Sunday, September 22, 2002

#1 Cinergy/Riverfront Moment

Sept. 11, 1985: Cincinnati's favorite son becomes baseball's Hit King with No. 4,192

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Pete Rose swings his way into baseball immortality with his 4,192nd hit on Sept. 11, 1985.
(AP photo)
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It is the eleventh day of September, 1985.

Native son Pete Rose is one hit shy of breaking the all-time hit record of Ty Cobb.

One more hit to go for 4,192, and a record nobody ever thought would be broken.

When Cobb retired in 1928, he had 676 more hits than the next highest total, the 3,515 of contemporary Tris Speaker.

Six-hundred and seventy-six hits. That is three, full, prime-of-life seasons' worth of knocks.

Nobody in the three generations of players since Cobb retired had even come close to his hit total.

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Only two players had surpassed even Speaker - Henry Aaron with 3,771, and Stan Musial with 3,630.

And now, here was the 44-year-old Rose, poised to accomplish the impossible.

It happened quickly. At the bottom of the first inning. Rose was the second batter. It was 11 minutes into the game, at 8:01 p.m.

Reds starting pitcher Tom Browning had retired the San Diego Padres in order in the top of the first inning and now Eric Show was pitching for the Padres.

Rose acknowledges the cheering crowd.
(AP photo)
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We'll let Marty Brennaman take it from here:

"They're on their feet, Rose walking toward the plate with that number on his back emblazoned on the man and minds of sports fans probably forever and ever. The most famous Number 14 in the history of this game and trying to make history right here in the first inning tonight.

"Show the windup, and the pitch to Rose.

"It's high, ball one.

"Again, the flashbulbs go off all over the ballpark. Last night was the first time I have ever seen that in a baseball stadium. One ball and no strikes.

"Rose swinging and fouling it straight back, and Show evens it up on him at a ball and a strike.

"Pete batting .264, a couple of hits - er , a couple of home runs, rather - and 42 runs batted in. Both of his home runs against Cubs' pitching and both in Wrigley Field. Right now just looking for a solid base hit. The one-one coming.

"Rose takes it inside.

"Hitless in four times up last night. He did not hit the ball well but once. And that was when he lined to Martinez in the eighth inning with the tying run at second base. He levels the bat a couple of times. Show kicks and he fires.

(A roar goes up from the crowd and Joe Nuxhall, drowing out Brennaman, screams: "There it is, there it is! Get down, get down! All right." Brennaman is audible again over the roar of the crowd:)

"Hit number forty-one, ninety-two. A line drive single into left-center field. A clean base hit.

"It is pandemonium here at Riverfront Stadium. The fireworks exploding overhead. The Cincinnati dugout has emptied. The applause continues unabated.

Rose Numbers
July 14, 1970: Crashes into American League catcher Ray Fosse to score the winning run of the All-Star Game

May 5, 1978: Singles off Montreal's Steve Rogers for career hit No. 3,000

Aug. 17, 1984: Debuts as Reds player/manager. Rose went 2-for-4 with an RBI single as the Reds beat the Cubs 6-4

Sept. 11, 1985: Becomes all-time hits leader with No. 4,192, a single off San Diego's Eric Show

All-Star appearances
17 (1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1985)

1963 NL Rookie of the Year; 1969 NL Gold Glove (OF); 1970 NL Gold Glove (OF); 1973 NL MVP; 1975 World Series MVP

Key overall numbers
348: Best batting average, season, 1969
4,256: Hits, first on the all-time list, of course
5,929: Times on base
1,041: Extra-base hits

"Rose completely encircled by his teammates at first base. Bobby Brown of the San Diego Padres coming all the way from the third-base dugout to personally congratulate Pete Rose.

"The kind of outpouring of adulation that I don't think you'll ever see an athlete receive any more of. Little Pete fighting his way through the crowd.

"And Pete being hoisted on the shoulders of a couple of his teammates, Tony Perez and Dave Concepcion. The last two of the old guard from the Big Red Machine days of the `70s. And now, as his teammates go back to the dugout, Reds owner Marge Schott comes out to give Pete a great big hug and kiss.

"Still quite an emotional scene here at the ballpark."

It was.

"PETE! PETE! PETE!" the fans chanted.

When Perez and Concepcion hoisted Rose onto their shoulders, a giant roar went up from the crowd.

A member of the grounds crew pulled first base from its moorings and walked off the field, the white square above his head.

The massive electronic scoreboard in center field alternately flashed likenesses of Rose and Cobb with their respective hit totals.

Just as Marge Schott had bound out of the stands, out of the center-field gate came a bright red Corvette. As it got closer, its license plate could be read: PR 4192.

Show walked the dozen steps from the pitcher's mound to first base and said something to Rose - nobody heard what, not even Rose. Show returned to the mound, sat down, watched.

The Goodyear blimp hovered in the sky, directly above the stadium. The yellow bulbs on its side read: "Pete Rose, 4,192." There were so many flashbulbs popping that the whole stadium had the sparkle of a diamond.

The scene was bigger than life.

It would come to be called the biggest individual moment in Cincinnati sports history and among the biggest over.

Many would write that only Hank Aaron's career home-run record and Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak were bigger. Mark McGwire's 70 home runs, and now Barry Bonds' 73, have done nothing to change that.

"It's the greatest ovation I've ever heard," Padre Steve Garvey said later.

Rose had heard some loud ovations before - 3,000 hits, 4,000 hits, a 44-game hitting streak, two World Series titles, ticker-tape parades, public celebrations at Fountain Square, his head-first slide on the night of his return as a Red on Aug. 17, 1984 - but nothing compared to this.

Nothing went on for seven full minutes the way this ovation did.

Gradually, all of the people but Rose faded away from first base. Rose was standing by himself. Applause showered him. He signaled with his index finger. No. 1.

He turned to all sides of the stadium and doffed his helmet. He slapped himself in the face, right cheek, then left, like a man slapping on after-shave to wake up.

Then, with the applause still ringing, Rose looked into the sky. He took a few steps on the dirt toward second base.

Suddenly, his head dropped and his right hand - which was still covered by a white-and-red batting glove - came to his eyes. His face could no longer be seen, only the top of his red helmet.

"I was awfully lonely standing out there at first base," Rose said later, "I can't describe what was going through my mind, what was going through my stomach {hellip}

"I wish everyone in baseball could go through what I went through tonight at first base. I was all right until I looked up in the air. I looked up in the air and I saw my dad and Ty Cobb. That took care of me."

Epilogue: Nearly a generation later, despite his transgressions with gambling and being banned from baseball in 1989, Pete Rose's style of play still inspires.

Bill James, the author of numerous baseball books and an expert on the value of individual players to their teams, had this to say about Rose in his 2001 book, The New Historical Baseball Abstract.

"Let me write a few paragraphs here for young readers who don't remember Pete Rose's career.

"When he drew a walk, he dashed to first base as if he were being chased by a leopard, as fast as he would run on a ground ball to short. He ran to his defensive position at the start of the inning; he ran full tilt back after the inning was over ... If he had to back up another fielder, he backed him up full speed, as if he fully expected that he would have to make a play.

"He was not blessed with great speed or strength or quickness or agility, but he was perhaps the most competitive player who ever lived. He hustled from April 1 to the end of the season like nobody we ever saw."

Pete Rose career stats


1963 Reds157623101170.273

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