FIVE A.M.—THE BIG CLOCK
What you see before you could be any 44-year-old man slurping any bowl of cereal and watching any baseball game on TV, except that the man is a millionaire, his picture is on the cereal box and it's a little early for breakfast. What might also be worth mentioning is that this is Pete Rose, one of baseball's living icons, and he should damn well be asleep considering the kind of day he has in front of him. But he's not.
Rose doesn't care how much sleep he gets this night. Rose doesn't care how much sleep he gets any night. He doesn't care that he has The MacNeil-Lehrer Report at 3, P.M. Magazine at 4 and Nolan Ryan at 7:30. Rose doesn't sweat time. This is because Rose and time have an understanding. Neither believes the other is for real. Rose has put the aging process on permanent call waiting.
How Rose fits more into a day than any three other people is a secret he learned from his father, which is not unusual, because Rose learned all things from his father. What is unusual is that this secret his father taught him after he died.
August 18, 1985
It was at the funeral in December 1970. Rose was still seeing everything through Plexiglas then. Walking but not going anywhere. Eating but not tasting. His father had dropped dead of a heart attack two steps up the stairs at home, and nothing had seemed real since. The preacher got up and one of the things he said was, "You know, ladies and gentlemen, from the day we're born we start to die." "And it hit me," Rose says. "He was right, you know? Just like my father. You got to make the most of what time you got."
Peter Edward Rose has not been prodigal with his allotment. He has married two women, disappointed God knows how many others, kibitzed with three presidents (Reagan rang him up from Air Force One), toured the world, owned a Rolls-Royce, a BMW M-1, a 1933 three-window Ford coupe, half a dozen or so Porsches, had his name on any number of restaurants, and will soon have his portrait hanging in the Cincinnati Art Museum. Painted by Andy Warhol himself. Is that a pair? Warhol dyed his hair gray at 23 so he wouldn't have to bother with "the responsibility of acting young." Rose used to stump for Grecian Formula. Go figure.
Anyway, all these things came to Rose for his uncanny ability to get hits. Celebrity arrived for what he did between them—sliding molars first, running even when he walked, bouncing baseballs off AstroTurf to punctuate the end of an inning. That is the rice pudding. The prime cuts he made with his bat.
Twenty-one to go. Twenty-one hits and Rose becomes the most prolific amasser of hits in history, whistling by Ty Cobb's 4,191 as if Cobb were standing still, which he is. Just about every honor and thrill baseball can dole out has been Rose's. He has played in 3,455 regular-season games, 1,916 of them wins, both alltime records. Those winning games are more than 47 Hall of Famers, including Joe DiMaggio, ever played in, making him, as Pete likes to say, "the biggest winner in history." He was The Sporting News NL Player of the Decade for the '70s; the Hickok Belt winner in 1975 as pro athlete of the year; and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's Sportsman of the Year in 1975. He has played in 16 All-Star games and 34 World Series games. "Peter is baseball," Sparky Anderson, his old manager, says. "He's the best thing to happen to the game since...well...the game."
But 4,192...4,192 will be the rarest acquisition of all. It should be. Rose paid plenty for it.
Still, for now, as dawn breaks on his five-acre, four-bedroom, two-car-garage, chalet-style house, Rose is most concerned with tuning in Westar V on his souped-up satellite dish. He is in search of the replay of the Kansas City-Detroit game, much of which he saw the night before. So why are you up, Pete?
"I was hungry," he says. Funny how Rose's stomach growls him awake precisely when a ball game comes on. Yes, even Pete Rose's innards love baseball.
TEN A.M.—THE BIG KNOCK
Time was when Rose would sleep till noon, have breakfast and get to the ball park by one, but these are the days of The Big Knock (a "knock," in Rose lingo, being a hit, and The Big Knock No. 4,192), and there's much too much to be done. So here is Rose, resplendent in his maroon bathrobe, Prince Valiant haircut and legs that Reds rightfielder Dave Parker describes as "vanilla milk shakes."
While Pete feeds his four horses, Carol Rose, 31 and divinely favored, readies to feed Pete. How many other former Playboy bunnies and ex-Philadelphia Eagle cheerleaders can whip up pancakes that don't have the relative density of manhole covers? Pete will make the coffee. No French maids chez Rose. Carol outpoints a French maid any day.
