Had there been just a little less chaos abroad in the universe, the lives of Pete Rose and A. Bartlett Giamatti might have kept on parallel tracks to infinity, blissfully out of the way of each other's extremes. Rose, baseball's most primitive outlaw since Cobb, and Giamatti, the Renaissance scholar who presided over Yale before taking on the comissionership of the national pastime, could not have been more different. Rose was arrogant, profligate, libidinous, and excessive; Giamatti was courtly, erudite, philosophical, and, in his way, every bit as excessive. Baseball hurled them into each other, and when it pitted them face to face over allegations of Rose's gambling, the pyrotechnics roared like cymbals clashing in a silent night.
The story of that clash is one of baseball's blackest moments, with no winner anywhere, and Reston replays it in all of its grim, grisly detail. Rose, the accused, was, of course, banned from the game for life; Giamatti, the accuser, died of a heart attack just days after the banning. But Reston isn't satisfied to simply play out the endgame confrontation of the sinner and the standard bearer, and that's the brilliance of his book; he entwines their complex and fascinating biographies in a way that makes their collision seem tragically, almost surreally, inevitable. Each man was failed by his flaws, and it's the flaws that made each personality so compelling.
Still, it was their very failures of character that slapped each with a fate neither would have willingly chosen: Rose the unpenitent outcast, Giamatti the eternal martyr. The Rose case, writes Reston, "elevated (Giamatti) to heroic stature in America. By banishing a sport hero, he became a moral hero to the nation." The final irony is that the gregarious Giamatti, who indeed relished the role of moral hero, didn't live to experience his own apotheosis. --Jeff Silverman
From Publishers Weekly
The backgrounds of the two adversaries could scarcely be more unlike: the late Giamatti, son of a university professor, educated on both sides of the Atlantic, a Renaissance scholar, onetime Yale professor and president who abandoned academe to preside over first one and then both of baseball's major leagues; and Rose, son of a semipro sports star bank clerk, uneducated beyond high school, unlettered and ungrammatical, who set a new record for total hits in a career and gambled away tens of thousands of dollars. Adversaries they became; in 1989 it fell to Giammati to ban Rose from organized baseball. Reston ( The Lone Star ) tells both their stories well and fairly, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of the two men and reluctantly concluding that there was proof of Rose's gambling and income tax evasion, and that Giamatti's decision, based chiefly on moral grounds, was right. The book is an effective portrayal of two careers on a collision course. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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