First Pete Rose denied. Then — after several years — he apologized. That apology was almost certainly calculated to sell copies of his big apology-filled book, so most people discounted it. Well, he apologized again over the weekend. This time at a celebrity roast in his honor, held in a casino ballroom, and this time with tears:
“I disrespected the game of baseball. When you do that, you disrespect your teammates, the game and your family . . . It took me years and years (to come to grips with
it) . . . I’m a hard-headed guy . . . But I’m a lot better guy standing
here tonight (because of finally owning up to it) . . . I guarantee everybody in this room, I will never disrespect you again . . . I’m a different guy . . . I love the fans, I love the game of baseball, and I love Cincinnati baseball.”
I’m not a big believer in public repentance. People treat it as a gotcha game with celebrities and politicians all the time. “He needs to apologize!” “That apology wasn’t good enough!” “He needs to repudiate that guy he knows who said that dumb thing!” “He apologized, but it wasn’t sincere!” Blah, blah, blah.
Pete Rose didn’t do anything to me, so I kind of don’t care if he apologized or not. This one was directed at a lot of his former teammates, players and supporters, however, and he probably did owe them an apology to the extent they’ve gone out on a limb for him over the years only to have him more or less humiliate them for doing so. Whether they accept it or not is between him and them.
What I don’t think this does is make any difference for his Hall of Fame case or reinstatement to the game. Nor should it. If Major League Baseball and the Hall have been waiting around for an apology that hits just the right tone in order to act then they’re both bigger lost causes as institutions than can possibly be imagined.
Pete Rose’s reinstatement should not depend on the adequacy of his public repentance. It should depend on (a) his desire to be reinstated and work in the game; (b) his risk to the game; and (c) his actions. Does he currently live a life and have associations that pose a danger to baseball? Does he seem like he’d be a risk if placed in a position of authority? Does he want in to actually work in the game and help out, or is it just a play for the Hall so he can charge more for his autograph? That stuff matters more than any tears he sheds in public, be they real or of the crocodile variety.
The apology, such as it was, was nice. I tend to believe those were real tears and not some put-on. I hope it helps Rose mend fences with Tony Perez and the others who were in attendance at that roast (though, prithee my dear: if these guys showed up at a Pete Rose roast, are they really in need of an apology? Seems like they love the guy all the same).
But to the rest of us it shouldn’t really matter.