Monday, April 23, 2012

4,192


Pete Rose.

He was one of my heroes when I was a boy. My dad would take me to Weigels gas station to buy a few packs of Topps baseball cards. I'd go through the stack, save the Rose and Dale Murphy cards, put the others in a box, and throw the gum away.

Sept. 11, 1985. Rose did the impossible. He broke Ty Cobb's all-time career hits record of 4,191. When he hugged his son, Pete Jr., at first base, I cried too. Hey, sue me. I was seven.

Then came 1989. I took Pete's side. Read his book, "My Story," the one written with Roger Kahn.

Ten years later, I couldn't believe that NBC reporter who shall remain nameless brought the betting thing up again during the All-Century Team ceremony, when Rose got the loudest ovation of the night.

The next year, I met Rose at a baseball card show in Richmond, Va. My grin vanished when the guy wouldn't acknowledge my polite "How are you, sir?" (His former teammate, Joe Morgan, by contrast, grasped my hand, said it was nice to meet me and told me he hoped I enjoyed his book.)

A year or two later, I read James Reston Jr.'s "Collision at Home Plate." It is a dual biography of Rose and the late Bart Giamatti, former commissioner of Major League Baseball. Giamatti died several days after banning Rose for life from the game.

My feelings about Rose changed. My blood really got to boiling when Rose finally admitted to Charles Gibson on ABC, his legs spread so widely apart you could have driven a Sherman tank through them, that, yes, he did indeed bet on baseball.

My childhood hero, Charlie Hustle, the guy who worked harder than everyone else, the guy who remembered janitors' names and came back out of his car at Ramsey's Restaurant to sign something for a special needs kid, had lied to me. To us.

Then he would tell kids on the street to give him five bucks for an autograph. Then he started holding signings in casinos.

Nah. Forget it. I thought about taking my autographed baseball and using it for batting practice in the back yard.

And then, last night, I watched the excellent documentary film "4192." And I began to remember why I loved Pete Rose when I was a kid.

Well, it goes through Rose's entire career. He tells about how his dad pushed him, made him work as hard as he could, knowing he wasn't the most talented guy on the field. He said his dad got sick one day, made it home and died on the doorstep. Big Pete taught his son to be tough.

The documentary goes through Pete Rose's childhood, the minor leagues, the Crosley Field years, the Big Red Machine, the still-unbelievable dismantling of one of baseball's greatest teams, to the Phillies, the Expos, back as player/manager Cincinnati and, finally, to the night of hit number 4,192.

Money quote from Pete Rose: "I got my 3,000th hit on and my birthday is on April 12, the day the Titanic sank, the day Abe Lincoln was shot. I got (hit 4,192) on 9/11. I'm a weird dude."

OK, here's the deal. Pete Rose deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, will ever top most of his records. The timing of his inclusion can be debated. But when you have a Hall of Fame wall that includes Bill Mazeroski and not Peter Edward Rose?

Give me a break.

Find a link to purchase the DVD of "4192" here. It is also streaming on Netflix and Amazon Instant.

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