By Ken Lay
Major League Baseball’s all-time hits leader was in Knox County on Saturday, May 22 and he delighted fans with his stories and sometimes self-deprecating sense of humor.
Pete Rose, one of baseball’s living legends and the game’s last player-manager, made a stop in Knoxville and Hardin Valley Academy to speak at the Hawks baseball team’s postseason banquet.
His language was salty at times but that didn’t appear to trouble those who attended to hear Rose’s remarks as Cincinnati Reds jerseys and caps were prevalent at the commons and in the auditorium, with some Philadelphia Phillies gear and Montreal Expos swag sprinkled in the crowd.
Rose broke in with the Reds in 1963 and was later named the National League’s Most Valuable Player a decade later with Cincinnati.
What also didn’t appear to bother the baseball fans in attendance was that Rose was banished from baseball after it was discovered that he bet on baseball and the Reds while he was their manager.
Rose, during his playing days, was the player that made the game great. He was undersized but gave the game his all as he appeared in 17 All-Star Games, played in six World Series, winning three, and compiled 4,256 hits.
“Pete Rose was never the best athlete but he was always the best baseball player,” said Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, who introduced Rose to the crowd.
Jacobs, a World Wrestling Entertainment superstar, is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fans, thus he hated Rose growing up.
After being banned from baseball, Rose (who was known as Charlie Hustle during his playing days), became a regular on the public speaking circuit and in the WWE.
Rose first appeared in a skit with Jacobs (who wrestles under the stage name Cain).
“Pete Rose would have been a great bad guy in wrestling. I got to be in a bit with him when I was told to throw him on his head,” Jacobs recalled. “I hated him growing up as a Cardinals fan because he always beat us.
“But now, my feeling for him is nothing but respect.”
Rose, who has a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame, also delighted the crowd as he remembered playing with and against some of the game’s greats.
Those players included Steve Carlton, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, Tony Perez, Tom Seaver, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente and Hank Aaron.
Rose said that the greatest baseball player of all time was Babe Ruth.
“Babe Ruth was the greatest baseball player ever,” Rose said. “He did what Tom Brady, Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky couldn’t. He sold out every game in every city where he went.
“He saved the game because this was after the (Chicago) Black Sox (gambling) scandal in 1919.”
Rose owns multiple career records including hits (4,256), singles (3,215), games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053) and outs (10,328).
But the only record he said that really matters to him is that he is the winningest player in the history.
“I’ve been part of more wins than any other player,” Rose said. “When you play sports, play baseball, the only objective is to win. If you have kids and go to their games, if they win, you’re in a better mood going home.
“If they lose, you’re in a bad mood, and that’s the way it should be. If you’re not in any mood, you shouldn’t be going to the game and you shouldn’t watch.”