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Here’s why you’d ask accused criminals if Pete Rose deserves to be in the Hall of Fame
It’s a really good question, because what perp wouldn’t have an opinion on that?
A dozen years ago, when I was a TV news photographer, I covered a lot of perp walks. They’re tiny bits of formulaic magic. Say you’ve been accused of a crime. If you live in certain parts of the country, usually rural ones, stone-faced police officers or deputies, after alerting local TV stations and newspapers, will take you arm-in-arm and walk you from one building to another. It’s done mostly for the news media; usually so they can fire questions at the perp and make it look like he’s stonewalling. Questions like:
Why did you do it?
Have you no soul?
Didn’t you think Aunt Bea would know her pie was missing?
The whole thing was a bit of macabre theater. Usually, said suspect kept his head down and said nothing. Occasionally, you’d get an “I didn’t do it!” or “I’m innocent!” Those were rare.
When I worked for a TV station in Appalachia, a photographer from another station had devised a way to get a reaction out of just about anybody. He’d ask them whether Pete Rose belonged in the Hall of Fame.
It’s a really good question, because after all, what perp wouldn’t have an opinion on that? If you didn’t already know, Rose is one of the greatest hitters of all time, but received a lifetime ban decades ago for betting on baseball. That ban was upheld this week by the commissioner of Major League Baseball. Rose himself, like just about every criminal, says he’s been wrongly accused. He gets it, man.
Of course, all the question ever really achieved was to get a perp to slightly turn his head, which was all that the photographer was looking for. Sometimes, the accused would raise an eyebrow or shoot a quizzical look in our direction, as if to say: Huh? Never, of course, did this photog get an answer about Pete Rose.
Except for once. One night, a couple of us were staking out this police station parking lot in eastern Kentucky. We were waiting for a guy to be brought in for some sort of mid-level crime. It was supposed to be very formulaic. Sullen-faced cops emerged. We started walking backwards, lights blazing, cameras rolling, questions firing.
This guy answered them all.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Did you do it?
PERP: Hell no I didn’t do it!
PHOTOGRAPHER: Why did the police pick you up?
PERP: Shit if I know, man!
Then it came.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Does Pete Rose belong in the Hall of Fame?
PERP: Hell yeah he deserves to get in! Guy’s the all-time hits leader, man!
Guy has a point.