Pete is banned for life because he bet on baseball. That happened as manager, but he didn't become a compulsive gambler when he took that job. The guy was a lifer at the track and with several sports bookies throughout the country. It would really surprise me if he hadn't bet on baseball while playing too. As one psychologist said back when he got banned, gambling addicts need to bet all the time and there was always going to be a time when he didn't have other venues to satisfy his addiction. He liked to go to the track a lot, but at some point he would have certainly found himself with no other satisfactory betting options outside baseball. Secondly, gamblers gravitate towards action where their knowledge and experience may give them an advantage. An addicted gambler who happens to have a photographic memory of every at bat he ever had over a twenty year career, who had been to several All Star games, who was one of the best baseball players in history would certainly be very tempted to use that to get a leg up on his bookies. I have never seen any discussion of Pete betting on the game while he played, but I personally find it hard to believe he didn't.
As an aside, I'll mention that the Zimmer brothers were involved in some of the biggest money in local sports. Several guys in my dad's circle of friends talk fondly of playing baseball against the Zimmers, Pete's dad and many of the other legends of west side semi pro sports. These guys always mention the money and how much of it was at stake in these games. Pete is a product of that culture, as are many of my relatives and people I grew up with in Price Hill, Western Hills, Delhi. The west side was full of gambling action; the Crow's Nest, Trio Tavern, Five Points, Clearview, Sportsman's Cafe and several others were all places to easily find access to the book. Pete's no different than so many others who gambled in Cincinnati, he just has way more money to blow than others and subsequently it didn't leave him down on his luck. He had the means to be a prolific, sloppy gambler and a great source of revenue for a handful of bookies and middle men in Cincinnati, and countless others elsewhere.
Should Pete be in the Hall as a player? I am reluctant to say yes. He was hands down the most exciting ball player I have ever seen play the game (except for Raisor). He was everywhere, always in the thick of game changing moments, a winner molded from dirt, clay, spit and determination. He should be remembered as the heart of the Big Red Machine and rightly the things he accomplished are included in the HOF. Is that enough? I honestly don't know, but really I've lost interest in it and wish he would just go away. Let me remember you for 1976, Pete.