Back before pitch counts and steroids and Tommy John, before multi-million dollar contracts, baseball players played sick, played hurt and played for the love of the game. And few played as hard and with more passion than Pete Rose.
Personally, I have always had a love/hate relationship with Pete Rose. Why bring him up today? Today is the 25th anniversary of Pete collecting his 4,192nd hit, surpassing Ty Cobb for the all-time hit lead. Unbreakable in my opinion. In today's world, getting to 3,000 is a major accomplishment. And without the aid of performance enhancing drugs, it would take a special human specimen to reach even the 4000 hit mark. A freak of nature like Hammerin' Hank Aaron or Nolan Ryan, guys who performed at the top of their game for decades without the use of modern day pharmaceuticals.
Besides breaking the hit record, did you know that he has some other records that may not be broken in our lifetime? Did you know that he made 17 All-Star appearances at an unequaled five different positions (2B, LF, RF, 3B & 1B)? And that he leads in games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053) and outs (10,328)?
Most people know him as the guy who is banned from the Hall of Fame for betting on baseball while a manager, some of us know him as the a-hole who piled into Ray Fosse in an All-Star game (it's why Ray is the way he is folks). I loved him growing up because of his exploits. He was always in the papers, obviously, as popular as he was. And his baseball cards were like finding a golden ticket in a Wonka Bar. Just look at these awesome cards!
Before Sports Center and the internet, still photos in the papers were how the game was captured. And as a kid, besides Brooks Robinson's acrobatics at third, it was this picture here that fueled my love of the game.
No wonder they called him Charlie Hustle. I practiced this slide in my back yard everyday and used it as often as I could in little league. Before this, nobody slid head first.
Of course it was also another photo that sparked my disdain for Pete...
1970 All-Star Game. It was a freakin' exhibition game Pete! And yet he knew only one speed: all out. You either hated or loved Pete, but he demanded a reaction from you. 40 years later, Ray's shoulder still feels the pain
Regardless of what happens in the future, whether he gets into the Hall or not, Pete Rose is a living legend, a dinosaur from a time where guys played through pain, on no sleep, with crappy diets and demanding schedules. I believe 100 years from now, Pete's name will still sit atop the all-time hits list, a testament to a time when baseball was played the right way. The title of this post is a quote attributed to Pete.