Whom is baseball kidding? It’s time to lift the ban and give Pete Rose his due

Baseball loves gambling, that’s clear. It shouldn’t merely welcome Rose back, come to think of it. It should immediately install him as its Chief Parlay Officer.

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Pete Rose at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park in 2017.

Pete Rose at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park in 2017.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Pete Rose turned 80 last week, still the Hit King — no one’s ever touching 4,256 — and still banished from baseball, as he has been since 1989.

Lift the damn ban already, MLB.

Why? I’ll tell you why.

Because the Cubs are going to have a DraftKings sportsbook and betting windows at Wrigley Field, that’s why.

Because every White Sox telecast is brought to you by PointsBet, with former Bears return man Devin Hester smiling at you like you’re in on a big secret together and 28-year-old retired golfer-turned-social-media influencer Paige Spiranac all but ordering you to ‘‘make it rain.’’

Because every other time I check my tweet machine, someone in the media openly is sharing updates on the sports-betting action he or she has going. Yes, I mean local media betting on local games — and then writing or talking on-air about the players and teams that just won or lost them money.

Conflict of interest? Who knows what that even is anymore?

And because Major League Baseball itself has practically a whole lineup card full of betting partners, including DraftKings, FanDuel and MGM Resorts.

What does any of that have to do with the banishment of an all-time-great player — and shameless liar — who bet illegally and in violation of a sacred league rule on games involving his own team? Technically, nothing. But baseball is completely full of it now on this one. Phony up to its ear holes. Zero credibility. So, yeah, something.

Baseball loves gambling, that’s clear. It shouldn’t merely welcome Rose back, come to think of it. It immediately should install him as its Chief Parlay Officer.

By the way, I’m not some prude who hates gambling. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I’ve played in a weekly poker game — in a poker app, while on Zoom with old friends — every Saturday for more than a year now. Somehow, my family hasn’t banned me yet.

Anyway, I’m just completely tired of judging Rose. Sure, he’s phony up to his ear holes, too. Rose is the brand-new ‘‘spokesman and consultant’’ for whatever the hell UpickTrade.com is. For $89 a month, you can get up to six betting picks a day from Rose on the NBA, NFL, golf, tennis, horse racing and, of course, big-league baseball. He even will rank his picks from one star to five stars. What a service!

Tennis? Perfect. This has to be Rose’s biggest racket yet.

Ten years ago, in a different job, I spent a day with Rose in Las Vegas. We started with breakfast in a private section of a Mirage Resort and Casino restaurant. A stranger wandered in, found the Hit King and told him he should be in the Hall of Fame. This sort of thing — one gambler relating to another — happened to Rose over and over every day.

‘‘I’m not the only guy in baseball that’s ever made a bet,’’ he said then. ‘‘I promise you that.’’

I sat with Rose as he sold and signed memorabilia for five hours. Two hours in, he told me he was already up $2,000 for the day. ‘‘Up’’ is how he put it, using a gambler’s term to describe what he just had earned doing his 20-plus-days-a-month job of sitting, signing, shaking hands and smiling for suckers’ cameras. In his best year, 2007, Rose banked about $1.2 million doing this, according to his business director at the time.

Rose was absolutely tireless. He played this game as hard as he ever played baseball. He played it harder than anybody.

‘‘My whole philosophy is winning,’’ he explained. ‘‘Winning is everything.’’

Winning at baseball. Winning at selling himself. Winning at selling his soul. Back then, Rose would go out to dinner with a party of up to four for $5,000. Meanwhile, he claimed to be betting only on the horses and only ‘‘now and then.’’ The business director shared privately that Rose was, in fact, betting nightly on college and pro football and basketball, among other things.

Hey, so maybe Charlie Hustle kind of knows his stuff after all.

‘‘There’s nobody alive on earth that knows more about baseball than I do,’’ Rose told reporters after aligning with UpickTrade.com, which, upon further review, bills itself as a ‘‘winning sports-recommendation service’’ based in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Great. Do the Upick folks take debit cards?

Rose’s autograph business was alive and well until it got absolutely hammered — and eventually shuttered — by COVID-19. But Charlie always has a hustle.

‘‘You’ve got to remember I got suspended in 1989,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s 32 years ago. I’m not going to live the rest of my life worried about going to baseball’s Hall of Fame.’’

This shouldn’t further the argument against him one bit.

Rose is a 17-time All-Star with three batting titles, three World Series titles, an unbreakable hits record and a banishment from the game that has run its course and then some.

Whom is baseball kidding? Whom are any of us in this booming casino of a sports world kidding? Might as well give the old man his due.

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