Ron Costello

Friday, March 3, 2017

I Come to Bury Rose Not to Praise Him

On the night of August 10, 1981, my brother Tom and I met in the Veterans Stadium parking lot. We bought two scalpers tickets — about 25 bucks each. Back of first base in a sold out stadium, we saw him rip his 3,361st hit, breaking Stan Musial's NL hit record.

Driving out of the parking lot, we listened on the radio to Rose speak to the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan.

Placed on hold while the White House set up the President, Rose chirped, "Good thing there's not a missile on the way." You can see that video on the right.

Pete Rose played MLB for 25 years, from 1963 to his retirement in 1986. Nineteen with Cincinnati, five with the Phillies, and one with Montreal. In Philly, it's a foregone conclusion that without Rose, the Phillies would have not been in or won the 1980 World Series. Three years later, dubbed the "Wheeze Kids," he led the team back to the "I-95 Series," losing to Baltimore in five. Rose was 42.

He has baseball honors and records up the wazoo, but one stands out: Most hits by any ML player: 4,256. Even through the steroids era, nobody's come close. In 14 postseason series, he hit .321, with an astounding .388 on-base-percentage.

But it gets ugly. He managed the Reds for seven seasons and was a good manager. He led the club to two first place titles and was named the 1985 Manager of the Year. But, and it's a huge but, he admitted to betting on the Reds "every night."

Said Rose: "I bet on my team to win every night because I love my team, I believe in my team. I did everything in my power every night to win that game." He denies ever betting against the Reds.

To baseball purists he committed the game's version of murder. To the average fan, he's an outlaw, a desperado. Some like him, some don't.

While our friends John and Jill Hamer were visiting our home recently, John was looking at my Phillies wall and asked,"Ron, who's your favorite Phillie?" I didn't hesitate. "Pete Rose, John." Now John is a good Phillies man, but I could sense him giving me the evil eye.

It's a decision not without controversy and question.

Of course, there was the gambling and the women. Most baseball fans overlooked it: "That's Pete being Pete." Even today, at 75, he continues to sell his autographs and bet on sports in Las Vegas.

But as Shakespear wrote, "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is often interréd with their bones. So let it be with Caesar."

So let it be with Rose.

When the man walked onto the field — actually, he rarely walked on the field — Charlie Hustle was a great player. One that mesmerized me with his talent and dedication to the game. He played baseball as if his life depended on it; he played with a reckless abandonment. I doubt, right or wrong, he'll ever make it to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In Philadelphia each year, fans vote to select a former player to be honored and placed on the Phillies Wall of Fame, located in Ashburn Alley at Citizens Bank Park. The club asked for and got MLB permission for Rose to be on the 2017 ballot. The winner hasn't yet been announced, but there's no doubt it will be Rose. He is still revered in Philadelphia.

The winner will be invited and introduced onto the field on the night of August 12. Of course, we have tickets. Would you think otherwise?

I suspect he will receive the longest standing ovation for any single player in Phillies history.

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."


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