Gone bluefishin’

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Pete Rose, baseball’s immortal Charlie Hustle, played manager-for-a-day in Bridgeport, Conn., Monday night, calling the shots for the Bridgeport Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League.

It’s a far cry from the Big Red Machine. And it’s as close as Pete should ever get to returning to baseball.

The “independent” in “independent Atlantic League” is important, because Petey has been banned for 25 years from all of Major League Baseball and all of its affiliate minor league teams. Among other things, this means that the man who had more base hits than any other player in the history of the game – the man who beat Ty Cobb’s unbeatable record of 4,191 and didn’t stop until he’d recorded 4,256, the man who was a thorn in every pitcher’s side and was the face of Cincinnati in the ’70s – is ineligible to to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Good. That’s how it should be. Rose, one of the greatest ever to lace up a pair of cleats, should never be allowed back in the game.

Rose is 73 now, and he’s always had a groundswell of support from fans who say the hit king belongs in the Hall.

On a side note, I’d be willing to bet that a majority of those same fans have no problem with excluding the home run king, Barry Bonds. Let’s just say the reasons are as clear as black and white.

But this isn’t about Barry, who also doesn’t belong. This is about Pete. And the reason Petey isn’t in the Hall is that he took himself out of it.

In 1989, after denying for months that he had never, ever, bet on a baseball game, Rose accepted a lifetime ban from the game — without admitting guilt – for, um . . . betting on baseball.

Now, before the baseball writers can elect or reject him for a plaque in Cooperstown, the commissioner of baseball must lift the ineligibility Pete accepted.

Let’s hope no commissioner is ever so forgiving.

It took years for Rose, in a desperate attempt to get reinstated, to admit that yes, in fact, he did bet on baseball games. What’s more, he admitted, he bet on his Reds … while he was the team’s manager.

Rose and his defenders argue that he never bet against the Reds. He only bet on his team to win. What’s wrong with that?

There’s a lot wrong with that.

Baseball, as we all know, is a marathon, not a sprint. There are 162 games, and even the really good teams lose 62 of them. Sometimes you have to be willing to lose because you have your eyes on the finish line.

Unless, of course, your eyes are clouded by a bet.

Did Petey ever keep a pitcher in the game longer than he should have, risking injury to the player, because he had money on the outcome?

Did he ever put a player who desperately needed a day of rest into the lineup because winning a bet was more important?

Even if the answer is no, he could have. A manager has to have his team – not his bet – foremost in his mind. And the bet opens the question of whether Petey did.

Baseball, the great American pastime, almost died 95 years ago when the Chicago “Black Sox” took money from gamblers and threw the 1919 World Series. It literally took a player of Ruthian stature to bring the game back from that scandal. Shoeless Joe Jackson, one of the greatest players ever, was one of eight ballplayers banned for life afterward. You’ll find Shoeless Joe in a wonderful book that was made into a wonderful movie, but you won’t find his plaque in Cooperstown.

Rose deserves nothing better.

Photo ops and autograph sessions are all Charlie Hustle has left now, and that’s the way it should be. According to the Savannah Morning News, “About 50 fans paid $250 each to get into a ‘meet and greet’ with Rose before this game and others paid $150 to have lunch with him. He did sign some free autographs as he took the field.”

Rose told the newspaper he “was trying to show he could be a good ambassador for the game.”

“If I’m ever reinstated,” he said, “I won’t need a third chance. Believe me.”

OK, I believe him. And I also know that he does not deserve a third chance. He shouldn’t even have gotten a second one.

Let everyone who plays this wonderful game know now and forever:

There’s no betting in baseball. Period. Not even if you get 4,256 hits.

– 30 –

Well bully for you, Supreme Court!

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We’ve heard a lot about bullying over the past decade or two. And from what I can tell, pretty much everyone who is anyone is against it. We don’t bully nerds. We don’t bully gays. We don’t bully the unpretty, or the unhandsome. We don’t kick sand on the 97-pound weakling. We don’t beat up the fat kid.

Not anymore. We’ve evolved.

Or at least that’s what I thought until Monday, when the U.S. Supreme Court, in its inevitable 5-4 decision along its usual 5-4 philosophical lines, declared it was perfectly fine and legal and good and wholesome and downright American to bully – yes, I said bully – people who don’t share your religion.

Well bully for you, Justices Roberts, Scalia, Alito, Thomas and Kennedy.

