Monday, April 9, 2012

What If Pete Rose Had Cut a Deal?

February 21, 1989: Pete Rose, baseball's all-time hits leader, now the manager of the Cincinnati Reds, is confronted by Commissioner A. Bartlett "Bart" Giamatti with evidence that he bet on baseball. Rose comes clean, about his gambling, and also about his tax issues.

February 22, 1989: Giamatti announces that Rose has been indefinitely suspended from baseball, and that he can apply for reinstatement in 3 years -- in February 1992. This would mean that, in the Baseball Hall of Fame election of January 1992, which would have been his first time eligible, he would not be eligible.

August 24, 1989: Rose pleads guilty to two felony counts of filing false income tax returns. He will serve five months in prison and is fined $50,000.

September 1, 1989: Giamatti has a heart attack, but lives. He recovers in time to attend the 1989 World Series.

Is there any such thing as a "mild heart attack"? As basketball legend Bill Walton -- whose career ended around this time, due to yet another foot/ankle surgery -- taught us, "Minor surgery is what they do to somebody else."

October 17, 1989: An earthquake strikes San Francisco during the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the cross-bay Oakland Athletics. Giamatti suspends the Series for 10 days, and is greatly admired for handling the situation, just as he was for giving Rose, and the game, a fair shake.

August 8, 1990: Rose is released from federal prison in Marion, Illinois. He begins the second part of his sentence, consisting of 1,000 hours of community service at Cincinnati inner-city schools.

January 7, 1992: Tom Seaver and Rollie Fingers are elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rose, ineligible because of his ban from baseball, receives 62 write-in votes.

January 5, 1993: Reggie Jackson and the newly-reinstated Pete Rose are elected to the Hall of Fame. The New York Yankees announce that Jackson's Number 44 will be retired in a ceremony that summer. The Cincinnati Reds announce the same for Rose's Number 14. Lou Piniella, who had been hired to replace Rose as Reds' manager, has moved on to the Seattle Mariners. Rose's former teammate, Tony Perez, is named manager, and, with Giamatti's permission, hires Rose as his bench coach.

May 19, 1993: Reds owner Marge Schott is unhappy with Perez's managing, but Rose intervenes, and asks her to let Perez manage at least one full season. She says no. Then Rose puts the squeeze on her: "I've already told the Commissioner everything I know about myself. If Perez goes, I go, too, and not only will you have driven away the most popular athlete in Cincinnati history, but I'll tell Giamatti everything I know about you." Knowing how much she has to lose, Schott refuses to call Rose's bluff, and keeps Perez on.

January 2, 1994: The Major League Baseball owners vote to re-elect Giamatti to a new five-year term as Commissioner.

August 11, 1994: Giamatti and Players' Association Director Donald Fehr negotiate a last-minute deal that avoids a players' strike.

August 17, 1994: Just 6 games out of first place in the National League Eastern Division, the Atlanta Braves are dealt a serious blow. Starting pitcher Greg Maddux injures his wrist while fielding a bunt by Roberto Kelly of the Cincinnati Reds. Maddux is never the same pitcher again, and retired after the 1999 season.

September 5, 1994: Cal Ripken Jr. is hit in the back by a pitch in the first game of a Labor Day doubleheader. He has to miss the second game, ending his consecutive-games-played streak at 2,097. He falls just 33 short of Lou Gehrig's all-time record.

September 11, 1994: The Montreal Expos clinch the NL East, winning it for the first time since 1981 -- for the first time ever in a season not shortened by a strike, finishing 10 games ahead of the Braves. The Expos have become a sensation, the way they had been in 1980 and '81, when they had their previous best team ever. Despite the inadequacies of the Olympic Stadium, sellout crowds of 43,000 seem to come out every night. Fans wave flags, some the red Maple Leaf of Canada, some the blue Fleurdelisé of the Province of Quebec. A larger version of the Maple Leaf flag has been draped over the left-field fence, and a large Fleurdelisé over the right-field fence.

