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4,192: Rose takes throne as Hit King

By BRUCE LOWITT

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 6, 1999


He stepped into the batter's box in the bottom of the first inning and assumed his trademark crouch that told you it could only be Pete Rose.

Anyone in Riverfront Stadium on Sept. 11, 1985, who didn't know only had to listen to most of the 47,237 fans chanting Pete! Pete! louder and louder.

Rose, his fans, and probably everyone else who wasn't an ardent Ty Cobb fan, had been waiting for this moment. The 44-year-old player-manager for the Cincinnati Reds stared at Eric Show. The San Diego right-hander was almost certainly the loneliest man in the ballpark.

Show threw. Ball one. Some in the crowd booed.

Rose fouled off the next pitch. Some fans groaned. Then ball two, and the booing got more intense.

Then Show threw a slider that didn't slide enough and, at 8:01 p.m., Rose swung and the ball sailed into left-centerfield for a single.

It was his 4,192nd hit, in his 23rd major-league season, and it pushed him one past Cobb, who held the record since he retired in 1928.

The night sky exploded in colors from fireworks set off the moment the ball fell cleanly to the turf. The stadium was awash in confetti, the sound deafening.

Rose barely had time to touch first before coach Tommy Helms, one of his closest friends, hugged him. They were engulfed by most of the rest of the Reds who spilled from the dugout and bullpen. Among them was Petey, Rose's 15-year-old son, wearing a Reds uniform with his father's No. 14.

As he hugged his son, Rose burst into tears.

"The only other time I remember crying was when my father died," Rose said later. "I looked up and I saw him up there, and right behind him I saw Ty Cobb."

How obsessed was Rose with Cobb's record? He named another son Tyler. (Cobb's first name was Tyrus.)

Marge Schott, then owner of the team, burst onto the field, and hugged and kissed Rose. A red Corvette, Chevrolet's gift to the Reds' newest record-holder, was driven in from the outfield. It bore the Ohio license plate PR 4192.

The color, he was told, was "Rose red." Rose suggested a better description might be "Cincinnati Reds red."

It took another five minutes before the game resumed. Show spent much of the time seated on the pitching rubber, waiting for the celebration to end, the rest of it tossing a ball back and forth with catcher Bruce Bochy.

After the game, during a brief home-plate ceremony, Rose spoke with President Reagan, the telephone conversation echoing through the stadium's public-address system. "Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to call," Rose said. "You missed a good ballgame tonight."

The Reds won 2-0. Rose walked in the third inning and got his 4,193rd hit, a triple, in the seventh. He scored both runs.

Rose retired in 1986 with 4,256 hits, a share of the National League hitting streak record of 44 games and a future that would be clouded by allegations of betting on baseball.

In 1989 he was banished from baseball and remains ineligible for induction into the Hall of Fame.

-- Information from the New York Times was used in this report.

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