McGraw And Rose: Class And No Class

How ironic that the same week Tug McGraw dies, Pete Rose goes into his Lazarus act. Baseball’s yin and yang.

McGraw was maybe the last of a breed. A major talent who didn’t confuse “colorful” with “classless.”

McGraw won nearly 100 games and saved 180 more. He was a two-time All-Star who was at his best in postseason play.

He was a good interview because he was so affable and quotable, but more importantly he was a good guy. His enthusiasm was as real as it was energizing — not a self-serving contrivance that belittled the opposition and diminished the game. He popularized the phrase “You Gotta Believe.”

He even took his brain-cancer death sentence with courage and class. No “Why me?” whining from “The Tugger.” He merely re-applied “You Gotta Believe.”

And then there is a Rose by any other book title.

Back in 1989, it was “Pete Rose: My Story,” written with the considerable help of Roger Kahn. In it, Rose denied gambling on baseball. He lied to — and embarrassed — Kahn. For the ever-expedient Rose, it was the cost of doing business. Somebody’s else’s cost.

Now we have “My Prison Without Bars.” It took a reported $1 million advance and a closing Hall of Fame window to prompt this mea culpa chapter in opportunism. After 15 years of lying — and vilifying those who had been calling him on it — he now admits he gambled on baseball. But never, he emphasizes, against his own team and never from the clubhouse.

Even for those inclined to believe this version and to forgive, it shouldn’t be forgotten what signals Rose was sending when he DIDN’T bet on his own team, the Cincinnati Reds. Moreover, there are still allegations — from alleged bet runners — that he did, indeed, pick up the club house phone to call in his baseball bets.

Rose’s blatantly self-serving “admissions” may, in time, open up Cooperstown for him. There’s still a lot of sentiment for the rationale that says integrity-of-the-game arguments notwithstanding, what he did on the FIELD as a player — not a manager — easily merits enshrinement.

Maybe that’s how it will play out. And don’t be surprised when the trilogy is completed with the publication of “Pete Rose: My Updated Story.”

But then there’s McGraw, the guy who brought unbridled joy to fans, never compromised the game and always appreciated what baseball did for him. He didn’t making it to 60, let alone the Hall of Fame. Life, we are again reminded, isn’t fair.

But when it comes to meaningful legacies, you can bet that Tug McGraw tops Pete Rose every time.

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