Last night Rose went to bed at 2:30, was up at five, as we have noted, retired again at six and is up again. This is what's known as sleeping like a baby. Rose should know. He has one—10-month-old Tyler Edward Rose, who is named in honor of The Big Knock. Rose says everything he has comes from baseball, so it's fitting he offer up his offspring.
These are remarkable days. Knock talk has gone beyond sports into real life. In the last two months, Rose has glibbed it up for Life, Time, People, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, Boy's Life, just about every network morning and evening news show, newspapers of all shapes and sizes and even Face the Nation. Face the Nation? Cobb just did a 360 in his grave. In Anaheim, Rod Carew, in search of 3,000, wasn't doing interviews. In Chicago, Tom Seaver, stalking 300, pulled a little Garbo. But the Reds' player-manager makes like Pia Zadora for every mike. It has hurt his hitting, but Rose says it's part of the job. Besides, who is better on Rose than Rose?
ELEVEN A.M.—BIG TALK
As Rose drives south along I-75 to the ball park in his black 935 Porsche, he passes two billboards adorned with his considerable countenance. In Cincinnati these days, Rose's mug is plastered everywhere. And what a face. It prompts Parker to remark, "If I had his head, I'd make a butcher-block coffee table out of it." Says Rose, "Your face would look old, too, if you'd been sliding on it for 23 years."
Rose looks right at his billboards as we pass. No feigned indifference. Ohhhh, that ol' thing. Not Rose. He stares up and then stares at you, grinning that dulcet grin, as if to say, "I guess it's big enough."
Rose, as egotist, is sufferable. He rolls out his stardom like a rug he has just woven. It's pretty. Have a look. We'll both get a kick out of it. For example, when Rose says, "I've doffed my cap so many times I'm losing my hair," you think, "funny," but you get the point, too. Some people feel queasy about hanging honors. Rose has a room full of plaques, paintings, trophies, urns, belts, baseballs and bats, plus a storage closet containing more that he'd love to find room to display.
Rose isn't apologetic about being rich, either. Nor about being proud, which gives him the reputation of a statistics monger. Wrong, Decimal Breath. Rose is a baseball monger. Any number that can be associated with baseball, Rose can spit out as if he were a dot-matrix printer. Rose knows the 34 major and National League records he holds. And, yes, he might refresh you as to which 40-year-old led the NL in hits in 1981 (Pete, with the Phillies); who played 23 years with only one ride on the disabled list (Pete, 21 days); which singles hitter took Tom Seaver, Jim Palmer and Catfish Hunter over the wall in postseason games (Pete). But he can also recite how White Sox righties do against Red Sox lefties.
You think he's up at 5 a.m. to watch the sunrise?
TWELVE NOON—THE OLD BLOCK
Face the Nation: "Pete, this record must be pretty important to you. You named your son after Ty Cobb, didn't you?"
Rose: "Well, I named him Tyler Edward Rose. My name is Peter Edward Rose. I can honestly say if I was chasing some guy named Harry, I wouldn't have named him Harry, I can say that."
Actually, Rose is chasing some guy named Harry. Rose's father was Harry, but he didn't like the name, either. Growing up in Cincinnati, Harry was fond of a vegetable-cart horse named Pete. Each day when that horse came around, Harry would climb on and refuse to climb off, so they called him Pete.
By day, Rose's father was a farsighted bank employee who suffered headaches after long hours adding figures. But when he got off the bus at night and swept up his son, Harry Rose went through a metamorphosis. Bartleby became Achilles. As an amateur boxer, he fought as a flyweight under the name Pee Wee Sams. As a sturdy semipro halfback and defensive back, he played until he was 42. He was a member of the original Cincinnati Bengals, who played against teams like the Chicago Bears. When Cincinnati Post columnist Pat Harmon retired in August after more than 34 years on the job, he named Rose's father the most remarkable athlete he had seen. "He was," says Rose. "I've seen a lot of football, but my father was the best player I ever saw."
Once, Harry Rose broke his hip on a kickoff, then crawled downfield to try to make a tackle. Another night he came off the field with a knot on his arm the size of a Softball. He took a handkerchief, filled it with ice, wrapped it around his arm, went back into the game and made an interception on the next play. After the games, win or lose, he would run hills while young Peter watched. "I didn't need to read about dedication," Rose once wrote. "I lived with it."
