Its funny, all you did was read the headline and you already have an opinion. Admit it you do! Its ok, often we are all a little guilty of judging a book by its title. We are predisposed to run everything we see through our own personal knowledge center as soon as we see it. That knowledge center will make you read a headline and have a positive or negative reaction almost immediately. The degree of either reaction will determine whether you click or not.
In my opinion way too many people having just read the headline to this article are having the wrong reaction.
I am biased when it comes to Pete, it’s true. There’s no way not to be especially being from Cincinnati. If you are from Cincinnati and you grew up anytime from the 60’s on you know the legend of Pete Rose. A local boy who despite often not being the most talented player on the field would always and I mean always be the hardest working player.
Pete Rose in many ways ruined sports icons for Cincinnati, he showed us how to play the game of baseball. No matter what you knew that when Pete took the field he was giving it his all. It spoiled us. Cincinnati has always been a somewhat blue collar town from its roots in the 1800’s to even now. Pete made us embrace the working man, the hard worker who would give it his all because he knew how lucky he was to be there.
Decades later this would spawn another love affair between the city and a player, Ryan Freel. Ryan was like Pete in many ways. He gave it his all on absolutely every play of every game, he just did so without as much talent as Pete did.
However it all came crashing down in the late 80’s. I won’t go into the details you already know, its public knowledge and does not need to be rehashed at this point. What was done was wrong, and against the rules there is not much else to say.
I want to talk about Pete since then. It seems to me that there is some type of generally accepted feeling in baseball that Pete has become a Pariah. Someone who doesn’t love the game of baseball and has only ever loved money.
I’m here to tell you that is flat out wrong. I want to be clear first, there seems to be many whom take issue with Pete working in Las Vegas, or doing the Cooperstown gig that he does every year during HOF week. To them I say shame on you. Pete worked in baseball at a time where ball players got paid well compared to the common man, but not nearly at the level that they do now. He should be allowed to earn a living however he sees fit and if that means signing his name several times a day and there is a market for it he should be allowed to do it.
I have never met Pete in my life, I have however interacted with him in two very different ways. When I was probably about 6 or 7 we went down to spring training in Florida. Back then for us kids Spring training was a real treat, the seats were all very close to the field and there were always ball players hanging around signing autographs. We hung out following the game watching all the players and trying to get autographs. Pete was the manager at the time and was hanging out with 2 “Rosie Reds” as they were described for us.
My mom yelled at Pete that he should get away from those two women so we could get a picture of just him, he looked on and with his trademarked Pete Rose grin told her “Eat your heart out”. That’s who Pete was, he was larger than life and twice as awesome.
Fast forward by 25 years and I was starting up Head First Slide with my friend (and hopefully someday contributor to this blog COUGH COUGH) Greg. When we started the podcast we were looking for a name. It was a tough decision for us as we really wanted something that would be uniquely associated with the Reds, but would work for all of baseball. Immediately we started trying to rip off the Jamie Ramsey ideas and name it things that had the word “Red” in the place of dead stuff similar to “Red on Arrival” and “Red man walking”. We came to the conclusion that would never work and we should go our own path anyway right?
We began to ponder the idea of using the name “Rounding third”. Being a Hamilton native it would have been nice to give a nod to Mr. Nuxhall as he has always been such an inspiration to all of us here. We went with that too for a time. We were 99% sure that was going to be the title until Head First Slide hit me.
I was driving and out of nowhere it popped into my head and immediately I knew that had to be it. I called Greg and he agreed without a moment of hesitation. A title that worked for all of baseball, but was obviously associated with the Reds and in particular would pay homage to Pete Rose.
I told you that story to tell you this story.
If you’re on twitter you probably remember the Fake Pete Rose account from a couple of years back. He fooled a lot of people including Aaron Boone. So when a new Pete Rose account showed up I along with many others assumed it too was fake. It made it easier because at the time he only had 27 followers on twitter of which I was one of them. To add to it, he followed me back when we followed him! No way this was Pete right? Better safe than sorry I followed him, because if on the slight chance it was Pete I’d rather follow him and see what’s going on and what was the worst case scenario?
A few days later my questions were answered. Pete revealed himself and began to post proof of who he was. He posted pictures holding up his twitter handle and had his official website linked to his twitter profile (@PeteRose_14). I was flabbergasted. Not only was this PETE FRIGGIN ROSE, but he followed us on twitter! I decided then and there that I had to say something to him, not that I expected to ever get a reply.
So I did.
I sent a little message that said something along the lines of “Hey just wanted to let you know we are big fans of yours here, we actually named our podcast in your honor”. What happened next was purely ridiculous.
Pete tweeted back, he said thank you and that since we named it in his honor that he would have to give it a listen at some point. I was thrilled, but at the same time figured that he was just being nice. Which in itself was awesome, heck most celebs on twitter don’t even tweet back let alone say something encouraging and nice.
A few weeks go by and out of nowhere I got a DM on twitter. Apparently Pete had one of his employees listen to the show (JD from PeteRose.com for those of you familiar with the show) and he seemed to really like it. We had given Pete’s account as our twitter account to follow that week and apparently he told Pete about it.
Pete then made our head explode by offering to answer some questions for the show. That night I had a little back and forth on twitter and Pete Not me Pete suggested that we should actually do it as a weekly segment for the show. We would send him baseball questions on twitter and he would answer them and we would read them on the show.
What Would Pete Rose Do was born. From June of last year until our last episode of the season almost every week we would ask between two and three questions of the hit king and he would be kind enough to answer them for us.
The questions would range from which World Series meant the most to you, to what’s your favorite restaurant in Vegas.
No matter what the question was though, he was ready to answer and would give us a snappy sometimes funny response. When he hit the road at one point and knew it would be hard for him to respond did he say “hey little podcast I’ve helped you enough go ask Bench questions now you’re bothering me”? Nope. He had us contact JD from PeteRose.com directly and JD would get a hold of him and transcribe back his answers in email.
He did all of this for us. A little show who at the time that he contacted us was just starting out. He never asked for any compensation, he never turned us down for a question, he was never anything but humble and gracious to us.
Does a man who’s only about the money do that? Does a man who doesn’t love the game do that?
The answer to both questions is a resounding NO.
Pete Rose loves the game of baseball. He shows it that love every day and in many ways it doesn’t show him the love back. He’s constantly at Reds games when he is in town and constantly calls in to sports talk when he’s available whether he’s promoting something or not.
You can have your issues with what happened in the past, but I ask you not to dwell on that. There can be no better ambassador for the game than Pete Rose and hopefully someday Baseball wakes up and realizes that.
Follow me on twitter @HFSPodcast