Monday, April 23, 2012

No. 773 – Feel the Quiet River Rage

Performer: Live
Songwriter: Ed Kowalczyk
Original Release: The Distance to Here
Year: 1999
Definitive Version: None

Before I bought the tickets to the World Series, Debbie and I briefly debated about which game to get. MLB was going to present its All-Century team on the field before Game 2, so Debbie wanted to go to that game.

Certainly that was a draw, but Game 1 seemed like an obvious choice to me. It was on Saturday, so we could drive down that day and come back the next without having to take time off from work. Besides I wanted to go to the first game anyway to see the rosters of both teams toe the chalk before the game.

So we compromised to a certain extent. We’d go to Game 1 but stay in Atlanta and watch Game 2 there and come back on Monday.

Debbie’s particular interest in the All-Century team was her favorite player, Pete Rose, who had been named, and she wanted to see his return to a baseball field for the first time since he had been informally banned for betting on baseball in 1989. A lot of people in Ohio—and elsewhere—did, too.

Rose’s banishment was a sore spot for Reds fans. Rose WAS Cincinnati baseball, and fans called constantly for his return. Debbie was one of those folks. In fact, when we went to Cooperstown in 1996, she had me bring a Pete Rose card, so she could slide it into a crack somewhere in the museum, so Rose’s aura would be in the Hall of Fame. (Rose, of course, was forbidden from entering the Hall unless he paid the admission fee like the rest of us schmoes.)

I was a bit more pragmatic about it. I loved the Big Red Machine, but I wasn’t a Rose guy. However, I felt that Rose had been railroaded to a certain extent. Bill James in 1990 did a withering deconstruction of the Dowd Report—the foundation of Rose’s banishment—where James pointed out many holes in what appeared to be an open-and-shut case.

To me, the biggest hole was the lynchpin of the report’s physical evidence—the infamous betting slip. Without it, baseball’s entire case consisted of testimony by people who bore Rose a big-time grudge. The slip, supposedly in Rose’s handwriting, listed several games on certain dates in 1987 and whether the game was a W or an L. The one problem: The games didn’t line up. The schedule of games as jotted down didn’t correspond to a single day during the 1987 season.

And the best part was that the Reds game was wrong! The Reds were supposedly in Montreal, when in fact, it was the other way around. Now, anyone can make such a mistake, but the manager of the Cincinnati Reds? To me, it was impossible that Rose would get that wrong; therefore, in my opinion, the document was a forgery. So much for the physical evidence against Rose, right?

But that was beside the point as far as the All-Century Team was concerned. It seemed ridiculous for Major League Baseball to ban someone from the game yet invite him to participate in something that one of baseball’s primary sponsors established. The whole thing reeked of everything that had been wrong with baseball since Bud Selig had taken over earlier that decade.

So I wanted to see Rose honored if for no other reason than it exposed baseball’s hierarchy as the hypocritical buffoons that I long had suspected them to be.

We set up shop in Dot’s living room. I seem to recall that Debbie made dinner, although I can’t remember what, and we settled in to watch the festivities and then, hopefully, the Braves even the Series after the debacle the night before.

You might be surprised to learn that Dot’s TV survived that night. I was, because within 30 minutes, Debbie was ready to throw a brick through it. In fact, she wanted me to drive her down to Turner Field, so she could find Jim Gray and strangle him.

Of course, Jim Gray turned the proceeding into a circus with his hamfisted interrogation of Rose on the field after the ceremony. It was neither the time nor the place for such a line of inquiry. But the thing that got me the most—and continued to bother me on the subsequent drive home and for months after—was the certainty with which Gray operated. There was no doubt Gray believed Rose was guilty. The evidence was beyond reproach.

This was a theme followed by others in the media who defended Gray’s line of questioning if not the timing, and it drove me nuts. Did you actually READ the Dowd Report? I just pointed out one major flaw; there were many others. But it was like everyone bought the company line without question and parroted it to the letter.

Someone needed to point this out, and that someone needed to be me. An idea formed …

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