McNay on Money

Josh Hamilton, Pete Rose, and the Power of Redemption

By: Don McNay
By: Don McNay

Before he played in his first major league baseball game in 2007, I wrote a column about an unknown player named Josh Hamilton. The same Josh Hamilton who was just named Most Valuable Player in this year's American League Championship Series. Josh is on his way to the World Series.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
John Newton

Before he played in his first major league baseball game in 2007, I wrote a column about an unknown player named Josh Hamilton.
The same Josh Hamilton who was just named Most Valuable Player in this year's American League Championship Series.
Josh is on his way to the World Series.


Many are familiar with Josh's story. After being drafted first overall in the 1999 Major League Baseball Draft, he developed a horrible drug addiction that drove him out of baseball and into several unsuccessful trips to rehab.

Hamilton finally turned things around after he became a born again Christian and embraced Jesus is a big way.

The Cincinnati Reds, and his current team, the Texas Rangers, put in systems of extreme controls to keep Josh away from drugs, booze and any other temptation.

Sports Illustrated did a 2008 cover story about how Rangers coach, Johnny Narron, served as an adult "baby-sitter" for Josh. He stayed with Josh almost every moment of every day and did things for him, like handle Josh's spending money.

The only time Josh went out for the evening without Narron was the only time since his conversion that Josh ever got into trouble.

Like any recovering addict, Hamilton understands that he is one drink or one drug away from falling off the wagon.

He also knows that staying clean allowed him to lead the Texas Rangers to their first World Series.

George Vecsey wrote a wonderful article in the New York Times about Josh Hamilton, comparing him to Mickey Mantle.

Great column. Wrong superstar comparison.

In my 2007 column, I compared Hamilton to Pete Rose.

At the time, I wasn't happy with Pete. Pete was my boyhood hero, and a friend of my dad's. He was the player that every child in the Cincinnati area idolized.

Pete waited until after his playing days were over before he found his addiction, gambling, but it destroyed his life as severely as drugs had almost destroyed Josh Hamilton.

Unlike Josh, Pete never found God or his way to a treatment facility. He lived in decades of denial.

A few years ago, when baseball seemed ready to forgive Pete of his sins, Pete screwed it up by releasing a self-serving autobiography. It wasn't an apology. It was a money grab.

Like many, I was finally ready to wash my hands of Pete.

Until this year.

Producer Terry Lukemire and the people at Barking Fish Entertainment put together a fascinating documentary, 4192: The Crowning of the Hit King, http://www.4192movie.com/about Rose and his successful quest to break Ty Cobb's record for most base hits in a career.

The award-winning movie is in theaters in selected cities, such as Cincinnati and Philadelphia, where Pet played during his career. The movie reminds us of the unique excitement that Rose's chase brought to baseball.

I've been a baseball fan since age 9, but never saw a player play harder and with more determination than Pete Rose.

Like Josh Hamilton, Pete Rose made it to the World Series. Six times.

4192 gives an inside look at Rose's winning determination and fighting spirit. It reminds us how Rose's chase to break Ty Cobb's record was one of the most captivating sports stories in history.

(A disclaimer: My first college editor at Eastern Kentucky University was filmmaker Mark Turner. Mark was involved with the 4192 movie and my nephew, Nick McNay, is serving as an unpaid intern for Mark this semester.)

Pete's pride and fighting spirit have also been his curse. If he had been honest and had sincerely showed remorse, I suspect that, like Josh Hamilton, baseball would have given Pete another chance a long time ago.

Instead, Pete stubbornly lied, wrongly denied and kept blaming others.

An addict needs to bottom out. An addict needs to understand that his actions hurt more than himself, that they hurt others, too.

It's taken a long time but I think Pete finally gets it.

The 25th anniversary of hit number 4192 was September 11 of this year. Because it came on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks, not many eyes were focused on Cincinnati.

Rose gave a speech that was mostly overlooked.

He finally showed remorse. He talked about how his selfish behavior had disrespected and hurt the game of baseball. At a dinner, with many former teammates present, Rose broke down and cried.

Tough guy Pete Rose is not the kind of guy who cries. Ever. It finally hit him as to who he had hurt and how badly he had hurt them.

I would love for Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to embrace Rose's remorse and allow him to be eligible for the Hall of Fame. Pete turns 70 next year. It would be the right time to allow modern fans to understand the positive contributions that Rose made to the game.

With or without the Hall of Fame, it is great to see Pete "bottom out" and start to make amends for his actions.

It reminds us that every person, no matter how serious his wrongs, is capable of redemption and, ultimately, deserving of forgiveness.

When people truly seek redemption and are put in a positive and supportive environment, they can truly change their lives and make the world a better place.

Ask all of those people who have been given grace by going through AA or similar 12 step program.

Better yet, ask Josh Hamilton as he walks onto the field to play in the World Series.

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