Boy did you get this one wrong. Continue reading

Here’s to you, Dr. Z


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Paul Zimmerman won an Emmy the other night.

He shoulda won a Pulitzer.

Grab a bottle of fine Bordeaux and pull up a chair, kids, and I’ll tell you all about the greatest reporter I’ve ever known. You can call him Dr. Z, as they did at Sports Illustrated. Or you can call him Zim, as we did at The New York Post. But, with all due apologies to Bob Dylan, you may not call him Zimmy. You wouldn’t dare.

That’s because Paul was a big man, a bear of a man, a larger-than-life man with an insatiable appetite for great food, fine wine, expensive cigars and a shareable story. He loved combat. He played rugby. And he was the finest football writer in the country. Continue reading

Take me out!

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My friends, today is a religious holiday. And, as I have for the last 30 years or so, I will be attending a house of worship with my sons, Josh and Ben.

Every year, Linda and I would pull them out of school on this day and we’d all head to the ballpark. Their principal would give them a dollar and ask them to bring him back a bag of peanuts. Never mind that a bag of peanuts cost around six bucks . . . He got it. And we brought him back the peanuts.

I said then — and I say now — that there was nothing they would miss in class that day that would be as important or as meaningful as this family tradition.

Today is Opening Day, and I’m heading to the ballpark. There will be hot dogs. There will be beer. I don’t care if I never get back.

And here’s the best part . . . This year my sons are taking ME!

Great memories last a lifetime. Let’s go Mets!

— 30 —

Shoveling snow after eight years of leisure

We made our move in 2005. Josh was gone, Ben was going, the wood playground we’d assembled in the backyard had rotted away, unused for at least a decade. We needed a new roof, a new sewer line, a major repair of a leaking wall in the basement . . .

Clearly, the four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath Dutch colonial on a third of an acre in Upper Nyack had outlived its purpose. Let somebody else deal with all that stuff.

And what was more … I’d had it up to here with shoveling the driveway and the walk and the steps in the winter and mowing the grass in the summer and, because we had dozens of trees on the property, raking the leaves in the fall. Or, more often, paying people to do all of the above. 

And I’d had it up to here with finding people to deal with the inevitable problems of owning a home – the guy to clean the gutters, the guy to clear the branches overhanging the house, the guy to replace the bushes that were destroyed when a kid under the influence plowed his car through them and wound up dazed from alcohol and exploding air bags, sitting in a stupor at 2 a.m. in our front yard. Not once, but twice.

So Linda and I decided to do what empty-nesters in situations like that do: Sell the lawnmower, toss the snow shovel and get out of Dodge. Continue reading

It’s been good to know you

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I’d like to live in a world where Toys ‘R’ Us has a Pete Seeger action figure.

Because our kids need better role models.

This was an American who served in the Armed Forces and stared down McCarthyism.

This was an American who was blacklisted for his politics and then, in the middle of the Vietnam War, when finally allowed back on television, proceeded to sing “We’re waist-deep in the Big Muddy and the big fool says to push on.”

This was an American who saw what had become of the mighty Hudson River and proceeded to  head an organization that built a magnificent sloop, the Clearwater, which still travels up and down the river in a campaign to keep it clean.

This was an American who, in 1955, when summoned before the House Un-American Activities Committee, said:

“I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature…. I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this.”

This was an American who was denied a chance to appear on a TV show called “Hootenanny,” because he refused to sign a loyalty oath.

This was the American who wrote “How to Play the Five-String Banjo,” still the premier primer on the subject, and a book I plan to study closely when I take up the instrument. When I retire. If I live to be 94, as Pete did, I should have time to master it.

This was an American who sang and played with Woody Guthrie and Bruce Springsteen.

Where Have All the Flowers Gone? Turn, Turn, Turn, Goodnight Irene, If I Had a Hammer, So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You . . .

We Shall Overcome.

To everything, there is a season.

R.I.P., Pete. We need more like you.

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— 30 —

The worst New Year

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Journalists have to work on holidays, because cops and firefighters and doctors and nurses and EMTs and soldiers work on holidays, and someone has to report on what the heroes are up to while the rest of us are drinking ourselves silly.

And that’s why I always worked on Christmas. It’s not my holiday, so to do otherwise would be selfish.

But because I always worked Christmas, I always had off on New Year’s Eve. Quid pro quo, and all that.

Except for New Year’s Eve 2000, a night of work that still infuriates me, 14 years later. Continue reading