No wonder Harry Rose became his son's idol—and then some. "He took me to all the games," says Pete. Says Rose's mother, La Verne, "Pete would be in the car before his father could say, 'Pete, you want to go?' "
When Pete became an athlete, his father rarely gave praise. "My dad never talked in terms of individuals," Rose says. "He always talked about teams." But when Pete was not around, Harry talked about one individual—Pete. "Once, when Peter was about four, he and his father were playing baseball in the backyard," Pete's mother recalls. "Peter hit a ball that cracked a window. I tried to get it fixed one day, but Big Pete says to me, 'Don't you dare!' He wouldn't let me fix it. He wanted to show people how far Peter could hit a ball."
Fifteen years after his father's death, Pete is still trying to break windows. "What he instilled in me—pride, the will to succeed—that's what drives me."
Of course, the difference between chasing Ty Cobb and chasing Harry Rose is that Cobb can be caught.
ONE P.M.—THE MODERN JOCK
Rose arrives at the ball park 6½ hours before the game. First one here. Again.
On off days, Rose is the only one here besides Billy DeMars, the Reds' hitting coach. They meet at 11, take two buckets of baseballs to the net batting cage rigged under the bleachers, and DeMars throws to him for 45 minutes. This has been Rose's off-day routine for 23 years. "It amazes me," says DeMars. "Here's the guy who will go down as one of the greatest hitters of all time and he works harder than anybody. And we got guys hitting .136 who wonder what's wrong."
Rose is obsessive about preparation. Name an umpire and Rose can describe the nuances of his strike zone. If an outfielder strikes out with men on base to end the inning, Rose knows that player's mind will be elsewhere. If Rose singles his way, he'll look for two bases. Rose even knows which grounds crews leave a field ripe for bunts and which don't. So who needs a fancy computer system? The Reds have Rose.
Because Rose lives inside the game, he is disappointed by players who don't live anywhere in the neighborhood. Consider bats. Rose doesn't go anywhere without his bats. Whether he's up next or ninth, he is fondling a bat at all times. He cleans them with alcohol before every trip to the plate—practice or otherwise—so that afterward he can see where cowhide met wood. Then he cleans them again. On road trips, he broods over them until Bernie Stowe, the clubhouse man, has safely stashed them aboard the truck. "And then," Rose says, wincing, "I see guys get to a ball park on the road and they're screaming, 'Hey, Bernie! Where's my bats? I can't believe you didn't pack my bats!' And this is how the guy makes a living! Or, like the other night, I put a guy in and now he can't find his glove. 'Where's my glove? Damn! It's around here somewhere.' He has to run back to his locker to get it. His glove!"
Still, Rose has turned one of baseball's habitual underachievers—last, last and fifth in the NL West from 1982 through 1984—into a contender six games over .500. And it wasn't by trading for Schottzie, either. Rose has done it with will, inspiration and respect for players as (gasp) people. "Pete has two rules," says Parker, who is second in the league in RBIs. "Be on time and give 110 percent. Everything else is irrelevant."
Irrelevance was Job One under Vern Rapp, the manager before Rose. Under Rapp there were no TV sets in the players' lounge, no children in the clubhouse, and no smiling after losses. Worst of all, no beer was allowed on plane flights. "What's wrong with two cases of beer for 40 guys?" says Rose, who doesn't drink. When Rapp's Reds began a road trip, they wouldn't fly until the morning of the first game. "You'd get to the park and you'd be drained, man," Rose says. "Just to save a night in a hotel."
Enter Rose, who turned the franchise's losing attitude around, from laundry boy to owner. There's a TV in the lounge, fruit on the tables, enough beer on the trips, smiles on faces (even after losses), card games on the flights and a decent day's rest the day of road games. There are also 12 fewer losses in the scorebook, and 313,000 more fans in the seats than this time last year.
"I want nice things at the ball park," Rose says. "Who wants to come to the park if you can't stand it there?"
FOUR P.M.—HOLY WEDLOCK
For the MacNeil-Lehrer interview, Rose is wearing a fire-red PETE ROSE: HUSTLING FOR THE RECORD T shirt. Rose doesn't catch much MacNeil-Lehrer, but he knows businessmen do, so he wears the shirt. Never know who might want a piece of the action. Rose never took Accounting 101, but he carries a mean calculator in his head. "I'd have made a damn good promotions guy," he says.
For the Cobb chase, you can buy T shirts, key chains, hats, posters, original Rose/Cobb lithographs, limited edition silver ($20) and gold ($1,000) coins, and, coming soon, Pete Rose's diary of the chase, written by Hal Bodley, a sportswriter whose best man was Rose. All of the projects are approved by Rose, some started by him. Why should he apologize? Money makes him feel young. Rose likes to feel young.
