My father was a big Pete Rose fan. He admired the kid who came from nothing and with a lot of hard work and heart became Charlie Hustle, the guy who always came to play.
Because I admired my father, I was also partial to Rose. When he was popped for betting on baseball, I gave him a pass. I thought, considering the character of some of our most legendary players, a gambling addiction shouldn't keep this guy out of the Hall of Fame.
Then I moved to Cincinnati. I heard terrible things about Rose but, this being his home town, the stories were always told with a grudging affection and a shrug of whatta ya goin' to do? It's just Pete.
I began to think that maybe my father's admiration might have been misplaced, like when he voted for Richard Nixon. Three times.
I heard about Pete signing baseballs with the inscription, "I'm sorry I bet on baseball" and then selling those balls for $1000 each. I'm all for people making a buck, but that stinks like locker room socks.
But Rose is not one to let records go unchallenged, even if it's just a record of sleazy behavior. In a lapse of judgment that would shame even the Bush administration, the U.S. Army Reds Legends Baseball Camp in Cincinnati invited Rose to speak to boys and girls ages 7-14.
You know this can't end well.
It's unknown how much they paid Rose, but as one writer said, "Rose doesn't do anything for free. If his own son needed a ride to the emergency room, Rose would charge him mileage."
Pete faced his fans, the kids, parents and grandparents eager to hear this legend of Cincinnati baseball speak, to inspire, to share his message of bringing everything you've got to the great game. Instead they heard a lot of s-bombs and f-bombs, name-dropping, and stories of seeing men in the shower.
He said he saw Joe DiMaggio naked and told the kids, their jaws no doubt gaping in horror, that he "... saw more than Marilyn Monroe ever did."
I used to think achievement was enough. I used to think that artists like Picasso earned the right to be jerks in their personal lives. But I've changed my mind.
It doesn't take much effort to be a decent human being. Several writers I greatly admire, like Lee Child, Ken Bruen and Laura Lippman among others, have shown that you can achieve great things in a tough business and still be a generous and caring person.
It's something Charlie Hustle should have learned long ago, back when my dad looked up to him as an example of how to play the game.
But I'm curious what you think, as always. Do you give great men and women a break on bad behavior? Does the fact that Frank Lloyd Wright was a brilliant artist forgive his being a flaming ass? Can you overlook Jerry Lee Lewis' marriage to his 13-year-old cousin because he also gave the world Great Balls of Fire?
Tell me what you think of great art, great heart and decency.
Talk to me.
(As usual, this was cross-posted to A Dark Planet.)