Pete Rose has been banned from Baseball’s Hall of Fame. As a manager (and perhaps as a player) he gambled on the game that made him famous. Details about how often he bet and whom he bet on are a little sketchy but he did it, lied about it and is therefore still not recognized by Cooperstown for his record-setting efforts on the field.
The good news is that this is not a post about whether Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. That debate has been beaten to death. For the time being, he remains ineligible.
This post is about baseball players and gambling. One of my gracious website sponsors has asked me to write about the love affair between baseball players and gambling. Skeptical to take on such an assignment, I sent them back an e-mail saying something along the lines of “Uh, have you never heard of Pete Rose? Baseball players are not allowed to gamble.”
They said write the piece anyway, so here goes.
Gambling in baseball or in any professional sport is competitive sport’s most cardinal sin. Take steroids to get an edge? No problem. Tinker with the equipment? We’ll give you four games. But gamble and in any way affect the outcome of the game you’re playing? That, my friends, is unforgivable.
So my sponsor’s suggestion to write about baseball players and gambling got me thinking. Of the eight hundred some odd players currently in the Major Leagues, some of them must gamble, right? I’m not talking about the occasional Barkley-binge trips to Vegas to blow a cool million on the blackjack tables. I’m talking about actually betting on the games they play. Out of 800, what’s the likelihood of there being a baby Pete Rose in the bunch?
In this day and age of social media scrutiny, what would happen if it came out that a Major Leaguer, or even a minor leaguer for that matter, gambled on a game in which he played? Do not gamble is on the doormat of every baseball clubhouse. It is baseball’s unbreakable rule.
But what if someone chose to ignore that rule… and got caught?
As millionaire superstars, professional athletes relinquish certain rights. 1) They’re not allowed to lead normal, public lives for fear of being mobbed by fans looking for photo opportunities and 2) they are not allowed to gamble.
Like having the occasional cocktail or fatty food, everyone has their vices. Some people like to place the occasional wager.
I love gambling. I love the science and math of it. I love being able to analyze and correctly predict the outcome of a game. However, I’d like to think if I was left fielder for the Red Sox making fifteen million a year I’d be able to give it up. It’s a simple sacrifice.
How big of a story would it be if a current athlete gambled on the sport which they played? Think about it. We haven’t heard of a player gambling on his sport SINCE Pete Rose, at least not that I can recall. It’s safe to say baseball made an example out of him. But what if a current baseball player, big name or not, decided to try (this online casino) or that one? What if he was doing so through a bookie (like Dr. Milhouse)?
One would have to think he’d be banned for life, disgraced and sent into exile to lead a Rose-ian existence. If they did it to the all-time hit leader, they’d most certainly do it to a guy far less noteworthy.
He’d be done, outcast, labeled and hated, unable to find gainful employment other than doing Gambling Anonymous ads on late night television. Every media outlet known to man would paint him in a negative light, asking how he could possibly risk everything when he knew what was at stake.
We haven’t seen a scandal like that in quite some time. For the players’ sake, let’s hope we don’t. For doing that would be the biggest gamble of all: their career.
Any seasoned gambler would tell you that’s not a smart bet.