September 12, 1994: The Liberal Party wins the Provincial election. The leader of the separatist Parti Quebecois, Jacques Parizeau, had promises a referendum on Quebec's separation from Canada in the event of a PQ victory. But with Quebecois (or "Quebeckers") energized by the Expos, who are threatening to follow the Toronto Blue Jays to make this the 3rd straight year a Canadian team is in (and wins) the World Series, there seems to be no desire for separation. Parizeau soon resigns as PQ Leader, and Liberal Leader Daniel Johnson Jr. (whose father and brother also held the office) remains as Premier of Quebec (the equivalent of the Governor of an American State, but with more power).

October 2, 1994: The baseball season that nearly ended on August 12 ends as scheduled. In the National League, the Montreal Expos win the Eastern Division by 10 games over the Braves. The Reds, with manager Tony Perez making the most of his second chance, win the newly-created NL Central Division, edging the Houston Astros by 2 games. The Astros win the first-ever NL Wild Card. In the Western Division, the San Francisco Giants, led by Matt Williams' 58 home runs for a new NL record, beat their arch-rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, by 3 games. Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres bats .402, becoming the first player since Ted Williams in 1941 to bat .400 or more -- the first NLer since Bill Terry in 1930.

In the American League, the New York Yankees win the East by 8 games over the Baltimore Orioles. Lou Piniella's Seattle Mariners reach their first postseason by taking the West by 3 games over the Texas Rangers, led by Ken Griffey Jr.'s 56 homers, most in the AL since Roger Maris' record 61 in 1961. The Central Division has the most interesting race. The Chicago White Sox, defending Division champions but without a Pennant since 1959, beat the Cleveland Indians, without a Pennant since 1954 and in their first race since 1959 (when they were edged by the White Sox), by just 1 game; the Kansas City Royals, 1985 World Champs but out of the Playoffs since, finish just 2 back. The Indians do win the first-ever AL Wild Card.

October 10, 1994: The first-ever Division Series -- not counting the strike-forced setup of 1981 -- are done. In this best-3-out-of-5 setup, the Yankees beat the Indians in 4 games, the White Sox sweep the Mariners, the Expos sweep the Astros in what Montreal Gazette columnist Jack Todd jokes is "the first postseason baseball series played entirely outside the United States," and the Giants win a 5-game thriller with the Reds. Again, Pete Rose has to intervene with owner Marge Schott to keep Tony Perez, who, after all, did manage them to the postseason.

October 19, 1994: The Pennants have been won. For the first time in 35 years, a Pennant flies over Chicago, as the White Sox beat the Yankees in 6. Yankee owner George Steinbrenner is determined to get a better reliever than Steve Howe and Bob Wickman. And for the 3rd year in a row, a Canadian team will be in the World Series, as the Expos win their first-ever Pennant, thanks to Mike Lansing's walkoff homer off Dave Burba in the bottom of the 10th inning in Game 6 at the Olympic Stadium.

October 22, 1994: Game 1 is held at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. Prime Minister Jean Chretien throws out the first ball. Pedro Martinez goes the distance and Larry Walker provides the difference with a home run off Jack McDowell. Expos 2, White Sox 0. Expos lead, 1 game to 0.

October 23, 1994: Game 2 at the Big O. Gary Carter throws out the first ball. Ken Hill falls apart in the 3rd inning, and Robin Ventura and Frank Thomas hit back-to-back home runs, the Big Hurt's homer challenging Willie Stargell in 1973 and Darryl Strawberry in 1988 for the title of longest ever in the stadium. White Sox 9, Expos 1. Series tied, 1 game to 1.

