind eye to steroid use on the Reds teams he managed, going so far as to openly joke with unnamed steroid user on his team, telling him in front of reporters that he should talk about “what steroids can do for you.”
Maybe this doesn’t change anyone’s ultimate opinion regarding whether or not Pete Rose should be reinstated or allowed entry into the Hall of Fame. It should, however, make you think twice about casting Rose as some greater moral and ethical actor than ballplayers who have been associated with steroids. He was around it. He tolerated it. He joked about it. His close friend said he was even tempted to use.
To Pete Rose, steroids appeared to be just another one of those illegal things with which he had a certain comfort level. How, then, they can be employed as the definitive moral differentiator between Rose and, say, Barry Bonds is beyond me.
UPDATE: Some further discussion of all of this from Mr. Fisher can be found on this blog post, under the Barry Bonds heading.