Shoeless Joe, Charlie Hustle and Rule 21

*This post is a result of the news that a video tape of the 1919 World Series has recently been found in a swimming pool in Canada. Check out that story here. I’d love to hear want you think about this debate of Shoeless Joe and Pete Rose belonging in the Hall of Fame or not.*

The debate over who should and shouldn’t be put in baseball’s Hall of Fame is forever on going and never ending.

mattingly1Is Don Mattingly a HOF-er? Some say yes, some say no (I tend to lean “yes”). How about Jack Morris, Edgar Martinez or anyone tied to PED’s (Clemens, Bonds, Palmeiro, etc.)? Morris and Edgar…eh, I’d have to say probably not. You can make a very good argument for Morris, but all Edgar could do was swing the bat and I think there should be more to a player’s inclusion into the Hall than just what he could do with a bat.

As far as the PEDs guys, you can read a bit more about what I think here. But when it comes to two of the most infamous names in the game – “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Pete Rose – there’s no doubt they are Hall of Famers…or are they?

Numbers-wise, Jackson and Rose are two of the best to have ever played the game; to that end, there is no debate. But there is more to being a Hall of Famer than just numbers.

There are two parts of Rule 21 that have kept these two shoe-in HOF-ers out of Cooperstown. This is the part keeping Jackson out – it’s Section a:

“Any player or person connected with a Club who shall promise or agree to lose, or to attempt to lose, or to fail to give his best efforts towards the winning of any baseball game with which he is or may be in any way concerned, or who shall intentionally lose or attempt to lose, or intentionally fail to give his best efforts towards the winning of any such baseball game … shall be declared permanently ineligible.”

And this – section d, subset 2 – is what is keeping Rose out:

“Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible.”

Now, technically, being declared “permanently ineligible” doesn’t, in and of itself, keep a player from the Hall. The Hall has its own rule that if a player is on said list he is also ineligible for enshrinement into baseball’s holy of holies.

I found that tidbit of info interesting, but the fact remains if a player finds himself on that list he will not find his way to the Hall.

Chances are if you’re reading this you probably already know why Jackson and Rose are on the banned list. But it in the off chance you don’t know here’s a real quick summary.

“Shoeless” Joe Jacksonshoeles2

Jackson was part of the “Black Sox” scandal of 1919 when eight players on the Chicago White Sox supposedly took money from big time gamblers to throw the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds won in eight games (it was best of nine back then).

There were certain players, particularly ace pitcher Eddie Cicotte, whose play during the series was indicative of someone not playing on the level. As the story goes, each player was to be given 10 grand to do what they could to throw the series. For someone like Cicotte, that was double  his yearly salary.

Jackson allegedly took the money, but if you look at his numbers from the series, it’d be hard to believe he was throwing anything but his best effort out on the field. Now, I’ve never watched video of Jackson playing in the outfield during the series (as there isn’t much out there available to watch), but from what I’ve read it didn’t seem like any of the reporters thought Jackson wasn’t playing on the up and up.

He hit .375 in those eight games in the Series. He also laced three doubles and the Series’ only home run. He also didn’t commit one error during the Series either. Buck Weaver, who also was banned for life as part of the scandal and was vehement about his innocence, also had a very solid Series batting .324 with four doubles, a triple and no fielding errors.

Jackson holds the third highest lifetime batting average at .356 behind the likes of Ty Cobb (.366) and Rogers Hornsby (.359). He batted .408 in 1911, led the league in hits twice, triples three times and finished in the top five in the MVP vote three times.

Babe Ruth, perhaps the greatest player ever, even said Jackson’s swing was so good that he modeled his own swing after Jackson’s. Couple all of these offensive numbers with the fact that he was supposedly a great fielder and you have a no-doubt Hall of Famer.

Pete Rose a.k.a. Charlie Hustle

Statistically, there has never been a more sure-fire Hall of Famer than Pete Rose. He is the all-time leader in games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053), plate appearances (15,890) and hits (4,256). He paced the league in runs scored four times, hits seven times, doubles five times and batting average thrice. He was the Rookie of the Year in 1963, won the MVP Award in 1973 and was an All Star 17 times. He was also an integral part of three World Championship teams. There is no legitimate statistical argument against Rose being a Hall of Famer, and he was well on his way to enshrinement until he began coaching.

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Rose became the last player-manager in 1984 when he rejoined the Reds halfway through the season. He served in that position until 1986 and then only managed through 1989. Rose was found to have bet on Reds games that he managed and the Commissioner of Baseball, Bart Giamatti, put Rose on baseball’s ineligible list based on the aforementioned article of Rule 21.