October 25, 1994: Game 3 at the new Comiskey Park, the first World Series game played in Chicago since October 8, 1959 at the old Comiskey Park. Luis Aparicio, the star of those '59 "Go-Go Sox," throws out the first ball. Wilson Alvarez and Jeff Fassero both throw goose eggs for 7 innings. But Mel Rojas implodes, and the Sox -- known in a previous era as the South Side Hit Men -- whack him. White Sox 6, Expos 0. White Sox lead, 2 games to 1.

October 26, 1994: Game 4 at Comiskey. Billy Pierce, another member of the '59 Pale Hose, throws out the first ball. Pedro comes to the rescue, dazzling everyone with a 2-hit shutout that eases the strain on the Montreal bullpen. Marquis Grissom takes Jason Bere deep twice, becoming the first Chicago player to hit 2 homers in a World Series game since Ted Kluszewski in Game 1 in '59. Expos 5, White Sox 0. Series tied, 2 games to 2.

October 27, 1994: Game 5 at Comiskey. Ron Kittle, Rookie of the Year with the AL West Champion ChiSox of 1983, throws out the first ball. McDowell is very careful with the rest, and while Hill also pitches well, single runs in the 2nd, 5th and 6 doom him. White Sox 3, Expos 1. The White Sox lead, 3 games to 2, and need to take just 1 out of 2 games in Montreal to become the first Chicago team to win a World Series since the White Sox of 1917 -- 77 years ago.

October 29, 1994: Game 6 at the Olympic Stadium. Duke Snider, the Hall-of-Famer who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and for their Montreal Royals farm team before that, and later broadcast for the Expos, throws out the first ball. Fassero finds his form, and homers by Walker and Grissom make the difference. John Wetteland stops a Chicago rally in the top of the 9th. Expos 5, White Sox 4. The Series is tied at 3 games apiece. Tomorrow, it will be pour tous les marbres -- for all the marbles.

October 30, 1994: Game 7 of the World Series at the Olympic Stadium. Claude Raymond, who grew up playing baseball on the sandlots of Montreal, including Jarry Park where the team's first ballpark was built, and later pitched there for the Expos before becoming their preeminent French-station broadcaster, throws out the first ball. The Francophone Montrealers get a huge lift out of this, but it is the Spanish-speakers who dominate this game. Pedro Martinez and Wilson Alvarez both go 8 strong, and home runs are hit by Julio Franco of the White Sox and Wil Cordero of the Expos.

The games goes to the 9th, tied 2-2. Pedro hits Frank Thomas with a pitch. Thomas points at him, saying it was on purpose. Sox shortstop Ozzie Guillen, not previously known as a hothead, begins screaming at the dugout, calling Pedro every name in the Spanish book. Pedro points at his head, and then points at Ozzie, as if to say, "You want to be next?" Home plate umpire Darryl Cousins has had enough: In the 9th inning of Game 7 of the World Series, he throws the incumbent pitcher out of the game.

Expo fans roar with rage, and the field is littered with debris. Public-address announcements are made in English and French, demanding that the fans stop, or the game will be forfeited to the visiting White Sox. (As home team, the Expos are responsible for crowd control.) The fusillade, or the barrage (pick your French-inspired word of choice) does not stop.

Finally, a familiar voice comes over the P.A. It is the voice of the most beloved person in the history of the Province of Quebec, Canadiens legend Maurice Richard. The Rocket implores the crowd, in French, to stop, reminding them of the riot, supposedly on his behalf, that shamed the city in 1955, which may have cost the Canadiens the Stanley Cup. The crowd listens, and stops. John Wetteland comes out of the bullpen, and gets the last 3 outs.

In the bottom of the 9th, with the game still tied, Roberto Hernandez comes on in relief of Alvarez. Moises Alou leads off by drawing a walk. Larry Walker singles to center. Cordero pops up. One out, with the run that will win the World Series at 2nd base. The batter is Lenny Webster, and he singles to left field. Tim Raines throws to the plate, Alou slides in... Safe. Expos 3, White Sox 2. For the first time ever, the Montreal Expos are World Champions.

