Pete Rose: Beyond The Stats And The Scandals

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KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 1980: Pete Rose of the Philadelphia Phillies bats against the Kansas City Royals during the World Series in October 1980 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The Phillies won the series 4-2. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Gett

Most people who have followed baseball know who Pete Rose is. Or at least, they know of his rather impressive record while he played, of the scandals that plagued him, and of the fact that the Baseball Hall of Fame permanently banned him. However, there is much more to the man who not only had a fantastic hitting record, but who is also the only player to play 500 games in five different positions: first, second, third, right field, and left field. He also played 73 games in centerfield.

Growing Up With Baseball in Cincinnati

Rose was born on April 14, in Cincinnati, Ohio. His father, Harry Rose, worked in a bank, and was a semi-pro football player; he was relatively well-known locally, and his son was the team waterboy. Rose grew up in Anderson Ferry, a working-class neighborhood, where stickball was always played on the street outside his home, and a homemade baseball field was nearby. Rose seemed destined to play baseball, and even when he was a child, his father would not allow him to go to the local movies as he was concerned about the damage that he thought watching them would have on his ability to hit. 

Source: (BleacherNation).

Making His Way To The Majors

Rose developed a reputation from a young age as a kid who could hit anything, and his father helped him to become a switch-hitter. He had a natural tendency to hit on the left, and when he was 9, his father insisted he get a number of hits on the right side before he could hit on the left. His father’s training paid off, as he became one of the greatest major league switch-hitters of all time. While he continued to play baseball, he was a running back on his high school football team as well. It was because of football that he was held back a year in high school (he did not make the varsity team and let his grades slip). By his senior year, he was not eligible to play baseball since they had a four-year limit. He decided to join a Class AA team in the Dayton Amateur League, playing catcher, second base, and shortstop. He ended up with a .626 batting average. He signed with the Reds at 19 after he graduated from high school. However, he wasn’t drafted for the team as the MLB did not have a complete amateur draft until 1965. Rose’s uncle, Buddy Bloebaum, was a “bird scout” for the Reds, and convinced them to take a chance on him in 1960. He spent his first three seasons with the Reds in the Minors, playing for the Geneva Redlegs, Tampa Tarpons, and the Macon Peaches before being invited to spring training in 1963. He not only earned his spot on the Reds at that point, he also got his nickname, “Charlie Hustle.” Whitey Ford gave him the name and it was meant to be derisive, although the story of exactly what led to the nickname is unclear.

He Enlisted In The U.S. Army Reserves

When he made his MLB debut on April 8, 1963 against the Pirates, he went 0-for-11. He actually didn’t have his first hit until April 13, and he eventually finished the season hitting .273 and being named rookie of the year. During his second year with the Reds, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves, serving at Fort Thomas, Kentucky. There, he was the company cook and, along with Johnny Bench, trained the fort’s baseball team. He managed to cook for the fort during the early morning shifts, and played in the Reds home games later in the day. 

The statue of him outside Great American Ball Park. Source: (BarDown).

His Second Season Was Rough

That second year Rose hit a slump, and he was benched at the end of the season. During the offseason, he moved to Caracas, Venezuela, and played with the Caracas Lions in the Venezuelan Winter League. Here, he was able to work on his hitting. In the next season, he had his breakout year, ending the season with a .312 batting average. Despite his batting performance that year and over the course of his career, he never performed well against Sandy Koufax over the four years he faced the Cy Young winner. He also had another weakness: he was unable to steal bases. Throughout his career, he got caught stealing more often than he stole them.

He Was Almost In Airplane!

One final thing you may not have been aware of: Rose has several acting credits to his name, and he was almost cast in Airplane! in the role that went to Kareem Abdul-Jamar.