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Why I voted for Rose over Rolen for the Phillies Wall of Fame

Ethan Witte wrote a very good and rational piece about why Scott Rolen should go on the Wall of Fame over Pete Rose. That leaves it up to me to write the irrational one.

The ball always found Pete and Pete always found the ball.
The ball always found Pete and Pete always found the ball.
David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Ethan Witte's excellent piece on Scott Rolen deserving your Wall of Fame vote is here. It is rational, well-considered, and ultimately probably correct on the merits. So when I cast my vote for the Wall of Fame, why did I vote thusly?:

  • Pete Rose
  • Scott Rolen
  • Manny Trillo
I am going to set aside for a moment my visceral "up yours to MLB" on Pete Rose going on the Wall of Fame reaction. That is also fairly consequential, honestly. In my opinion, he absolutely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. But that is mostly for his achievements with Cincinnati. For me, Rose deserves to be on the Wall of Fame for one thing:

Write everything you want about WAR and value to the Phillies. Rose was an average player in 1980.  He had a great 1979. He was over the hill and was grinding toward the Major League Baseball hit record. But that play...

I wouldn't feel this way if the play had been made by a defensive sub who saw maybe a few innings here and there. Rose played a ton for the team. Like the rest of them, he ground out the season, coming on strong at the end against a soft schedule to catch Montreal at the very end. Then he survived an epic series against the Astros that took everything from both teams. And he still had gas in the tank for that play.

Remember the context:

Do you remember Black Friday in the 1977 National League Championship Series? Luzinski, Bowa, and Manny Mota? The incomparable Garry Maddox getting a late jump on what was perhaps a catch-able ball in the 10th inning of Game 4 of the 1978 NLCS? The players on the field remembered. Except maybe Rose, who wasn't there for either of those series.

Think of the context of the game: Even with a 4 - 1 lead, the Phillies were in trouble. The bases were loaded. There was only one out. Frank White had been terrible in the series for the Royals, but McGraw was struggling badly, loading the bases on a walk and two singles. After White in the order, McGraw would face Willie Wilson and U.L. Washington (neither of whom had a good Series) but then George Brett loomed.

Who won the 1980 World Series? Carlton? Schmidt? Trillo? McGraw? It's hard to credit who "won" the series for them - Carlton, Schmidt, and Boone were big. But despite his contributions, Bob Boone could easily have turned into the Phillies' Bill Buckner when Frank White's foul ball popped off his glove. If it had caromed to the turf because Rose let up or took that play off, who knows what may have happened next. Thankfully, we will never know, except for McGraw striking out Wilson.

The Phillies could easily still be the Cubs. Or, worse than the Cubs, they could be the oldest team without a World Series win. In 1980, the Cubs, in 1908, had won the World Series much more recently than the Phillies who had not won since ever. Not since the founding of the franchise in 1883. It had been nearly 100 years, and they'd only sniffed the World Series twice before.

Rose's play was the most amazing play I've ever seen in all the years I've watched the Phillies. Did it require the most athleticism? No. Was it the prettiest play? No. But it required the best baseball instincts in the game. And it came on what was absolutely the biggest stage in the history of the franchise. And it was incredibly consequential. Did Pete Rose carry the 1980 Phillies to a World Series championship on his back? No. Schmidt and Carlton did. But Pete Rose showed them the way.

And so, I believe Pete Rose deserves to be on the Phillies Wall of Fame. So does Scott Rolen. But there's more time to get Rolen there. I'd like to see Pete make it first.