Rose willfully agreed to the ban as long as the Commissioner’s findings of his investigation were not made public. From that time all the way up to 2004, he continuously denied ever betting on games. He finally copped to the betting in ’04.

To me, admitting his mistakes was probably a good tactic to try to get reinstated. Do I think he should get a pass for what he did…yes, but only to a point and only because ever single bet he made was for his team to win; he never placed a bet on his team to lose. I don’t think he should ever be allowed back in baseball to manage or in any other capacity. I do think, however, he should have a plaque in Cooperstown.

I do think what he did hurts the integrity of the game, but to me, the simple fact he put money on his team to win and not lose would let me sleep well at night if he was ever enshrined. I feel confident that Rose put his best team on the field as a manager and because of that I forgive him enough to allow him into the Hall.

Shoeless Joe’s situation isn’t quite as clear cut. It’s full of hearsay and he-said-he-said. Did he take the money? Did he not? Did he not hustle quite as hard to that fly ball in the gap as he normally would or did he? Most of us alive today will never really know. For my money, I think Jackson should have a plaque in Cooperstown. He has the numbers and legend to be enshrined, but he also has the affiliation with a few bad apples that his legend may never be able to wipe clean.

This is what Smitty Sayeth…

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10 comments

  1. So your telling me if big pappi retired you wouldn’t put him in the hall? I think Edgar needs to be there… it’s still a position in baseball and he was one of the best at it. pitchers that don’t bat get in there… why can’t hitters that don’t field?

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    1. Hey Kyle – I’m a National League guy and don’t like the DH. However, I do see your point. If guys who only pitch get in why not guys who only hit? In my opinion, if a guy whose sole purpose on a diamond is to hit, he better have amazing numbers. Edgar’s numbers were really good. He had one of the best feels for the strike zone consistently walking as much as much as he struck out. He hit a lot of doubles, but still only had three more than Mark Grace. His .312 BA is obviously super solid, but only 309 homers? I’d sure like to see a lot closer to 500 if I’m voting him in simply based on hitting.

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  2. Pete Rose should never be in the hall of fame, Cheating to improve your game is wrong (PED’s) but gambling is so much worse. It is on a level that the impact would make sports almost irrelevant. Bill Buckner’s error, Mariano Rivera giving up a hit in the 9th of the world series, not running out a ground ball, etc. All of these would be up for debate and would render professional sports meaningless. Anyone that gambles on their own sport should be banned for life without the possibility of being overturned

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    1. JP – I’m with ya; gambling on a game you have any control over is wrong and should hold dire consequences. But do you not differentiate between betting on your team to win opposed to betting on them to lose? All your examples are examples of people who, in theory, would be trying to lose – not hustling, giving up intentional hits, etc. But if, as Rose did, you bet on your team to win it would behoove you to try even harder to win, which is what sports is all about at the pro level. That’s why I say Rose should never be allowed to be involved with baseball again because what he did was beyond wrong, but he never did anything to intentionally make the team lose and that’s why I’d vote to let him in.

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      1. I tend to lean toward your way of thinking as well, Matt. Not just because you’re my brother, but because it’s hard to be angry at someone who bet on their own team to win. Unless they can undeniably link him to making that bet with a no-shit “we’ll lose the game” bettor; I don’t think the punishment should be as severe as keeping them out of the Hall.

        Hell, if we’re going to keep people out of the Hall based on ethics… I’m going to have to say there would be a lot of plaques being removed and a lot of folks who would never be considered if we actually took into account truly abhorrent actions (i.e., drug abuse, domestic violence, DUIs, etc.)

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  3. Jackson and Rose are no brainers. Both should be in…period!! I am so sick of these “rules violations platitudes” that are being put forth by the voters of the BBWA who want to make themselves feel important. The fact is, the voting for the HOF has been skewed in the past and it is more so now. There are so many “rules violators currently in the HOF that it is a joke to try and keep others who are suspected of cheating or otherwise.

    A few examples would be Gaylord Perry. He made no secret that he cheated…in fact, he flaunted it. He got caught on several occasions doctoring the ball. He even wrote a book about it. The guy is a cheat for years and he gets in.

    Orlando Cepeda got in AFTER he was convicted and served prison time for drugs. Now, the PED’s that everyone is so judgmental about right now, are not illegal to own, illegal to use, but they are deemed illegal for athletes in completion. Never mind the fact that the owners and Bud Selig himself, condoned the use of them to jumpstart baseball again after the strike nearly destroyed the popularity of the sport.

    You have Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays who were both employed by Bally’s while they were still attached to the sport, yet they remain in the hall.

    You have Juan Marichal in the hall and he beat the hell out of John Roseboro with a bat DURING a baseball game. Assault and battery and assault with a deadly weapon are okay with the HOF voters.

