One of the most talented—and controversial—players in the history of Major League Baseball shares his life story.
When Rose (b. 1941) set his on-field records during the 1970s and ’80s, he became famous for his high-energy performances as well as his tough-guy brashness. He opens the book by noting, “my dad taught me that nothing mattered more than winning.” Later, he earned a different sort of renown: for his gambling on the outcomes of games, which led to the sport’s commissioner banning Rose from the game. So far, the ban has blocked his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Based solely on performance, Rose, the game’s all-time hits leader, is one of the most deserving Hall of Fame candidates in history, and controversy about whether his apparently victimless gambling should prohibit his entry might never end. The author addresses his gambling and the ban it yielded in a few pages toward the end of the book, and the tone of those pages is difficult to characterize; it’s a cryptic tumble of sentences that is half apology and half defiance. As for the remainder of the book, Rose builds the explanation of his successes and his quirks around the influence of his father, who held a day job in Cincinnati but became best known locally for his semiprofessional athletic prowess. Over and over the author describes how his father emphasized winning for the team no matter the physical and emotional costs. From his early childhood, Rose felt confident that he would reach professional baseball even though the odds are extremely slim for anyone. Unfortunately, the narrative is marred by an absurd amount of repetition regarding the author’s macho nature and his immodesty about his hard-won skills. But when he tones down the attitude, his recollections about baseball—and life off the field—yield rewards for readers.
In a baseball memoir filled with plenty of strikes and balls, Rose offers abundant evidence of why he has become a touchstone of controversy.