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Collision at Home Plate: The Lives of Pete Rose and Bart Giamatti Paperback – February 1, 1997


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Amazon.com Review

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (February 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803289642
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803289642
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #373,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Writing chronologically slowed the book down and I was glad to have reached the end and be done with it.
Amdream
Rather than opening the book in the midst of Rose's career, he begins by telling the life story of each man and cleverly juxtaposing their experiences.
Rich Campbell
Reston unearthed evidence I thought would never see the light of day and does the public a great service, particularly in debunking the Giamatti myths.
Barbara L. Pinzka

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Barbara L. Pinzka on February 15, 1998
Format: Paperback
I worked for Pete Rose after his suspension, and this is by far the most accurate book on the scandal - and it does not spare Rose any criticism. Reston unearthed evidence I thought would never see the light of day and does the public a great service, particularly in debunking the Giamatti myths. Essential reading for anyone interested in the subject. My only criticism is that he has little good to say of anyone involved.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Czernek on February 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
An excellent profile of two persons striving to be outstanding in their field (no pun intended). It shows how talented players who were friends of Rose melted into other professions, lacking the single-minded drive that he had.
I want my daughter to read it because it's also an excellent profile of eastern private schools and the politics of getting admitted, being a student and professor. Reston believes that both men at their peak represented the best of their profession. (I can't tell my daughter that's the other side that she'd find interesting because it would be as well-received as a lecture.)
The book goes through the childhood of both men and their professional development. The details on Rose's gambling are convincing: you literally see how Pete self-destructed. I think that it was a cab driver who sums up how Pete could have saved himself right up to the end (the paraphrasing is mine: "apologize, indicate that he'd never bet for or against Cincinnati, and gotten away from gamblers") but was so ego-centric that he was self-destructive. As for betting on the Reds, it's clear that he did.
A well-told story, but Reston is not as crisp a writer as his father. His transitions are often awkward, leaving you wondering what topic he's on. And there's a factual error so glaring that I wondered how a sportswriter or editor could let it get by -- he refers to the Chicago Cubs as the "Southsiders."
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rich Campbell on October 1, 1997
Format: Paperback
Reston takes a different approach to telling the story of Bart Giamatti's and Major League Baseball's investigation into Pete Rose's alleged gambling on baseball. Rather than opening the book in the midst of Rose's career, he begins by telling the life story of each man and cleverly juxtaposing their experiences. This unique approach adds greatly to the reader's understanding of the events relating to the gambling allegations, the ensuing investigation, Rose's eventual ban from baseball, and Giamatti's untimely death.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By sdewjr on October 14, 2007
Format: Paperback
An important story and a modern tragedy, told in a highly readable manner. As a big fan of Pete Rose in his playing days, I initially thought James Reston was unfairly biased against Rose through many parts of the book. After finishing it, I think he probably struck the right balance, as there is simply no excuse for much of what Rose did off the field. Reston almost but did not quite fall into the trap of deifying Giamatti; he was, after all an extraordinary commissioner unlike baseball had ever seen. But Reston correctly pointed out that Giamatti bungled the investigation of Rose from a due process and fairness point of view, and if the matter had gone to trial Giamatti would have had a very difficult time on the stand.

The real point is that Giamatti did investigate, and he did take action. Even with the "settlement" that did not answer the question of whether Rose bet on baseball, Giamatti felt no constraint against offering his own opinion as to Rose and his betting on baseball. And Rose did bet on baseball. We can learn from Giamatti. How refreshing it would be to have a commissioner who would take on the steroids scandal which has made a mockery of home run records and likely changed the outcome of far more games and pennant races than gambling ever did. Where is the courage to have a thorough investigation, and a commissioner who would speak the truth?

Unfortunately, baseball has been a silent partner in the steroids scandal, happily banking the proceeds of increased attendance pursuant to amazing and superhuman home run derbys. I don't think Bart Giamatti would approve, and I would like to think he would acted to protect the integrity of baseball.

Finally, I agree with Reston's take on the Hall of Fame issue. Let the sportswriters vote.
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