That Time The “Character Clause” Didn’t Matter To Joe Morgan

With this year’s baseball Hall of Fame class less than two months from being unveiled, a monkey wrench was thrown in the works, when Hall of Fame enshrinee and board member, Joe Morgan, urged the voters to continue their targeted efforts to keep steroid users from entering Cooperstown.

Morgan insisted he was speaking on behalf of many of the living Hall of Fame members, and I’m sure he probably was, as baseball is the one sport where the shortcomings and indiscretions of past era’s are quickly forgotten, and every era afterward pales in comparison.

The steroid era debate when it comes to Cooperstown is the epitome of beating a dead horse. PED use was much more rampant than anyone outside of the game realized, records were broken, and it went on for so long, that most of us stopped caring. Personally, I’d rather have a steroid user in the Hall of Fame, than a guy with deserving numbers who was simply “suspected” (Sammy Sosa), excluded. Not to mention, there would be no way I’d let Jose Canseco’s sour grapes determine the fate of an entire era of baseball, but I digress.

Just as there are many people who feel like me, and many voters, there are certainly just as many, if not more, who echo Morgan’s sentiments. While I think that Morgan sounds like baseball version of the old “get off my lawn” curmudgeon, I can’t say I wouldn’t feel the same if I was in his shoes.

The problem isn’t so much with who Joe Morgan doesn’t think should ever be enshrined in Cooperstown. The problem I have with Joe Morgan, is who he thinks should be in.

In 1999, Major League Baseball, in conjunction with MasterCard, had fans vote on an All-Century Baseball team. The team was to be honored at that Year’s All-Star game. The fans voted Pete Rose onto the team, and Major League baseball, at million dollar sponsor, allowed Rose to attend the festivities, his first official interaction with Major League Baseball since accepting a lifetime ban from the sport a decade earlier, mostly due to gambling.

The fans cheered and cheered for Rose. They had spoken, and they had let it be known that they cared little about Rose’s character, and adored the type of ballplayer he was. Starting to sound familiar?

After that, three of Rose’s former teammates met with then commissioner Bud Selig to talk about a possible reinstatement for Rose so he could one day take his rightful place in Cooperstown. The three players were Johnny Bench, Mike Schmidt, and, you guessed it, Joe Morgan. They did this despite the fact that Rose knowingly broke one of the oldest rules, written or not, in baseball. YOU CANNOT BET ON BASEBALL, PERIOD.

I don’t really have a problem with Morgan sticking up for a former teammate either. Again, I would probably have done the same thing. One thing about the situation with Rose that always seems to get lost in the shuffle, or worse, willfully ignored, is that fact that Rose was not given a lifetime ban because he bet on baseball. He accepted a lifetime ban from the sport, in an agreement he made so that the results of John Dowd’s investigation into his gambling on baseball would never be made public.

Why is that important? Well, since he accepted his ban in 1989, Rose has gone to prison for tax evasion, has continually disrupted Hall of Fame weekend by holding autograph sessions in Cooperstown, and has finally admitted to betting on baseball…an admission he conveniently made the same time he was releasing a book. In all those years, as more and more came out about Rose, including just how long he had been betting on baseball, on his own team, as a player and manager, and each review of the case by Bud Selig, and later, Rob Manfred, resulted in the same outcome, Joe Morgan’s voice was silent.

The evidence that Pete Rose was nothing more than a giant piece of shit who happened to be able to hit a baseball continued into this year, when it was revealed that Rose had an “inappropriate” relationship with a girl under the age of 16 during the heyday of the Big Red Machine. Despite being 34, and married with two children at the time, Rose’s only defense was that the relationship didn’t start until the woman was 16 years old, or, the legal age of consent in Ohio. Where was Joe Morgan’s letter to the Hall of Fame then?

Has Morgan distanced himself from the crusade to enshrine Pete Rose? Only he can answer that, but he was present at Pete Rose’s statue unveiling this past summer, and was quoted by the Sporting News as recently as 2013 that “…they have to take a second look at Pete now…”. In that quote, Morgan was saying that if PED users were going to be on the ballot, then so should Rose.

If only his letter shared that same sentiment.

 

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