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25 Years Ago: Pete Rose Becomes Baseball’s Hit King

Posted on September 11, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Pete Rose became baseball's all-time hits leader on September 11, 1985.

From the time he entered the major leagues in 1963, it was obvious that Pete Rose was a different breed of baseball player. Nicknamed “Charlie Hustle” for his tendency to run to first base after receiving a walk, he played every inning with an urgency that allowed his performance to exceed his level of God given talent.

After entering the league as a second baseman, Rose moved around the field during his 16 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds playing more than 500 games at second base, third base, leftfield and rightfield.

However, what rarely changed was his place in the batting order. From the beginning, it was obvious that Rose was a hit machine and a run producer from the leadoff spot.

As a rookie, Rose was named the National League Rookie of the Year after hitting .273 with 170 hits and 101 runs scored. He went on to eclipse 200 hits and 100 runs scored 10 times while leading the league in hits seven times, runs four times and batting average on three occasions.

Though not a home run hitter (Rose hit only 160 homers in 24 seasons), Rose earned 12 All-Star berths with the Reds and was named the National League MVP in 1973. He also helped the Reds to four National league pennants and two World Series titles.

Should Pete Rose Be Allowed Entry Into the Baseball Hall of Fame?

  • Yes (74%, 17 Votes)
  • No (26%, 6 Votes)

Total Voters: 23

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After leaving the Reds for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1979, Rose continued to set the table for power hitters. He hit .331 in 1979 and helped the Phillies to a World Series title in 1980 and an NL pennant in 1983.

Pete Rose began his major league career as a second baseman for the Reds in 1963.

After beginning the 1984 season with the Montreal Expos, he returned to Cincinnati as the player-manager during the middle of that season. The next season, at the age of 44, Rose made his 17th and final All-Star appearance.

Over the final years of his career, Rose became obsessed with passing the all-time hit record of 4,191 set by Ty Cobb.

He passed the 4,000-hit mark in 1984 and by September of 1985 was finally within reach of the all-time mark.

On September 11, 1985, Rose lined an Eric Show pitch into left-center field to eclipse the record and move atop the record books.

He played one more season before moving exclusively into his role as manager and finished with 4,256 career hits, 2165 runs scored and a .303 career batting average.

Given his longevity and consistency, it is unlikely that Rose’s mark will ever be topped. Since his retirement, 11 players have passed the 3,000-hit mark with Paul Molitor finishing with the most hits of that group with 3,319.

With nearly 3,500 total hits, it is possible that Ichiro Suzuki may eclipse Rose’s all-time mark, but since 1,278 of those hits came while playing professional baseball in Japan there is no way he will come close to Rose’s major league record.

Of course, we all know that the Pete Rose story didn’t end with the all-time hits leader enjoying his happy Cooperstown moment and taking his rightful place alongside the other baseball legends in the Hall of Fame.

Since his exile from baseball, Rose has spent much of his time selling books and memorabilia.

In 1989 Rose became embroiled in a nasty gambling investigation and eventually accepted a lifetime ban from baseball. He was allowed to apply for reinstatement after one year and many originally expected his exile to be short-lived. However, the death of Commissioner Bart Giamatti just a week after Rose received the ban seemed to seal his fate and 21 years later he remains banned from the Hall of Fame and serving in any official capacity in baseball.

A year later, he was found guilty of tax evasion and spent five months in prison.

It was not until 2004, in his autobiography, that Rose admitted to betting on baseball. There have been reportedly been several attempts to gain his reinstatement, but to date they have not been successful.

Though not welcome in an official capacity across baseball, Rose has been occasionally allowed to participate in baseball related activities, including the announcement of baseball’s All-Century team in 1999.

After previously not being allowed to participate in such activities in Cincinnati as the closing of Riverfront Stadium and the 25th Anniversary of the Big Red Machine, Rose is being allowed to participate in a special ceremony in Cincinnati on Saturday to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his milestone achievement.

It seems unlikely that Rose will ever take his rightful place in Baseball’s Hall of Fame, but it is nice that baseball is at least giving Cincinnati a chance to recognize his on-the-field accomplishments.

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