Rose has sometimes been called a baseball mercenary, which is balderdash. When he signed with the Reds, his salary was pruned to less than $250,000 per year, a cut so fat that it had to be approved by the Players' Association. With attendance incentives, he will probably make at least $500,000 in '85.
Not that Rose won't turn another dollar now and then. He has plugged Aqua Velva, Jockey, Geritol, Wheaties, Swanson's TV dinners, Gekimen noodles, Zenith, Mountain Dew and even his own soda pop, a chocolate-flavored concoction called Pete. Like Rose, it had lots of fizz. He is also a chief spokesman for Mizuno sporting goods, a deal that earns him about $100,000 per year.
All that money makes Rose attractive, not just to three-piece suiters, but to two-piece bikiniers, which gives him a reputation as a ladies' man, which is not exactly true, either. "Not a lot of ladies," he says. "It was always just one at a time."
Well, that's not exactly true, either. His first wife, Karolyn, filed for divorce in 1979 because, she says, he was seeing Carol Woilung in public. Carol, 5'7" and dripping blonde, was tending bar at a place called Sleep Out Louie's, only a stand-up double from the stadium. "The clubhouse man said, 'If you want to see the prettiest butt in Cincinnati, go to Sleep Out Louie's,' " Rose told Cincinnati magazine. "I had to take him up on it." Says Carol, "I had no idea who this guy was when he walked in. He'd come in and we'd just talk. He found out I wasn't easy like all the other girls. We'd talk about things. He was funny. And such a gentleman. He made me happy." Says Rose, "She made me feel young.... I like to live like that. Fast cars, fast horses, a young wife. That keeps you young."
Women grow fond of Rose and seem especially unwilling to give him up. Karolyn once ripped a diamond necklace off Carol at Riverfront Stadium. She was still married to Pete at the time. Twice, Karolyn tattooed Carol's face. "Split my lip," she says. This is life in the big leagues.
Rose was not amused about the way the divorce was handled in the papers. "You'd think I was the only guy in America to ever get a divorce," he says. Still, Rose is not likely to follow Alan Alda onto the cover of Ms. magazine. For instance, when Rose became a manager, he was asked if he could handle his players' personal problems. No sweat, he said, especially if it involved the marital sacrament. "Hey, just give her a million and tell her to hit the road," he was quoted as saying. Says Karolyn, "I don't think women mean anything to Pete." This is not exactly true. Baseball just means more.
"You got to spend some time with Pete," says Sparky Anderson. "He's not like the rest of us. Nobody will ever know him completely. Can't know him. He thinks about baseball day and night. He can't sit five minutes in a chair and talk to you about something else. He'll get up. Baseball is all he thinks about. He'll never leave the game. He'd die first."
Rose's affair with baseball has meant that he hasn't had much time to spend with his daughter, Fawn, 20. His son, Petey, 15, had the good sense to be a boy and thus has spent much of his life with his father in clubhouses. But, as Rose says, it was harder with Fawn. "I couldn't bring her to the ball park at two o'clock. What's she going to do all by herself at the ball park at two?"
Though Fawn believes she and her father have become closer in the last year, she wonders what price he paid to become baseball's most durable player. "That's why I'll be so happy for him when he breaks this record and becomes the best of all time," she says. "Because he sure had to give up a lot to get it."
SEVEN P.M.—THE BIG SHOCK
MacNeil-Lehrer. "You've often been called Johnny Hustle. Are you proud of that?"
Rose: "Johnny Hustle?"
Nolan Ryan is throwing for the Astros and, because Ryan is a righthander, Rose will start at first base. Against lefthanders, Rose, although a switch hitter, yields to youth—Tony Perez, 43. Perez is hitting .320. This is the happiest coupling of senior citizens since On Golden Pond.
If you wonder if Rose should be given a contract for 1986, consider this: When Rose has written his own name on the lineup card in '85, the Reds have gone 42-34. Although he's hitting only .266, 39 points below his career average, he ranks third in the league in on-base percentage and eighth in walks. He is the quintessential No. 2 hitter. (For moving the runners up, nobody beats the manager.) And guess who leads the club in hit-by-pitches?
Still, when Rose's average sagged to .236 in late April, Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Tim Sullivan suggested that he might help the team if he forgot to pencil his name in the lineup more often. Rose politely disagreed. He attributed his low average to the revolving door full of press that had descended upon his home. And it was true. Rose was going home at 1 a.m., rising at eight for photo shoots, posing and interviewing until one, then hurrying to the ball park.