November 1, 1994: Over 2 million people turn out for the Expos' championship parade down Rue Ste-Catherine. Premier Johnson announces that he will ask the Provincial government, the National Assembly, to help the team build a new ballpark in the mold of Baltimore's Camden Yards and Cleveland's Jacobs Field. In spite of the Expos' success, reliever John Wetteland's contract is set to run out in another year, and the Expos accept a trade that sends him to the Yankees.

October 28, 1995: The first-ever all-Ohio World Series ends as the Cleveland Indians win their first Series in 47 years, defeating the Cincinnati Reds 1-0 in Game 6. The Indians had beaten the Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners to reach the Series, while the Reds had beaten the Los Angeles Dodgers and the surprising 3rd-year Colorado Rockies (NL Wild Card winners, who had beaten the Atlanta Braves, NL East Champions but weakened as a result of Greg Maddux not finding his control after his injury).

April 20, 1996: In a deal partially brokered by Reds legend Pete Rose and baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti, Marge Schott sells the Reds to local businessman Carl Lindner. Schott makes a substantial profit, and in return for going quietly, things that would embarrass her will be kept quiet. This, after she herself couldn't keep quiet after a shocking interview earlier in the month.

October 26, 1996: With former Expo John Wetteland saving all 4 Yankee wins, the New York Yankees win their 23rd World Championship, defeating the Expos 3-2 at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees, desperate for a relief ace, had traded a few minor league prospects and a significant amount of cash to the Expos. Despite having Mel Rojas as their new closer, the Expos regained the NL East title from the fading Braves, and beat the San Diego Padres in an NLCS billed as "Canada vs. Mexico."

October 26, 1997: The Cleveland Indians, winners of 2 World Series in their first 94 seasons, have now won 2 of the last 3, holding off the NL (and NL East) Champion Florida Marlins, 3-1 in Game 7 to take the Series.

I'll finish this piece at a later date. How would Giamatti have handled the steroid situation?

April 1, 1998: Labatt Park opens in downtown Montreal, a couple of blocks from Windsor Station and the Molson Centre (now the Bell Centre). The Expos lose to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-0, but now they have a real ballpark, not that flying saucer masquerading as one. The recently retired Expo legend Andre Dawson throws out the ceremonial first ball. The Expos will make it 3 NL East titles in 5 years, but will not win the Pennant, as the Yankees sweep the Padres in 4 games.

October 31, 1998: Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti, citing his health, announces he will not seek another term.

January 4, 1999: Leonard Coleman, President of the National League, is elected the first black Commissioner of Baseball.

October 24, 1999: The Major League Baseball All-Century Team, chosen by fans' ballots sponsored by MasterCard, is introduced before Game 2 of the World Series. This is the first Subway Series in 43 years, as the AL East Champion New York Yankees defeated the AL West Champion Texas Rangers and Wild Card winner Boston Red Sox to get there, while the NL East Champion New York Mets defeated the NL West Champion Arizona Diamondbacks and the Wild Card winner Atlanta Braves to do so. The ceremony is at Shea Stadium. Great cheers are given to former Yankee player, and Yankee and Met manager, Yogi Berra, while respectful cheers are given to the memories of deceased Yankee legends Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. Late ballots by Met fans allowed Tom Seaver to make the team, edging out current Yankee pitcher Roger Clemens. One player, however, gets booed: Pete Rose, while loved in many cities, is hated at Shea because of his suspension for betting on baseball and his fight with the Mets in the 1973 Playoffs. The Yankees go on to sweep the Mets in the Series.

February 27, 2005: Paul Giamatti is among the nominees for the Academy Award for Best Actor, for his role in Sideways. He does not win: Jamie Foxx does, for playing Ray Charles in Ray. But Giamatti's father, former Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti, lives to see it.

August 7, 2005: A. Bartlett Giamatti, Commissioner of Baseball from 1989 to 1998, dies at his home on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. He was 67.

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