Pete Rose Was One of Baseball's Most Beloved Competitors

Harold FriendChief Writer IOctober 23, 2011

CINCINNATI - SEPTEMBER 11:  A fan holds up a sign during the ceremony celebrating the 25th anniversary of Pete Rose breaking the career hit record . Rose was honored before the start of the game between the Pittsburg Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on September 11, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Pete Rose won the 1973 National League batting title with a .338 average.  He had 230 hits, among which were 181 singles, 36 doubles, eight triples and five home runs. 

Pete Rose was a singles hitter who was proud of that fact. 

When Jack Lang of the Baseball Writers’ Association of American called Pete Rose to inform him that he was the National League’s Most Valuable Player, Pete let out an exultant cry of delight. 

“This rounds out my career.  The nice part of my getting the MVP is that it proves you don’t have to be a home run hitter to win.”

Pete Rose demonstrated that singles hitters could sometimes be more effective than home run hitters. 

The Mets’ Bud Harrelson, who had a well-viewed altercation with Pete at Shea Stadium during the 1973 playoffs, admired Rose.  

“Pete Rose is the kind of ballplayer all other ballplayers should copy," Harrelson told Jack Lang.  "There’s no other ballplayer I would rather be like than Pete.”  Bud was not being facetious.

Contrary to popular belief, Pete Rose was considered a great guy and was one of the most liked players in the majors. 

Fans saw one of the fiercest competitors this side of Billy Martin, but that was only one side of Pete Rose.  Pete Rose didn’t smoke, rarely drinks, was drug free and took good care of himself.   Of course, it was later discovered that he did like to gamble on occasion.

Willie Stargell was Pete’s primary competition for the MVP award in 1973.  Willie had hit 44 home runs, compared to Pete’s five.  Willie also led the league with 119 RBIs and a .646 slugging average, which dwarfed Pete’s 64 RBIs and .437 slugging average. 

Stargell was a little perturbed and expressed his displeasure that he had again finished second in the balloting.

“Awards are fine, but if it’s done on a political basis I don’t want any part of it.  I don’t know what goes into it.  I don’t know if it’s politics, if there’s certain guys that people like. I know Pete’s the kind of guy that people like, the way he plays.” 

Even Willie Stargell knew how well liked Pete Rose was.

The night before the 1970 All-Star game, Pete’s good friend, Ray Fosse, saw the sociable, friendly Pete Rose at dinner.  Fosse saw the competitive Pete Rose the next night when Pete barreled into Fosse to score the winning run for the National League. 

Fosse was injured badly and many believe that it greatly compromised Fosse’s promising career.  Pete did express his regrets to his friend, but Rose and Fosse were fierce competitors.

Whitey Ford gave Pete Rose the nickname “Charlie Hustle” after Pete ran to first after drawing a walk.  While Ford thought the name was funny, Rose did not. 

Pete was proud of being called “Charlie Hustle” because Pete was and remains one of the great hustlers in American society, which is why he will never be voted into the Hall of Fame.


How Red the Rose :Arthur Daley Man With Appela Steady Accumulation. (1973, November 22). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 57.  Retrieved May 26, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) database. (Document ID: 87595865).

By JOSEPH DURSO.  (1973, November 22). Rose Voted Most Valuable. New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 57.  Retrieved May 26, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) database. (Document ID: 87595864).


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