The debate whether Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame is one that lasts the test of time. It is debated in many a sports bar, sports web forum, or sports talk radio show. My debates on the topic did not come with my best friends, my friends who were Phillies fans, or even Jonah Keri who is arguably on his side from his days playing for the Expos. My debates on the topic were predictably with a Reds fan, but not one that would immediately come to mind. My most memorable discussions about Charlie Hustle came with my 82 year old mother-in-law.
On the 20/80 scouting scale, she was a 45 fan but she showed 80 #want for Pete Rose, both for his style of play and him being There was not an case I could make against Rose's case that would change her mind. She knew enough about the character issues from other players enshrined in Cooperstown to dismiss Rose's actions after his playing career ended. She first watched him play at Crosley Field ("lovely place") and then Riverfront Stadium ("no character") always appreciating his style of play and how he did not loaf it anywhere on the field unlike some of the players we would see in today's games.
I am lucky that many of the women in my immediate and extended family are baseball fans. My four year old daughter enjoys watching the Rays play while sitting on my lap. My mother gets a MLB.tv subscription each March for her birthday so that she can watch the Cubs and the Rays play every game (she watches every one), and my aunt in Baltimore is extremely happy these days as her Orioles are playing competitive baseball in September for the first time since the Clinton administration. My mother in law was a partial season ticket holder for the Daytona Cubs until her health was in decline and one of her favorite things to do were to go to the games with her kids and grandkids when they were in town. We once saw Carlos Marmol throw seven hitless innings before being pulled for a 75-pitch limit. We saw Mark Rogers work his way back from an umpteenth arm setback as a member of the Brevard Manatees and we saw Josh Vitters collect a hat trick on what seemed like six pitches.
Her other joy came from hearing me do appearances on the local sports and having her friends at the local theatre telling her that I actually sounded like I knew what I was talking about on the radio. Besides being a fantastic grandmother to my kids, an amazing mother to my wife, she was also my biggest fan. I lost that fan today as she succumbed to a long battle against heart failure and pneumonia just two days shy of her 58th wedding anniversary. Both watching baseball and covering baseball will be just a bit different for me moving forward as I will miss conversing baseball topics with one of my biggest fans.