“Pete Rose: An American Dilemma” by Kostya Kennedy
Baseball, biography, Reds, Hall of Fame
March 11, 2014
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)
Pete Rose has been one of the most polarizing figures in baseball for the last 25 years. In that time, he signed an agreement that permanently banned him from associating with Major League Baseball, has admitted in a tell-all book that he bet on baseball after denying so for over 15 years, spent time in prison for tax evasion, hawked as much memorabilia and as many autographs as he could and yet still have a lot of support to win reinstatement and enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame. All of these topics and more are covered in Kostya Kennedy’s outstanding book on Rose.
This isn’t a typical biography in which the story of the subject is told from birth to present day. Oh, sure, there are pages about Rose’s youth, his relationship with his father and his climb from the minor leagues to the Cincinnati Reds. However, the focus of the book is on Rose and the manner in which he handles himself with the ban from baseball.
There are several chapters interspersed throughout the book on his presence in Cooperstown, New York during the weekend in 2012 when two players were inducted into the Hall of Fame. These stories of Rose and his presence in the hamlet selling anything he can while at the same time being banned from enshrinement in the museum less than a mile away on Main Street smacks of part irony, part melancholy. Kennedy makes the reader feel like he or she is experiencing induction weekend in Cooperstown during these chapters. When Barry Larkin, one of the players inducted that year, mentions Rose during his acceptance speech, the reader cannot help but feel Rose is there, thanks to the prose of Kennedy.
Other topics which are captured and vividly described by Kennedy are Rose’s relationship with his oldest son, Pete Jr. Here another emotional event is illustrated well when Pete Jr. makes his major league debut with the Reds in 1997, but cannot enjoy the moment with his father in the clubhouse because of the ban.
However, my favorite chapter in the book was chapter 17, simply titled “Gate Keepers.” The first paragraph in this chapter is all you need to know in order to understand the title. It ends with the phrase “Keep Pete Rose out of the Baseball Hall of Fame.” This was the meeting in 1991 when a special committee met and drafted the rule that became known as the Pete Rose rule – simply that a person on baseball’s ineligible list shall not be eligible to be elected to the Hall of Fame. Kennedy can barely hide the contempt for this rule, calling it “the greatest disservice to be inflicted upon the Hall of Fame induction process…” and further stating that nothing else “has so deeply stained the procedure, nor delivered such a blow to the integrity of the process as a whole.” This shows that not only has Kennedy done his research, but that he has a deep passion for the topic. His writing is a reflection of that passion.
No matter how the reader feels about Rose and whether or not he belongs in the Hall of Fame, this outstanding book should be read by every baseball fan. The stories are rich, the research through, the interviews with other players and Rose’s family members riveting and the entire book is a fine work by Kennedy.
Did I skim?
Pace of the book:
Excellent. Kennedy’s writing keeps the reader engrossed and the pages turning, whether the topic is Rose hustling to third base on a hit, the gambling investigation, Pete Jr. or the latest sale of Rose merchandise in Cooperstown.
Do I recommend?
This is a must read book for any baseball fan. It doesn’t matter whether you like Rose or not, nor does it matter how the reader feels about whether or not Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame, this book will keep the reader riveted.
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