I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1963. It was the same year Pete Rose was a rookie second baseman for the Cincinnati Reds. Even though I moved twice in the seventies, I remained a Pete Rose and Reds fan. We give thieves, drug addicts, and other sinners second chances, so I steadfastly believe that my hero belongs in The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. There are lessons that I have learned from Pete Rose's approach to playing baseball that followed me my whole life and I have applied them to work and other aspects of my life.
Pete Rose was the ultimate teammate. His unselfish style has made him a winner. In his career, he won 1972 times. That is way more wins than anyone in any sports. Pete is the only player in Major League Baseball history to play more than 500 games at five different positions. He played 939 games at first base, 628 games at second base, 634 games at third base, 671 games in left field, and 595 games in right field.
Whatever role his team asked him to transfer to, Pete accepted with willingness and determination. He learned his new position and worked hard until he was one of the best at that position. In 1975, he made the tough transition from left field to third base so that George Foster could play everyday in left field. Foster became a force in the Reds lineup. With him playing regularly the Reds won World Championships in 1975 and 1976. Foster hit 52 home runs in 1977. This was made possible by Rose unselfishly moving into the infield.
Pete Rose always saw things with a positive outlook. Being positive all the time is one of the hardest things for me to do. I catch myself being negative a lot and have to force myself to follow Pete's example. He always saw things like everything was going to fall in line and he was going to win. In fact, he hates the way negativity has taken over the game and our lives. Pete said, "A player can hit two home runs and a double in a game and get a ticket for running a red light on the way home. The paper headlines the next day will read, "Player runs red light." Things are just negative today."
Former Red Dave Collins said this about Rose, "After waiting three months, I remembered starting that first game as a Red. During batting practice I was in Rose's group. "He said, 'Oh, you’re playing tonight.' I said, 'Yeah, I’m going to get four hits tonight.' He said, 'What if you get up five times?' 'Hmm, that (answer) didn’t work,'" Collins thought. "The point he made to me was a tremendous point … Don’t settle for a good night when maybe you could have a great night or a perfect night. Here’s a guy who didn’t run well, didn’t throw well, didn’t have a good swing," but Rose had intangibles like a great attitude.
Known as Charlie Hustle, "everything he did was full speed. How can you be around a guy every single night and he never says a negative thing about himself or anybody else? …. I tried to apply it to my own life. Here’s a guy who did something most people said he would never do … make it to the Major Leagues." The all-time MLB leader in hits "did it with his intangibles. That was the biggest hurdle – I had to believe in myself."
Pete Rose has a level of intensity that made him the best. It is a drive that helps inspire my work ethic. In 1985, the LA Times said this about Pete Rose in the article "Pete Rose, Just Average in Natural Ability, Makes It on Drive, Hard Work and Hustle".
"A scrappy little ballplayer named Pete Rose was nothing special in high school.
"Pete was still pretty small, a 5-foot 8-inch, 150-pound football player. That's why not too many baseball scouts were interested in him," says Eddie Brinkman, one of Rose's childhood chums from the Cincinnati public school system.
"But Pete just decided he was going to make himself into a great player and did."
His dad, Harry, had a lot to do with it, too, teaching the youngster the meaning of the word drive.
Today, Rose's love for baseball has kept him sliding head first through 23 major league seasons, including nearly 2,000 winning games, more than any other major leaguer in history.
And his intensity as a hitter has kept him churning toward Ty Cobb's magical all-time hit mark of 4,191.
"Pete is a self-made person," said Paul Nohr, his high school baseball coach. "What he's done has been through hard work, hard practice and hustle.
"Pete will tell you this: he was an average ballplayer," said Nohr, who coached 11 eventual major leaguers, including Rose, at Western Hills High School. "He was not exceptional.
"I don't think there's any question that his desire is what put him ahead. And one of the big influences on Pete was his dad."
"Charlie Hustle" calls his father, who died of a heart attack in 1970, the "King of Hustle." A banker, Harry Rose played semipro football in Cincinnati during his '40s with the same determination and zest that burn in his son today.
"One day my father broke his hip on a kickoff and then tried to crawl down the field and make a tackle," Rose wrote in his book on hitting. "That's dedication. Another night I saw him coming off a field with a knot in his arm as big as a softball. He took a handkerchief, put three pieces of ice in it, tied it to his arm, went back in and made an interception on the next play.
"Dedication was not something I read about. I lived with it."
I work seventy and eighty hours a week. Whatever I have to do, I do. I believe I have the work ethic I learned from following Pete Rose to thank for this.
Pete Rose was unstoppable because he had the attitude that he was unstoppable. He was never the fastest, strongest, or smartest... but he believed he was. In my best moments in sports, I was able to tap into this attitude. I had the only two hits for my team in a game in Little League by just willing myself too. I climbed into the batter box in my best imitation Pete Rose stance and kept telling myself over and over, "It can be done and I'm going to do it." I have done the things I am most proudest of in my life by just telling myself that I was going to do it.
In the 2016 Cincinnati Enquirer article "Glory Days: Pete Rose's competitive drive was always there", Mark Schmetzer wrote, "““The coaches on both sides were excellent coaches,” said Tom Weber, who played for Elder and on the powerhouse Bentley Post American Legion baseball teams. “What I recall the most was Western Hills was a good team, but not a great team. We beat them every year, and the guy we concentrated on more – the guy we felt like we had to keep off the bases – was Eddie Brinkman. Pete was always hustling, always running, but he wasn’t a standout by any means. I do remember him as having the reputation – at least to us guys at Elder – as being a better football player. That was his sport. He would run through a wall. That was his overall attitude.”
Pete's teammate on The Big Red Machine, Joe Morgan, once said this about him, ""Pete's what every player ought to be. In Pete's mind, every game is a World Series game. I wish everyone had Pete's attitude toward the game. And it's a thrill just to be on the same field with him."
There are times at work when I think I just want to go home. Then, I think of what I learned from Pete Rose. His attitude inspired me. He would run out ground balls and walks. Every at bat was important in Pete's mind. His attitude was his hustle. He hustled in everything he did because that was the attitude he faced life with.
Even in games that did not count, like The 1970 All-Star game...Pete never gave up. He slammed his buddy Ray Fosse, who he just had dinner with the night before, in a fiery collision at home plate. Pete played to win...no matter how big or small the game was.
Pete Rose taught me to believe in my self, to never give up, and to believe in teamwork. He was baseball's all-time hit leader with 4,256. More than that, he taught a whole generation of kids to love the game of baseball and that you did not have to be the most talenterd to win. Pete Rose was not born great...he made himself great through hard work and sheer attitude. I have learned valuable life lessons from following his career. I hope Pete Rose gets in the Hall of Fame in his lifetime...and also in mine. The little skinny kid in me that did not believe in himself wants to see Pete Rose inducted in The Hall of Fame.