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Eckersley, Molitor welcomed to Hall
Caple: Molitor's, Eck's versatility
Caple: Eckersley's homer connection
Dennis Eckersley's player card
Paul Molitor's player card
Baseball Hall of Fame members
Sunday, July 25
Updated: July 26, 9:13 AM ET
Rose could learn from Eck, Molitor
By Jim Caple
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Considering the induction speeches, George Grand shouldn't have been the emcee at this year's Hall of Fame ceremonies. It should have been Dr. Phil.
At times, the afternoon seemed less induction ceremony than group therapy session. Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley thanked a combined three ex-wives for their support. Eckersley talked about his battle with alcoholism and thanked Rick Manning, the ex-teammate who broke up his first marriage. Molitor acknowledged a son in Toronto, telling him "Joshua, I know better days are ahead for us.''
Sheesh. With all that going on, it's just a shame that Wade Boggs wasn't up for election this year instead of next. Margo Adams would have fit right in this weekend.
"The great writer Walt Whitman once said, 'Baseball will repair our losses and be a blessing to us,'" Eckersley said during a speech so emotional he was actually moaning at times. "Well, I saved my life when my career was about to be repaired. You never know when your life is going to change forever.''
This then, was the day's moral. No matter your injuries, no matter your mistakes, baseball and life allow infinite opportunity to change your life, change your direction, change your career. You can become a DH, become a closer or, more importantly, simply become a better person.
Eckersley changed his life in the winter of 1986 when his sister-in-law videotaped one of his drunken episodes and then forced him to sit down and watch it later. The video literally sobered him up, and he went on to become one of the game's dominant closers.
"That offseason was probably one of the most difficult times in my life, both personally and professionally,'' Eckersley said. "This is when my life changed forever. My career hit a major downturn and I was spiraling out of control personally. For the 12 years I pitched as a starter I relied on raw talent and innate ability to get through. It worked most of the time, but times were changing. No one knew then, but I was fighting a major battle with alcohol and I knew I had come to a crossroads in my life.
"With the grace of God, I got sober and I changed my life. I was a new man, a renewed man. It took a great deal of acceptance to come to terms with being an alcoholic, but that acceptance was the key to my sobriety. Had I not gained acceptance at that time in my life, I would not be standing here today, my career would not have taken me this far.''
Molitor, who pulled off a minor upset by not breaking down during his upbeat, thankful speech, cried during Eckerlsey's. "It definitely hits you,'' he said. "I was taken to tears by it. Part of it is knowing Dennis a little more and part of it is it rings a bell for the things you go through in your own life. I've gone through a divorce in the last couple years and I had a battle with drugs (a cocaine addiction). I know those battles are out there, but they can be won. And as Dennis said, you make sacrifices. You persevere through some of the bad mistakes you make and try to do better.''
Which brings us, naturally, to Pete Rose ...
Just down the block from the Hall of Fame is the Pete Rose Ballpark Collectibles Store, where Charlie Hustle normally signs so many autographs on induction weekend that he needs rotator cuff and Tommy John surgery. Not this year. Posted in the store window was this notice:
"Thank you for all your support, due to conflicts and circumstances beyond my control, I apologize for having to cancel my 2004 appearance at Pete Rose Ballpark Collectibles -- Pete Rose''
This was supposed to be the year Rose finally returned to baseball's good graces. After lying repeatedly for 14 years, Charlie Hustle finally admitted in his book released last winter, "My Prison Without Bars,'' that he bet on baseball.
That admittance was supposed to clear Rose's way to the Hall of Fame, but it did the reverse. Because Rose offered so little in the way of an apology -- he seems truly sorry only for having gotten caught -- and because he timed the book's release so that it overshadowed the election of Molitor and Eckersley, he's further from Cooperstown than ever.
Rose has complained that if he "had been an alcoholic or a drug addict, baseball would have suspended me for six weeks and paid for my rehabilitation." In other words, Rose thinks players such as Molitor and Eckersely are forgiven for their sins while he is left to rot.
There are several problems with that self-centered reasoning. First, Rose has never figured out that drug and alcohol addictions are personal failings that have nothing to do with the game. The drunks and the addicts hurt themselves and their families -- they don't damage the game or challenge its integrity as a gambler does.
Secondly, unlike Molitor and Eckersley who accepted their problems, overcame them and bravely spoke about them during the crowning moment of their careers, Rose stubbornly refuses to even acknowledge his own gambling addiction. He refuses to seek help or to sincerely apologize for what he has done to so many people.
The great lesson from Eckersley, though, is that it's never too late. As Eck said in his closing words, "I would like to leave an offering of a message of hope. That is, with the grace of God you can change your life, whoever you are.''
I hope Rose was listening.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.