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My Prison Without Bars
My Prison Without Bars
Pete Rose
Rodale Books, 2004
322 pp., $24.95

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The Fog of War
The Fog of War

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
$14.99

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By Bruce Kuklick


The Search for Redemption

Confession without remorse.

Although former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara did not initiate The Fog of War, a film about his life and what he has learned, the movie is consonant with McNamara's many attempts to find absolution for policy over Vietnam during the 1960s. He is poles apart from Pete Rose, the former baseball star whose bestselling book about his troubled career has gotten far more publicity than the movie. McNamara was a member of the intellectual élite that came to political power in the Kennedy administration; the ballplayer is a working-class tough endowed only with grit and physical skill. The Secretary has a grasp of world historical affairs, while Rose has little sense of life outside of the card shows where he sells his autograph. Rose is more a liar than a self-deceiver. Yet Rose too, most sensationally in his new book, wants people to forgive him-for betting on baseball.

These two attempts at redemption tell us a lot about modern secular life, and the cultural resources and the rationales individuals use to come to terms with moral failings. Each man owns up to past blunders, but each refuses to admit any character defect; and each tries, in different ways, to deflect serious criticism.

Rose's autobiography, My Prison Without Bars, is a unique piece of baseball writing. The point of the volume is to tell us about his gambling, and through the confession to make possible his election to the Hall of Fame, which Rose wants more than anything else.

Betting on the game is the cardinal sin in baseball, and players are told from day one that they will be declared permanently ineligible if they break the no-betting rule. In Rose's case, when he managed the Cincinnati Reds in the mid-1980s, he always wagered on his team to win but did not wager on every contest. He did not, for example, gamble when Mario Soto pitched for the Reds-he didn't trust Soto's skills. Suppose Rose had a bet on a game subsequent to one in which Soto was pitching. Can we assume his managerial strategy in ...

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