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Urban looking pretty good on the mound
Dave Thurman (10:09 pm)

On Wednesday night Urban Meyer threw out the first pitch at Great America Ball Park in Cincinnati before the Reds hosted the Cleveland Indians.  For a guy who played his college football in Cincinnati and who has friends and family in the Queen City it was a nice honor.  But the real fun came an hour before the game when he got to meet his hero, Pete Rose, who Urban called "the best who ever played."   

Believe it or not, Charlie Hustle is now 71, which shouldn't surprise me since I recently turned 51 myself.  Still, it seems hard to believe that the all-time Hit King is now in his 70's and still not in the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

I realize this is a Buckeye blog, and one that is usually devoted to football and basketball.  But I coudn't resist sharing a few thoughts about Pete, because like Coach Meyer, he has always been an idol of mine. 

Truth is, when I moved to Cincinnati in 1973, though I immediately became a fan of Ohio State (with Woody and Archie and the boys), my first love during my teenage years was the Big Red Machine.  Early on my devotion was split between Johnny Bench and Pete Rose, but then I entered Western Hills High School in 1976, and proudly told my out of town family that I was attending "the same school as Pete."  My folks had actually bought an old house in Price Hill that was no more than four blocks from where Pete's mom lived at the time, and sometimes my buddies and I would hang out on the corner hoping to catch a glimpse of the hardest working player in the game.  Indeed, Rose became my hero.

Memories of trips to old Riverfront are especially poignant ones for me, particularly this close to Father's Day.  My dad lost his battle with cancer a few years ago, but I still can't watch a Reds game without thinking of him, as my lips curl into a smile.  During my turbulent teenage years in the crazy 70's, Dad and I didn't see eye to eye much of the time, a scenario most guys can relate to.  I knew Dad loved me, but we just didn't connect, as he despised rock music, and couldn't fathom my teenage irresponsibility, since he had started working when he was eleven.  But the one thing we shared was our passion for the Reds.  We made our way down the hill to Riverfront many times, including attending playoff and World Series games in '75 and '76.  At the time I had no clue that I was watching the greatest group of hitters ever assembled in one dugout, led by the most doggedly determined leadoff hitter in baseball history. 

I have no idea how many times I saw Pete play in person, but even when he returned in a Phillies uniform, and briefly, those awful colors of the Montreal Expos, I couldn't stay away.  Maybe the most enjoyable game of them all was Opening Day, 1985, when Pete was in the starting lineup as a player-manager.  My seats were out in left field, but I was just happy to be there.  Nobody does Opening Day like Cincinnati, and it was a thrill to see Pete back where he belonged, with that "C" on his cap.  I even bought tickets for September 11th, 1985, well ahead of time, luckily picking the night he would break the record.  As fortune would have it, a work-related complication kept me from attending, but my wife and sister were there, flashing their cameras with 50,000 other fans.  Yes, no doubt about it, Pete was a big part of my early life, even if I never got to actually shake his hand. 

That's why I can relate to Urban being a little star struck.  Charlie Hustle is and always has been bigger than life.  The fact that the best coach in college football was turned momentarily into a kid again when he got to meet Pete doesn't surprise me at all. 

And, now, as Pete enters his eighth decade of life, it is a complete travesty that the Hit King is still waiting to enter the Hall of Fame.  Someday our nation will pause to watch six ex-ballplayers carrying Rose's casket out of a church building in Cincinnati.  I can only hope that the day won't occur until he is enshrined in Cooperstown. 
 


Comments

Michael
06/15/2012 06:50

Great thoughts Dave. I am almost a decade younger but have fond memories of Rose. Do you remember his first at bat as player manager when he slide head first into third? But he has forever tarnished his reputation, works in Las Vegas cause he needs a job, and recently is going to open Scioto Downs in OH. Not the life he intended.

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Michael
06/15/2012 07:20

As a follow-up comment. As much as I loved Rose as a kid, he cannot ever be let into the Hall of Fame. I know there are far worse crimes that current Hall of Famers have done but betting on Baseball not only compromises the game but could destroy it. I wish Rose would have done more to try to salvage his image because I do believe the public would have forgiven him but at 71, he probably does not have the time to rehab his image. Due to his past gambling, he does not have the money to live on unless he works and unfortunately, Las Vegas is the only place he can work and sustain the lifestyle he wants.

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06/15/2012 07:23

Michael: He is a polarizing figure for sure. Truth be told he was always a hard-nosed guy, and I'm not sure Pete ever had a lot of "class". But if Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth are in the Hall of Fame, I say Pete should be as well. It is a sad story for sure. But he did provide many wonderful memories for millions of baseball fans, including me.

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Michael
06/15/2012 07:27

Dave, no arguments. But if the Hall lets Rose in then what would prevent every major league player from betting on Baseball? We saw the steroids controversy and how that has tainted the game. As great as a player as Rose was and his accomplishment is prodigious, the Hall should not let him in. Just as Tressel showed that no one person is bigger than OSU so Rose needs to be an example that no man is bigger than Baseball. But if the Hall lets him in someday, I will not object, I just don't think Rose has done enough since the late 80's to warrant it.

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Ken
06/16/2012 07:53

Nice article, Dave. Good point about Rose being a polarizing person/player; either you thought highly of him, or you thought the opposite. Yes, more along the lines of a TY Cobb.

The Big Red Machine was certainly that. As an infielder, my 'hero' was Dave Concepcion. My brother was a catcher, so obviously his was JB. On a somewhat irrelevent note, JB's sister was a couple years ahead of me at Muskingum. So, there's my Big Red Machine connection.

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