Some Lesser-Known Facts About Baseball Great Pete Rose
It comes as no surprise that the name Pete Rose has become synonymous with the term ‘scandal.’ In 2004, Rose admitted to betting on baseball games and other sports while both playing for and managing the Cincinnati Reds. Additionally, he admitted to betting on Reds games, but has insisted that he never bet against the team. His betting exploits resulted in his being permanently banned from the Baseball Hall of Fame.
But there’s more to Rose’s story than just the bad and the ugly – there’s also some good mixed in-between. Here are some lesser-known facts that serve to paint a picture of an individual who surely made his share of mistakes, but who also proved himself to be a dedicated, hard-working athlete.
First: It Begins In Cincinnati
Rose was born on April 14, in Cincinnati, Ohio, and grew up in Anderson Ferry, a working-class neighborhood. During his childhood, stickball games were often played on the streets surrounding his home, and a homemade baseball field nearby offered plenty of opportunity for kids to test their hitting and fielding skills. From the earliest days of his childhood, Rose seemed destined to play baseball, a sporting endeavor which his father took great pains to encourage and protect: He wouldn’t allow Rose to go to the local movie theater as he feared that viewing films would impede his son’s ability to hit a baseball.
Early on, Rose garnered a reputation as a ballplayer who could hit anything, and over the years his father helped him hone his skills as a switch-hitter. Although he displayed a natural tendency to hit on the left, when he was just nine years old his father insisted he get a number of hits on the right side before he could hit on the left. The training ultimately paid off, leading Rose to become one of the greatest all-time switch-hitters in the history of major league baseball.
While he was honing his baseball skills, Rose also assumed the position of running back on his high school football team. Because of his intense involvement with football, his grades slipped and he was held back a year in high school. By his senior year he was no longer eligible to play baseball since the school had a four-year limit. At that point, Rose joined a Class AA team in the Dayton Amateur League, playing everything from second base to shortstop to catcher; he also ended up with a .626 batting average.
Second: Playing For His Hometown Team
At the age of 19, Rose went on to sign with the Reds after he graduated from high school; however, he wasn’t drafted for the team as the MLB didn’t institute an amateur draft until 1965. Fortunately for Rose, his uncle, Buddy Bloebaum, was a “bird scout” for the Reds and convinced them to give the baseball novice a chance in 1960.
He spent his first three seasons with the Reds in the minors, playing for the Tampa Tarpons, the Macon Peaches, and the Geneva Redlegs. Rose was then invited to spring training in 1963, where he earned a spot on the Reds team. During this time, he came to be known as ‘Charlie Hustle,’ a nickname given to him by Whitey Ford. Although the nickname was meant to be derisive, its exact origins or what it was referring to remain unclear to this day.
Rose made his MLB debut on April 8, 1963 against the Pirates, and went 0-for-11. He eventually finished the season hitting .273 and was honored for his efforts by being named rookie of the year. But the second season of major league play saw Rose hit a slump, and he was eventually benched as the season wound down.
During the off season, Rose moved to Caracas, Venezuela where he played with the Caracas Lions in the Venezuelan Winter League. After diligently working on his hitting, he returned to major league play the next season and experienced a breakout year that culminated in .312 batting average.
A superb hitter, Rose was plagued by two things throughout his professional baseball career: He never performed well against pitcher Sandy Koufax during the four years he faced him, and, for the most part, he was unable to successfully steal bases.
Third: Answering The Call Of Uncle Sam
Rose enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves during his second year with the Reds and served at Fort Thomas, Kentucky. He served as the company cook and also trained the fort’s baseball team along with John Bench. During early morning shifts, Rose would complete his cooking duties and then play in the Reds home games that took place later in the day.
The Home Stretch
Rose’s hitting stats are the stuff of legends, to be sure. But he’s also the only player to play 500 games in five different positions: first, second, third, right field, and left field. What’s more, he played 73 games in centerfield.
There was a time when it appeared that Rose’s acting career might take off, although he was not nearly as successful in that arena as he was in baseball. He accumulated several acting credits to his name, and was almost cast in the movie Airplane!, but the role ultimately went to Kareem Abdul-Jamar.