There was some sad news out of major league baseball on Friday, as 1980 National League Rookie of the Year Steve Howe was killed in an automobile accident last evening.
Howe, who pitched for the World Series champion L.A. Dodgers in 1981 and was an all-star in 1982, is best known for his long struggle with substance abuse. His addiction to alcohol and cocaine eventually led to his lifetime ban for drug use in 1992.
Howe's death at 48 is a tragedy and, according to the latest published reports available at the time of this writing, toxicology tests have not yet been performed. I do not wish to make light of his sudden demise or to cast aspersions upon a man's memory, but Steve Howe's return to the headlines for the final time casts in bold relief the hypocrisy of the national pastime.
Steve Howe was suspended seven---seven---times for his drug use, yet he continued to be allowed to play major league baseball after serving each sentence. Even his eventual banishment resulted in the southpaw's subsequent reinstatement by an arbitrator.
I don't mean to be hard-hearted, particularly on the occasion of a man's passing. Maybe Steve Howe deserved not just the second chance he got, but also the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth chances he received, as well. Maybe, in the end, he got his life turned around, only to be cut down in his prime.
Meanwhile, though, Pete Rose is still waiting for some sympathy from the sport to which he gave his all.
The recent revelation (read: confirmation) of steroid use by some of major league baseball's biggest stars in the 1990s and early 2000s has opened many eyes to the fact that, for all the ongoing ripple effects from the 1919 "Black Sox" scandal, drugs are every bit as grave a threat to the integrity of the game as gambling ever was. Since at least the 1980s, cocaine and steroids have been far larger problems in baseball than betting.
Why, then, were the sins committed by Steve Howe in the service of his addiction forgivable over and over again, yet the wrongdoings committed by Pete Rose in the practice of his addiction remain unpardonable even once?
Steve Howe's life, like his career, met with a sad end. The memory of his experiences in the major leagues, though, may serve to remind the powers that be in baseball that, if the sport's all-time hits leader could be shown even a quarter as much compassion as Howe---literally; one-fourth as many chances would suffice---Rose might at long last be given the shot he has earned at being voted into the Hall of Fame to which he rightfully belongs.