Wednesday, June 15, 2016

When a Record is not a Record

It's not often that I agree with Pete Rose on anything, but I do have to back him in a debate over his status as baseball's "All Time Hit King".  Some are taking Major League Baseball to task for not promoting the fact that Ichiro Suzuki of the Florida Marlins is just one base hit shy of tying Rose's record of 4,256 in a career--that is if you count the 12-hundred plus hits that Ichiro got in the Japanese Baseball League before he came to the US to play. 

As you might expect, Rose is downplaying the stats Ichiro accumulated in his home country--saying they came against inferior talent to all of the hits he accumulated in Major League Baseball.  He even jokes that "they're going to start counting his high school hits too".

While is may sound jingoistic, Pete Rose is right in thinking that stats from outside of the US leagues shouldn't count toward "All Time" records.  You need not look any farther than the case of Sadahara Oh--who hit more than 800 home runs in the Japanese League--but no one ever calls him "Baseball's All Time Home Run King".  Hank Aaron's five home runs as a member of the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League were never counted in his pursuit of Babe Ruth's record.  If that had been the case, he would have set the record in the fall of 1973--and not the spring of 1974.

And it's not just baseball that does this.  Warren Moon would have been football's "All Time Passing Leader" at more than 70-thousand yards--if you included the 30-thousand-plus yards he threw for in the Canadian Football League before joining the NFL.  The National Hockey League does not recognize the 150 or so goals that Gordie Howe scored as a member of the World Hockey Association in the 1970's.  He would still be the "All Time Regular Season Goal Scorer" if those were added to his 810 from NHL play--since Wayne Gretzky didn't quite reach that combined mark (and he too had WHA goals with Indianapolis and Edmonton that aren't counted toward his NHL record).

Pete Rose is a cheater and a fraud.  But he accumulated his 4,256 hits against the best collection of baseball talent in the world.  Let's allow him to at least keep this one thing.

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