Pete Rose Deserves To Be In Hall Of Fame
By John J. Duncan Jr.
I first saw the famous baseball player Pete Rose when I was a batboy for The Knoxville Smokies.
He was memorable even then because he was the only player anyone ever saw run full-speed to first base after being walked by the opposing pitcher.
He later acquired the nickname “Charlie Hustle” because he almost never hit a single that he didn’t try to turn into a double.
He had a thick head of hair in his playing days and his batting helmet would almost always fly off his head as he zoomed around the bases.
I sat by him at the head table at two different dinners over the years and have stories from both.
The Smokies used to sponsor an annual Diamond Dinner, and one year Pete was the main speaker. He spoke for about half an hour and then answered questions for about an hour.
If a politician had gone on that long, most of the audience would have left. But the 600 baseball fans there that night loved it.
At one point, Maynard Glenn, the longtime City Recreation Director who had presented one of the awards that evening, got up from the head table.
Pete stopped talking and said to Maynard, who was walking out, “Wait a minute. I sat through your speech, now you can sit through mine.” Maynard looked back with a big smile and said “I have to go to the little boys room.”
Pete immediately held up a paper clip and said, “Here, this will hold it.” That got a big laugh.
Then, the first question that night was from a fan who asked, “Pete, is any player worth a million dollars a year?” Rose had become the first one to reach that level.
He replied, “Hell, no – not me or anyone else, but put yourself in my shoes! If they’re crazy enough to pay it, I’m crazy enough to take it.”
He said he loved the game so much he would play for $200 a month like he did when he first started in the rookie league.
A few years later at a dinner in Athens, I sat by him and told him I had been batboy for The Smokies when he played for The Macon Peaches. I was probably 12 or 13 at the time.
When Pete stood up to speak, the first thing he said was “Congressman Duncan, I wish you were a Senator”, because he liked some of my views.
But then he added: “But you were nine years old when I played at Macon. What the hell happened to you? I thought I was sitting next to Col. Sanders up here.”
That night, one of the first questions he got was “Pete, should you be in The Hall of Fame?” He had been banned because he had gambled on some games.
He said, “Hell, yes, I should be in there. If I had been a wife-beater, I would have been in. If I had been an alcoholic, I would have been in. Even if I had been a drug addict, I’d have been in.”
Then he added: “I’ll tell you this, I never once bet against a team for which I was playing, coaching or managing. When I put on the uniform, I did everything I could to win.”
Pete Rose holds the major league records for games (3,562), at bats (14,053), hits (4,256), and singles (3,215). He had a career batting average of .303.
I have been to The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, three times. Most of the players enshrined there do not have statistics as impressive as his. He deserves to be there, too.