Mantle (left) in 1995. Source: The Oklahoman. Rose (right) in 2019. Source: LA Times.

Seven (Times Two) Equals: Fourteen

Mickey Mantle’s epic final days moved a generation, and that’s precisely why we must let Pete Rose back into baseball

Penn Little
Feb 9 · 5 min read

My Dad, born fifteen months after the Japanese capitulation in 1945, grew-up in Ardmore, Oklahoma. He has always revered his home state’s golden boy: Mickey Mantle.

My step-dad, born just four-and-a-half months shy of Jack Kennedy’s slaying in 1963, grew up in Lima, Ohio. He often recalls “eating, sleeping, and breathing baseball” back then. No doubt, this was accompanied by “worshiping” Ohio’s most extraordinary baseball progeny: Peter Edward Rose.

Oddly enough, both Mantle and Rose have been banned from baseball.

They were also both uniformly known for their epically blunderous moments as much as their most illustrious.

Notwithstanding, solely one, Rose, wears the label of baseball’s proverbial ‘Black Sheep.’ Meanwhile, the late-Mantle, despite all his imperfections, was revered by baseball enthusiasts from all generations and never encountered long-term “official” consequences for his hapless decisions. Mantle’s ban ended shortly after a commissioner change, and just before Rose’s began.

Rose, still banned, wants back-in. It’s also time to lift his ban — not for Rose himself — but for the generation that was inspired by the very “hustle” that earned #14’s nickname “Charlie Hustle” from Mantle’s teammate: Whitey Ford.

Mantle on SI’s cover in 1956. Source: Sports Illustrated.

When Mantle was a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer at the age of 42 in 1974, Rose was in his prime. Ten years later, in 1984, when Rose hit age 42, he was still racking up RBIs and was as salubrious as they come at that age. Mantle, on the other hand, was barely upright beyond 5 pm on a given night.

In 1995, Mantle’s personal decisions took his life, quite early, at age 63.

In 2020, Rose’s determinations have now produced a three-decade-long displacement from the place he cherishes as much as his fans embraced him in the 1970s: Major League Baseball.

Which carries us to today….

This week, Rose prayed again for his second chance, at age 78. Just like Mantle, who, according to a 1995 Dallas Morning News Cartoon, “had one courageous ninth inning,” Rose has declared his wrongdoing. Nevertheless, unlike Mantle, he’s not on the doorstep of death. He’s also not a Yankee, and he’s a gambler, as opposed to a common sot.

Rose on SI’s cover in 1974. Source: Sports Illustrated.

Nonetheless, if America is still the land of second chances, it’s unquestionably time that we acknowledge the all-time hits leader who was all hustle, well before Human Growth Hormone, “the clear,” or “the cream” ever meddled baseball. Rose’s 23-year career trumped Mantle’s by a decade, and while his vices distended his life as much as Mantle’s, Rose’s materialized in a process — not a chemical. In reality, both vices serve to fill the same voids and the resulting consequences of their actions served-up similar lessons for number seven and number fourteen. The “Commerce Comet” turned to alcohol as much as “Charlie Hustle” adapted to gambling.

However, the argument that Casey Stengal is a Hall-of-Famer because of Mantle is as valid as maintaining the Reds were identified as the “Big Red Machine” because of Rose.

Then what’s the darn distinction? One word: Stigma.

The same stigma that makes a ‘heroin addict’ more egregious than an ‘alcoholic’ is what makes Rose’s action’s more extreme than Mantle’s. In an era where mental health advocates say breaking down the stigma is what America is about, what better moment to set the standard than through America’s Pastime?

We all associate with both, and we all need to know that ownership of our actions, transforming our lives, and earning a second opportunity is conceivable — or, contrarily, hope is lost.

Rose (left) with Mantle (right). Source: iCollector.com.

When Mickey Mantle needed a liver transplant, he was bumped to the top of the list, despite his trials ending his career a decade earlier than Rose. Now today, amidst the Astros scandal, Rose has asked for forgiveness for the umpteenth time, and some agree that it’s unquestionably fair that he is reinstated, and ‘bumped to the top’ of the Cooperstown list as well.

One of the individuals in #14’s corner is the 45th President of the United States. President Donald Trump said yesterday, via Twitter, that it’s time to let Rose back into baseball (as seen below).

Source: Twitter.

Jose Canseco, Mark McGuire, and even Roger Clemens came clean about steroids, and while Barry Bonds has remained silent, it’s hard to believe that all of those men will remain absent in Cooperstown. Still, none of those guys are pushing 80, none were banned, and they most assuredly didn’t enter the history books without the aid of a substance!

In contravention of the ‘Bash Brothers,’ Rose’s 44-game hitting streak and all-time hits records were developed with all grit, pure skill, and no roids.

So, for the 78-year old legend who was just as human as “the Mick,” it makes sense that he wants to be a part of America’s pastime once again. However, reinstatement wouldn’t be for Rose alone; it would be for all the youngsters who donned those #14 jerseys in the 1970s.

Permitting Pete Rose to re-enter the baseball world once again would provide an entire generation the opportunity to relish the concept of forgiveness, second chances, and redemption.

That said: Mr. Manfred, it’s time.

Mr. Commissioner, let “Charlie Hustle” back-in, for the very sake of a generation deprived of their “Mick,” their hero, and their one-and-only: Pete Rose.

Penn Little

Written by

Entrepreneur & Investigative Journalist www.pennlittle.com/publications

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