Hit 4,192 main highlight of Rose’s career

Published 8:49 pm Saturday, June 25, 2016

Pick a highlight. Go ahead. Try and pick just one. Doesn’t seem too easy of a task does it?

Having watched a great deal of Pete Rose’s career — most of it with the Cincinnati Reds — there were a lot of highlights. Those highlights have come to the front this weekend as Rose is enshrined in the Reds’ Hall of Fame.

Pete, of course, was most proud of winning the back-to-back World Championships in 1975-76. As a team player, that wasn’t surprising.

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But along the way was a National League Rookie of the Year, won three batting titles, was the recipient of an NL Most Valuable Player and a World Series MVP, a couple of Gold Gloves, a NL record-tying 44-game hitting streak and the Major League Baseball All-Century team.

He owns or shares 17 major league records and seven National League records.

Oh yeah, one of those records is the all-time career hit total with 4,256.

And it was the record-breaking hit that tops my Pete Rose highlight reel.

Rose was a hit shy of Ty Cobb’s record of 4,191 on a Sunday in Chicago. No one expected him to play, especially Reds’ owner Marge Schott who was ready for Pete to return home for a three-game series with the San Diego Padres where it was eagerly anticipated he would tie and break the record.

He would also fill the stadium each night.

But as player/manager he put himself in the lineup for that game because there was a right-handed pitcher on the mound and Rose usually played against righties. Back in Cincinnati, Schott held her breath during each at-bat hoping and praying Rose wouldn’t break the record.

Fortunately for her pocketbook, Rose only tied the record.

With the Padres throwing a left-hander on Monday night, I ventured to Cincinnati for the game at Riverfront Stadium in the event Rose would pinch-hit. He didn’t.

I returned on Tuesday because Rose was expected to start and he did only to go hitless.

Both nights the postgame press conference was held in the Bengals’ football locker room in order to hold the overflow crowd of sports writers, radio broadcasters and TV reporters.

Each night I headed back to the paper and got home around 2 a.m. in order to write my story and put together the sports page. After a brief amount of sleep, I was back on the road to the Cincinnati.

Then came Wednesday’s game on that Sept. 11, 1985. Eric Show was pitching for the Padres. The press box at Riverfront was enclosed with unbreakable glass. It was nice to have air conditioning in the hot weather and heat in the cold, but the crowd noise was muffled.

That wasn’t for me. I wanted the full experience of the moment. Each night I walked down the hallway to one of the many TV booths covering the game. The radio and TV booths were not enclosed since they relied on the crowd noise to assist their broadcasts and give viewers a feel of being at the game.

The play-by-play announcer and color man turned and saw me standing in the doorway. I assured them I just wanted to hear the crowd noise and they gave me a thumbs-up.

It proved to be a wise decision.

Rose singled to left field on a 2-1 pitch in his first at-bat during the bottom of the first inning. I have never heard a crowd that was not only that loud but gave an ovation that seemed to never end. It lasted approximately seven minutes although it seemed like an eternity. There was so much emotion that it even caused Rose to break down and shed some tears.

It was the most electrifying moment in sports I have ever experienced and — believe me — I’ve had many opportunities at the high school, college and pro levels in many sports throughout the years.

Rose was even more unflappable in the post-game press conference. Even though he tried to act like he was just going about business as usual, you could see the pressure was off his shoulder.

That was nice to see. Especially after just watching the greatest highlight of his career.


Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.