As the regular Baseball season winds down along with the Magic Number for my Playoff-destined New York Mets, I can't help but think of one player more than any other down the stretch. No, it's not Seaver, Strawberry, Gooden, or Piazza, all of whom are true champs, but this one fella is larger than life: Pete Rose.
Why Pete Rose?
Pete Rose was and still is the epitome of drive, determination, and fire. Pete could eat a bowl of nails and still play that same day. He gave his heart and walked off the field at the end a success, whether the Reds/Phillies/Expo's...whoever...won or lost the game.
Growing up in the 70's and 80's, and collecting baseball cards during that time, the buzz was always about the coveted 1963 Topps Pete Rose Rookie Card. Not Mickey Mantle, who enjoyed the media hype of New York, or else he would have wound up with the same unimpressive fame as Jim Thome's 600+ HomeRun Career, had Mantle wound up in a media quiet zone vs. New York (I'm obviously not flattered by Mantle, nor am I brainwashed by Mantle rhetoric!).
I'll go on the record here and say I am one of the biggest PRO-ROSE-HOF folks out there. Did he jump into the stands and beat up fans, get drunk and beat his wife, or knock kids off their bikes if they got in his way? No, that's what the OTHER people already inducted into the Hall of Fame have done before being voted in!! He gambled, he bet FOR his own team, as that is finally now coming to light. Not AGAINST his team...FOR his team. From where I come from, that's called putting your money where your mouth is!. Why? Because it was in his best interest to win those damn games at all costs. I'm not saying what he did was right...but again, I ask, did he use "The Clear" rub-on steroids like that wonderfully nice guy, Barry Bonds did? How about Clemens, another honor roll guy. I'd love Mike Piazza to get another shot at Roger Clemens when he's not all tough-guyed up on drugs (Did George Steinbrenner know? Did he care? Sore Topic!). Piazza has too much class, and is too much of a gentleman to deal with guys like that. On this topic for another time, the only one I can show some respect for in that batch is Jose Canseco. He didn't hide it, come out and didn't say, "Duh, I didn't know this was illegal". He made bad choices, but he owned it. I teach my son that what they did was wrong, but to take something out of what Canseco did, and he took responsibility for his actions. Now, back to Rose.
Rose had none of these problems. So it's irrelevant. He's not Communist Cuba, the embargo is over, and it should be for Pete as well. Is he the most upstanding citizen in the world? Would I want to meet him in a dark alley? Hell no! At 74, I saw Pete at the National back in April (See story here), he's still built like a tank and takes no "shoot" from anyone.
What did I say to him when he was signing a bat and for my son? I told him that he's always been a source of inspiration ever since I was a kid my son's age, and I thanked him for being a role model. (I also said Giamatti and Selig were punks and were not even half the man he was; I got a wink for that from Pete along with a "thank you"!).
Look, I'm watching guys get tagged out trying to stretch a double into a triple in a tight game. Why did it have to be ONLY Pete Rose that slid head first? Are they too pretty to do it. Hook in there with your hands and intimidate like Pete. Pretend it's Ray Fosse standing there!!!
The only guy since Rose with any type of deep love for the game was Ken Griffey Jr., another true professional and an asset to the game, but one who did beat Rose out in the "smiles while playing" department. Love the Griffey family !!
These new jacks to the sport need to "Hustle" like Charlie Hustle, and this is a shining example for what all of us should be doing in our lives.
It was great seeing Rose broadcasting during the All-Star game, but he looked so uncomfortable from that side of the field. While watching the All-Star game, it got me thinking....LOOK HOW CLOSE ROSE IS getting back to Baseball....this guys about to get himself into the Hall of Fame!!
This is a Pro. A Surgeon. A strategic hard-headed powerhouse with a love for the game. I'll be on that huge lawn up in Cooperstown when Rose makes his Hall of Fame speech, because you know what, Pete Rose IS baseball and Pete Rose MEANS baseball. Baseball runs through his veins.
Pete had that Rocky "Eye of the Tiger" for over 25 Seasons playing and managing, and he never flinched once. Just don't block home plate or he will bowl you right over....but that's what the game is about and isn't that what life is about? Find what you love doing, and do it better than anybody around you and don't let anybody get in your way no matter who they are and how tough they appear? True toughness is in the heart, not in the fists! Although, Pete communicated quite well with both when someone crossed the line asking for it.
Listen carefully...the lessons Pete Rose etched into the diamond are still echoing today to help teach us all lessons about ourselves and about life!