When you hear a phrase like “Pete Rose is in the news again,” you know it can’t be good. Well, Pete Rose is in the news again, and it’s definitely bad. Here’s what ESPN reported on Monday:
A sworn statement by an unidentified woman, contained in a motion filed Monday in John Dowd's defense against Pete Rose's defamation lawsuit, alleges that Rose had a sexual relationship with the woman for several years in the 1970s, beginning before she turned 16.
Before I take eight showers, let me tell you how old Pete Rose was when this happened: 34. (It was 1975.) Rose hasn’t denied that he had a relationship with this woman, who is going by Jane Doe. But he says it happened when she was 16 (and not before), the legal age of consent in Ohio. So Pete Rose is admitting that when was in his mid-thirties, he had a relationship with a 16-year-old that lasted several years. Yeah, I’m gonna go take those eight showers now. (ESPN says that the statute of limitations has run out on this alleged crime, so no charges can be brought against Rose.)
One important detail from this story: Rose is apparently trying to become the textbook definition of “hoist by his own petard.” From ESPN:
Rose sued Dowd for defamation a year ago, in U.S. District Court in Eastern Pennsylvania, because Dowd claimed in a 2015 radio interview that Rose had underage girls delivered to him at spring training and committed statutory rape.
Rose is the one who started all of this. He sued Dowd for defamation, and that’s why this accusation came to light. And while we don’t know if he had underage girls delivered to him, he’s now certainly being accused of having an illegal relationship with a young teenager. Because remember: Jane Doe is saying that their relationship started when she was younger than 16, which means she was 15 or 14. Which is wrong and horrible in so many ways. And honestly, even though the legal age of consent in Ohio is 16, which is the age Rose said their relationship started, it’s feels very not okay that a man in his mid-thirties had a relationship with a 16 year old.
The Phillies are scheduled to induct Rose onto their Wall of Fame on August 12. He was picked as the result of a fan vote in which Rose somehow beat out Scott Rolen. Rolen could be (and should be) receiving this honor in August, but instead we’re stuck with Rose. And now the person they’re honoring has been accused of statutory rape, and he’s admitted to a relationship with a teenager.
I think the Phillies should cancel the Wall of Fame ceremony for Pete Rose, but I honestly can’t imagine a world in which they would. If they do that, I’ll be genuinely shocked. And if any of the beat writers ask someone in the organization about this (and it remains to be seen if they will), I’ll be stunned if they get a coherent answer, or any answer at all. No one wants to have this conversation, least of all the Phillies. And if they are asked about it, I’m sure they’ll say something about the Wall of Fame only being about baseball. And perhaps that’s true. But just because the Wall of Fame is only about baseball doesn’t mean people will only think about baseball when they look at it. Because Pete Rose will be on that wall forever. The Philadelphia Phillies are enshrining a guy into the architecture of their stadium who didn’t just bet on baseball (for which he was banned from baseball for life), but had a relationship with a teenage girl that allegedly started when she was underage.
I wish and hope the Phillies will cancel the big ceremony for Pete Rose, but I doubt they will. They’re the ones who put Pete Rose on the list of possible Wall of Fame inductees, and since they did that to begin with, I can’t imagine this would sway them. Just like every single baseball franchise out there, the Phillies are in love with their own history. And it’s hard to fault them for that, since fandom is built on that kind of history. But I yearn for an honest reckoning of that history instead the sanitized public relations version we’re probably going to get. And if they can’t reckon with their history honestly (and that includes the history of the people they choose to honor), then they’re better off not celebrating it at all.