    How about crimes against your country? Federal income tax evasion will land most of us in a heap of trouble or jail. There have been several HOF members who have been guilty of this, among them Willie McCovey, and a long list of others who pocketed cash payments to appear at memorabilia shows as payment, yet they failed to report that income until they were caught.

    How about all of the players who abused amphetamines or uppers so they could play the next day after a hard night of partying? How about the use of illegal drugs such as cocaine? My god, although he is not in the HOF, how many times was Steve Howe busted for coke before he was finally banned from baseball?? I believe it was 4 times. It was a joke and cocaine can kill you.

    Then you have the group that womanized while married, drank to the point of abuse, those that physically abused their wives or girlfriends. These crimes against humanity were overlooked by the voters of the HOF.

    Joe Jackson was guilty by association. Pete Rose bet on baseball games he managed in. BUT, he never bet AGAINST the Reds in those games. That tells me he had every incentive to try and win the game. Now, since when do we look at a manager and question his ability when he tries to win and succeeds to win? What is the rub? The powers that be are simply pissed because he didn’t own up to it initially.

    Regarding Jack Morris, yes he deserves to be in. He was the best money pitcher in baseball during the 80’s. Period!! Mattingly was a great player until he got hurt. If you let him in though, you have better usher Dale Murphy in ahead of him. All Murphy did was win two MVP’s for lousy Braves teams. He kept his nose clean, stayed out of the headlines, and did his job…every day. Humm, that sounds a lot like HOF criteria to me. The fact that Craig Biggio wasn’t in the HOF on the second year is a travesty!! His numbers are comparable to or exceed many of those in the HOF already.

    Now, regarding the PED issue. First, has anyone bothered to see that MLB made a retroactive application to the time frame when they were outlawed? Cripes, they weren’t even illegal to use for five of the years they are vilifying the “purported users” for. Roger Clemens was already a HOF’er BEFORE he allegedly started using PED’s. It is ridiculous that he is not in the HOF.
    Barry Bonds was pretty much a lock before he supposedly used them. I am not going to go case by case for every suspected user of PED’s. Remember Mark McGwire? He never hid the fact he was using Amdro. It wasn’t illegal. Then suddenly, it was illegal retroactively and McGwire is guilty. It is a joke!! Now they talk about not enshrining anyone during the entire era because no one knows who did or who didn’t use PED’s. This stinks to high heaven. I think we
    need to get Congress to stick its nose in once again. They have mucked it up so badly every time they have been involved before. I think we need to start an investigation of every voting member of the BBWA. Complete background checks. Anyone found not to be an absolute clean as a whistle law abiding citizen who has never used drugs, alcohol, cheated on a spouse or girlfriend, cheated on a test, turned in a falsified expense report, failed to pay the proper amount of income taxes, committed any felony for any reason…should all have their rights to vote revoked unilaterally. Then we will re-introduce some common sense back into the process.

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    1. Hey Fred – Wow…great addition to the conversation! I’m totally with you on Murphy and Biggio. Craig will get in soon. The next couple years will be tough, but he’s a HOF-er no doubt.
      I never really had any problem with The Mick and Willie working at that casino and their very short “ban” was just out of an over abundance of caution. But I agree with your point that there have are guys in the Hall who have done some pretty terrible things…lest we forget Ty Cobb (and a slew of others) who were some of the biggest bigots sports has ever seen.
      And on the PEDs front – I think a lot of guys will get in much later via the Veterans Committee…I just don’t see the BBWA budging.
      Again, thanks for your input!

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  4. No Edgar? Then DONT HAVE DH AS A POSITION!!! Sheesh. He was a fine third baseman before he destroyed his hammy during an exhibition game in Vancouver (I was there) on a verily poorly prepped field. He could’ve still played but hey, there was a DH spot for him and he redefined that position!
    As for joe Jackson, I’ve always thought he should be included based on the evidence (and they were “officially” acquitted.
    Have not been keen on Pete making it in, and I will never personally accept anything the ‘roid crowd did! Hank Aaron is the home run king!

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    1. Hey Rick – I would be TOTALLY cool with no DH! I’m very much a National League guy and would love to see the DH gone. That’ll never happen, especially with daily interleague now. So I reckon I’ll continue to deal with it. I very much like Edgar and agree that he really solidified the DH as a position in baseball. The Hall of Fame conversation is tough with the DH because – to my knowledge – there is nobody in the Hall who made it mainly based on what he did as a DH so there really is no precedence. But IF I had to come up with some sort of criteria for a Hall-worthy DH I’d think home runs would play a big part in that and Edgar barely got to 300. Again, I love the guy and he had an AMAZING eye, but he wouldn’t get my vote for the Hall…not without some very good persuasion.

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