Yes, what he did was inexcusable, and you may not think much of him as a person, but as a baseball player there are few who played the game harder and with more enthusiasm than Pete Rose.
I had the privilege of meeting him (read: buying his autograph) last weekend in Las Vegas. I’ve never done that before, much less cared about ever getting autographs, but I also never had the opportunity to meet someone of Pete Rose’s stature before. I was at a couple of his career highlight games, so that added to the aura. Of course, when you’re a Mets fan, and attend dozens of games each year in the late 1970s, you get a larger opportunity to see the opposition reach career milestones against your team. I was there when he tied Tommy Holmes’s National League hitting streak record of 37 games on his way to his 44 game streak in 1978. I was also there when he hit three homers in a game.
My father worked for a time in Vegas, and actually met Pete Rose about a dozen times. He doesn’t think much of him at all, and considers him surly. Maybe because it was the end of his day of signing and posing and he was more relaxed, but he was quite nice and jovial with me as we discussed where I lived and my wife’s camera, and we had a few laughs.
Pete always loved and appreciated the game he played. I’ll always remember his positive comments about being part of one of the greatest games in history, although his Reds lost that game 6 to the Red Sox in the 1975 World Series.
As a man, perhaps he doesn’t deserve entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame, but as a player, he certainly does.