To prove Sullivan wrong, he raised his average to, at one point, .301. "Pitchers think they can blow the fastball by me and they can't," Rose says. "But they're trying, just like when I was coming up."
Still, it is a wonder Rose ever gets a hit. So far today, he's done interviews in his office, around the batting cage, in the dugout, in the tunnel to the clubhouse, in the clubhouse and in his office again. The last reporter leaves at 7:10 p.m., 25 minutes before the first pitch. But when Rose steps in against Ryan at 7:45, that hunch looks as foreboding as ever. Not a bad moment in baseball history. How many times does a guy with 4,000 strikeouts face a guy with 4,000 hits?
With one ball and one strike, Ryan, the ultimate speed freak, throws a straight changeup that dupes Rose so badly he resembles a glazed twist.
"Where'd you get that?" he hollers at Ryan, who shrugs. They both smile.
"He doesn't have enough stuff that he has to learn to throw a straight change?" Rose asks his unofficial assistant manager, George Scherger, after missing another for strike three. "Can you believe that? The Express? With a straight change?"
Carol and Ty arrive in the fourth inning and Rose makes note of it. They always sit in the same seats—four rows back of home plate. Rose's father was not that easy to track. Superstitious, he'd sit down and if Pete didn't get a knock, he'd move. Pete would always find him again, but it took some doing. After the game, Carol and Ty will come down to the family lounge just outside the clubhouse, but Rose's father would rarely visit. "Only twice did he ever come in the clubhouse," Rose says. "Once was the day we won the 1970 pennant, and the other time was for a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED picture. Otherwise, he'd always go home."
Just as in the old days, Harry Rose was not easily swayed to show approval of his son. "If I'd go 3 for 4, he'd say, 'Did you have something on your mind that third time up? You didn't run to first very hard.' And, you know, he'd be right. I'd think back on it and usually I did have something else on my mind."
Tonight, Rose goes 1 for 4. Ryan strikes him out twice, but Rose dumps a bunt down third in the seventh inning off Jeff Calhoun, and while the Astros are deciding who should have the honor of playing it, Rose hustles it out for a hit.
Signs and lights and tote boards and typewriters and Magic Markers start a symphony of Cincinnati celebration as all across the city, 28s become 27s. One of the bat boys asks the umpire for the ball and squirrels it away. The Reds have been keeping every ball since 4,107. Won't be long now till The Big Knock.
In the clubhouse, though, Rose is not smiling. The Reds beat Ryan 4-1 to keep the Dodgers' lead at 5½ games, but now Rose must do the only thing at a ball park he dreads.
Alan Knicely, his backup catcher, has to be shipped to Denver to make room for pitcher Jay Tibbs. Rose hates this one more than most because Knicely is the second-hardest-working player on the team. How can he, the Dead End Kid, give up on a guy who is trying, as Rose would put it, "like hell"? Besides, Knicely makes only $45,000—not bad for most people, but Knicely has extra expenses because his son, Brad, has cerebral palsy. "Knicely lost money playing baseball last year," Rose says. Rose is so ill at ease with failure that he always requests that Reds general manager Bill Bergesch be in the office with him when he breaks bad news. "Otherwise," says Rose, "I'd be in here talking to the kid all night."
TEN P.M.—THE LAST STALK
Media Type: "Do you think Ty Cobb is up there looking down at you as you chase his record?"
Rose: "From what I know about the guy, he may not be up there. He may be down there."
In Rose's office, it's a return engagement of the same questions, answers and subject as the night before. And the night before that.
What do you say to people who think you're playing just to break the record? ...Do you think it's fair that you'll do it with 2,000 more at bats than Cobb? ...How do you think he'd do today? ...Do you think you'd like each other?
Often, Rose pretends to know less about Cobb than he does. Yet he used to pick the brain of the late Hall of Fame pitcher and longtime Reds broadcaster, Waite Hoyt, about Cobb. "Sometimes I feel like I know Ruth and Cobb," Rose once told a writer. Of course, until four years ago, Rose told writers that Cobb's record was out of reach. Maybe the closer you get to a legend, the more human he looks.
