History. Pete Rose is part of it.
On April 14, 1941, Harry and LaVerne Rose had a son. Forty-four years 4 months 28 days later, that son, Peter Edward Rose, is the most prolific hitter in the history of baseball. For Pete Rose, it's the most important kind of history.
Last night, he broke Ty Cobb's 57-year-old record for career hits, 4,191, by getting a single for the Cincinnati Reds in the first inning of a 2-0 win over San Diego at Riverfront Stadium. Rose also tripled and walked.
Rose's career began shortly after he graduated (although not without going through 10th grade twice) from Western Hills High School in Cincinnati. The father, who had taken Pete to Crosley Field so many times to watch the Reds and had given his son his own sense of desire and drive, put him on a plane soon after he was awarded his diploma and signed his contract. The contract reportedly was for a whopping $7,000, with a $5,000 bonus if Rose made the big leagues for 30 days.
The bonus clause is somewhat ironic given that one of the 23 National and major league records that Rose holds is for most games played in a career, 3,475. The records that Rose claims, and never has been a shrinking violet about, include most career at bats, 13,767 through Tuesday's game. That one statistic often is the focus of debate when fans argue whether or not Rose is a better hitter than was Cobb, who batted 11,429 times.
Rose began his pro career in 1960 with the Geneva of the New York-Penn League. According to the Reds, he signed on June 18 and made his debut June 25, going two for five. He went on to hit .277 in 85 games. He was the second baseman on that team, pushing Tony Perez, who now platoons with Rose at first base, to third.
In 1961, the year that Cobb died of cancer at the age of 74, Rose hit .331 for the Class D Tampa Tarpons, leading the Florida State League with 160 hits.
Macon, Ga., was home for the summer of 1962. Rose batted .330 and scored a career-high 136 runs in 139 Class A Sally League games.
When Rose arrived in Tampa for spring training in 1963, he wasn't on Cincinnati's 40-man roster, and may have annoyed some of the veterans who didn't take kindly to this kid who ran to first on a walk. Before he made the team, he reportedly received the nickname "Charlie Hustle" from Mickey Mantle.
Rose walked -- maybe ran is a better word -- in his first at bat in the majors. Bob Friend of the Pittsburgh Pirates may someday find his name in the sports version of Trivial Pursuit as the pitcher who gave up Rose's first big league hit in the fourth game of the season, on April 13. Rose hit .273 that year while playing in 157 games at second and in the outfield, and was named National League rookie of the year by The Sporting News, which would later in his career name him player of the decade.
He would play 16 years with the Reds, during which time he spent only 22 days on the disabled list, before playing out his option and signing with the Philadelphia Phillies in December 1978. He helped the Phillies get to two World Series. But in 1983, he hit only .245, and was released after the season. The Montreal Expos signed him Jan. 20, 1984, hoping his experience would help a team that was a chronic underachiever win a pennant.
But he didn't spend much time in Montreal. It was time to go home. Vern Rapp was struggling as manager of the Reds. By Aug. 16, Rapp was unemployed, replaced by the prodigal son.
Rose had come home. Some wondered if the Reds were making the move more for the increased attendance that Rose's chase of Cobb would bring than for reasons of improving the team. But Rose has proved those skeptics wrong. The Reds are winning, and, now, he has his record.