September 11th, 1985
Sixteen years before this date became a rallying cry it was fixed in my brain as the day that Pete Rose passed Ty Cobb for the most hits all time. On September 8th he tied Cobb at Wrigley field by going 2 for 5 on a day that he wasn’t even supposed to play. Late in his career Pete only batted left handed, and never faced left handed pitchers. On September 8th Cubs starter Steve Trout was supposed to take the hill. The night before his start he fell off his bicycle, and had to miss the start. That meant that Pete was in the lineup just two hits short of tying the record. I remember seeing this game on TV at my old house in town. Reggie Patterson started the game in place of Trout. Pete wasted no time by getting a hit in the first inning. He also picked up a hit in the 5th that tied Cobb for the most hits all time. Pete batted twice more in the game, and came up empty. The game was delayed for over two hours in the 8th, and finally suspended in after the ninth inning. It was declared an official game despite ending as a 5-5 tie. Pete did not play the next night in Cincinnati, and went 0-4 against Lamarr Hoyt on the 10th to set up the big night.
Just like last week’s post this one was inspired by a book, actually two books. Last summer I re-read the book written by Pete called “Countdown to Cobb” where he details the 1985 season leading up to the big hit in September. Being the 25th anniversary of the hit I thought it would be cool to read the book again. The main reason I wrote this so quick though is the fact that I just read the book “Pete Rose: My Story.” I finished the book the day before Pete turned 70. Since I already had two post promised I had to wait a couple of weeks for this one. I am currently reading a book about Mickey Mantle so expect a Yankee game with him in it to pop up soon.
This was yet another game I watched for the $6.95 a year I paid to MLB.com. The Baseball’s Best series is a great way to watch some classic baseball games. The broadcast starts off with the announcers talking about the game. One of them was Joe Morgan who had to be very early in his broadcasting career. He was the same cocky guy that I was used to hearing on Sunday Night Baseball. He was a little rough, but you could see the guy that would broadcast games for ESPN for years. It was funny to listen to him complain for several innings that the official scorer gave Kevin McReynolds a hit 2nd inning. As the game wore on, and the Padres still had no other hits it bothered him more and more. It wasn’t until the 5th when Bruce Bochy singled that Morgan let it go. It was fun to listen to Joe talk about himself in the third person when bragging about his golf outing and other ventures he was involved in. He really thought he was something else. I guess being a Hall of Fame ballplayer would do that to you.
One positive in watching the broadcast was seeing the Steve Garvey interview before the game. Today’s young players should watch him to see how to act while being interviewed. He may have created several of the cliches that they use today. The interview was also great because he talked about being present at two major career records being set. Earlier in this feature I looked at Hank Aaron passing Babe Ruth for the most home runs all time. Steve was playing first base for the Dodgers that day. Eleven years later Steve was again playing first base when the all time hit record was broken. In 1985 my father bought me a Steve Garvey Louisville Slugger model bat. I used it for years, and in 2004 had Steve sign it while he was at the Bob Feller Museum. Steve was still the ‘Senator’ as he made every fan feel special. After meeting 200 of them it has to be hard to do, but he made everyone feel like they were the first.
After a 1-2-3 first it was time for the Reds to come up. Pete was batting second so history could come quickly. Eddie Milner was leading off, and fouled out to third. Before the game Pete tried a lighter bat in batting practice, and it was with that bat that he stepped up to the plate. Pete smacked a single n a 2-1 count to left to set the record. The time was 8:01. The game was stopped as owner Marge Schott came onto the field to give Pete a Corvette. After the presentation Pete just stood on first by himself as the crowd showed their appreciation. It seemed to take forever, and to Pete by himself it had to seem like he was on a huge stage. The Reds first base coach was Tommy Helms who Pete played with in the minors. After being overwhelmed by emotion Pete walked over to Tommy and embraced him. After getting composed again his son Pete Jr. came out. Pete said that he was thinking of his father when he was chocked up, and that he thought that his father was with him as he embraced his son.
The game was stopped for a while as the fans kept cheering Pete. Padres pitcher Eric Show just sat down on the mound. It was a weird sight seeing him on the mound as Pete was standing on first. While the celebration was on Joe Morgan said that he was raising a Bud to Pete. He then said “This Buds for you” while the camera was still on the field. The crew made a point to then show a shot of the booth in order to see that indeed both announcers had beers in their hands. That is something that I don’t think that they would put on the air 26 years later.
The Reds won the game 2-0, and Pete had a hand in it. In the third inning he walked, and as he always did he ran to first. He advanced to third on Dave Parker’s single, and then scored on Nick Esasky’s fielder’s choice. In the seventh he tripled into the left field corner, and once again scored when Esasky hit a sacrifice fly to center. Pete had four plate appearances in the game, and reached base three times. He scored the only two runs of the game, and you could see the hustle that made Pete famous. He was thinking three out of the box on his triple, and because of that he made it easily. That triple was hit 4,193, and another step away from Cobb.
Steve Garvey who started off the telecast with an interview made the final out when he hit a grounder to Pete at first. Pete then flipped it to Ted Power for the final out. The game was over, and Pete was then free to celebrate the victory and the record with the fans and his teammates.
I won’t mention the fact that research has indicated that one of Ty Cobb’s hit was counted twice for his hit total so the record was actually broke in Chicago. That is just one more thing that fans will have to debate about Pete Rose in the future. Maybe I will look at that game at Wrigley in the future, and then I can say that the record was actually broken there.
Here are the scorecards for the game:
Sixteen years after Pete got the hit off of Eric Show to break the record this date would forever change in my mind. Instead of being a great date in history it became infamous. I live hundreds of miles away from New York, but I still felt terrible that morning as I watched the events unfold in front of me. I could never even begin to imagine what the people involved went through. Baseball changed on September 11th, 1985. The world changed on September 11th, 2001.