The highlight reel: "I never said I was going to be the greatest hitter of all time, I just said I was going to have the most hits.... Cobb's .367 average, that's untouchable. That's great. But if he was playing today, he'd hit .315, no doubt in my mind. Think about it. They never had any relief pitching back then. We get a fresh arm throwing against us every two innings sometimes. How tough could the pitching have been? You tell me how a guy is going to win 511 games. And did you ever see those gloves they used? They were about the size of a guy's hand. They had no padding at all. How many diving catches you think they made? ...I'm not saying Cobb wasn't a great player, I just think you're better off when you don't compare eras, O.K.?"
Finally, the office is clear and Rose can leave. As he starts walking out, he notices Knicely's wife sitting glumly in the corner of the lounge and Brad in his wheelchair. Rose's eyes meet hers for an instant, then he turns away and sees a friendlier face.
"Smooooooooogie!" he says.
Ty Rose, answering to Dad's pet name for him, comes a-waddling.
The Porsche hums for home now, and inside we have open lines.
"Yes, I'm a first-time caller."
"Turn your radio down."
"Oh, O.K. Just a sec. O.K. Yes?"
"Yes. Go ahead."
"Yes, I'm a first-time caller, and I'd like to know why Pete didn't pinch-hit for that catcher, Bilardello, in the sixth, when it was 2-1 and we had guys on. I think he should have pinch-hit for that catcher."
Rose is unruffled. "I like to hear what the fans think," he says. "I like it when they say good things about my players. Sometimes, they don't know all the circumstances in a situation, but I still like to hear.
"For instance, I'm not going to pinch-hit for Bilardello there, because if I pinch-hit for Bilardello then I have to use Krenchicki and if I bring in Krenchicki, they're going to bring in that lefthander, and then I'd have to use Doggie [Perez], and then I'd have gone through two of my best pinch-hitters and it's only the sixth inning, and besides, I'm ahead and I need Bilardello for defense and besides, Soto is going good. You understand what I'm saying?"
Is the caller there?
At home, it's another cheeseburger midnight. This is also the hour when Rose can be reached by phone. As such, the Rose end of a lot of conversations is "Gmmphmph." Most people want tickets. Between bites and calls, he digests the Dodger game; Jim Davenport's Giants blow it in the ninth. As the Giants unravel, Rose finds himself pacing. "Jeez!" he screeches. "I'm more worried about this game than Davenport!"
It is not until after three, after all the Orioles and Blue Jays and White Sox and Red Sox have gone to bed, that Rose capitulates.
"Good night," he says.
But we know better....
FIVE A.M.—THE LONG WALK
Could Rose be happier? Wheaties still crunchy, White and Red Sox dancing on the dish, history knocking on the door. He is content. Some might find Rose extravagantly one-dimensional, but Rose does all right. He never pretended to attend Swarthmore, anyhow. He grew up on the wrong side of Cincinnati, never went to college, rarely reads a novel and zaps PBS as fast as it comes on. "And he has the most street sense of anybody I know," says his attorney, Reuven Katz. "He knows who he is."
Indeed, Rose will be a first-ballot inductee into the Hall of Fame, and possibly the first unanimous choice, because he followed his one simple motto: "Be yourself." And what Rose is, above all things, is his father's son.
"All I am," he says, "is a young American boy who knew what he could do and what he couldn't do and did it for a long, long period of time. I did the dos more often than I did the don'ts and I didn't mind the dedication.... I'm the next generation of my father with an opportunity to show what he could've done."
Forget cash or clout or Cobb or cars. What drives Pete is Harry. "I was in the barbershop, getting my hair cut," Rose says. "I remember getting the call, but I can't remember who was on the other end of the line. Whoever it was said, 'Your dad died.' And I said, 'No, you mean my mom.' My mom had just about everything wrong with her. Her heart was real bad. But the person said, 'No, your dad.' And I couldn't believe it. I don't know why, but I finished getting my haircut. It didn't hit me until I saw him in the funeral home. That's when it hit me, that he was gone."
At the end of every season, Rose drives to the cemetery and makes the walk to his father's grave.
"He took me once," Carol says. "He gets to talking about him and sometimes I see tears come up in his eyes. That's the only time he ever gets very emotional. I think he misses his father very much. He goes there every year just to say thanks."
The minute you're born, you start to die.
Pete will get his Big Knock, but he doesn't even need it. We appreciate Pete Rose because Pete Rose politely declined to grow up. Rose still plays a child's game and plays it as though any minute he'll get that dreaded call for supper.
What was it Satchel Paige said? "How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?" Rose knows his age. He's 13 and the summer never ends.