A reflection on the meaning of legendary baseball player Pete Rose.
Rose is Major League Baseball’s all-time hits leader, as well as the leader in games played and at-bats. He holds nearly 20 records and was one of the hardest working and most beloved players during his playing days. Yet, due to the fact that he gambled on baseball while he was a manager with his former team, the Cincinnati Reds, he is officially banned from baseball and is not enshrined in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. “Even now,” writes Sports Illustrated assistant managing editor Kennedy (56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports, 2011, etc.), “25 years into his exile, he remains a figure who stirs uncommon passion, righteousness, indignation.” Were this book just a biography of “Charlie Hustle,” it would be a fine one. But more importantly, Kennedy explores not only Rose’s life and career and his ignominious fall from glory, but also the complexities and conundrums surrounding his ineligibility and his character. Rose’s detractors and supporters alike will find evidence here to both confirm and challenge their biases. Kennedy is a graceful writer who interweaves traditional biography with myriad explorations of the puzzle that is Rose: his affinity for gambling and his waywardness with money, his up-and-down relationships with women and his children from his marriages, and his sometimes-tawdry post-baseball life. Kennedy tends toward discursive divergences that usually build a larger picture, though occasionally he is like an interesting man at a party who tells wonderful stories but interrupts himself to tell an even better tale. Nonetheless, most of the time, he weaves magic in these pages. Rose may not deserve as nuanced a biographer as Kennedy, but baseball fans certainly do.
A remarkable book about a fascinating, vexing figure.