Jun 19, 2009

Most Memorable Sports Moment #6

Pete Rose Breaks Ty Cobb's Hits Record

When I was growing up, Pete Rose was my baseball idol. This was when he was just known as "Charlie Hustle", not as Pete Rose "The Guy Who Bet on Baseball", or "The Guy Who Went to Prison for Tax Fraud", or "The Guy Who Lied About It for Years", or anything else. I agree that now as a much older man with kids of my own, I am very troubled by much of the sad saga of Pete Rose's life. However, all of the character deficiencies do not take away from the fact that, between the lines, Pete Rose was one of the best players of his time and played the game with a passion and a intensity that few have ever shown. Good or bad, Pete was a winner and was consumed with everything he could do to win.

I was fascinated as a young kid with the "Big Red Machine" of the 70's and their impressive cast of players. I got the chance in 1978 to go to Riverfront Stadium to see a game and watch Pete, Joe Morgan, Dave Concepcion, George Foster, and Tony Perez play. My 7 yr. old team growing up was "The Big Red Machine" of Columbus, MS, and I did everything I could to emulate my hero Pete. I had more of his baseball cards than any other player. I remembered wanting one every time I opened a pack of cards I had bought from Templeton's Superette just a few blocks from the house. I followed Pete from Cincinnati to Philadelphia to Montreal in that ugly Expos uniform and back to Cincinnati in 1984. Pete was a 17-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year in 1963, NL MVP in 1973, and World Series MVP in 1975. In his career he played all three OF positions, 2nd base, 3rd base, and 1st base. He played all of them with every ounce of energy he could. Pete Rose holds the MLB record for most career at bats (14,053), most games played (3,562), and most career hits (4,256), as well as the NL record for most consecutive games with a hit (44).

The most memorable moment for me though was September 11, 1985 - the day that Pete broke Ty Cobb's career hits mark. Much like Rose, Cobb was a fierce competitor who won at all costs and was not liked much by his peers. On that day in September, Rose was tied with Cobb 4,191 career hits. Considering that by most standards having 200 hits in a year is a great season, that means that someone would have to average 200+ hits a year for 21 consecutive seasons to reach that mark! On that day in September, a much slower, heavier Rose entered the batter's box to face Padres pitcher Eric Show. On his first AB of the night, Rose laced a single into center field. He had done it. My hero had taken down the mighty Cobb. At that time, I was a 17-year old Senior in High School who had just witnessed history. I don't remember if I cried or not, but I remember the pride I felt for Pete. I remember being emotional during the long standing ovation the Reds fans gave him and seeing him cry and hug Pete Jr. on that base.

Later on I would watch my hero fall. Much like David in the OT and many of the epic heros of Greek mythology, Pete would become a victim of his own undoing. He would fall into public disgrace. He would be banned from my favorite sport forever and become ineligible to it's hall of elite players. The greatest hitter who ever lived has no place in the one place he most deserves from his play between the lines. I cannot judge whether Pete deserves the Hall or not. Like most, I know there is no dichotomy between who a person is and what a person does. But on that September night, I witnessed something I will remember for the rest of my life and that's the Pete I choose to celebrate.