Thursday, March 30th, 2017
Rose ready to talk in St. Henry
By Robb Hemmelgarn
Plenty of professional and former professional athletes have passed through St. Henry over the years.
Whether they were hometown heroes like Wally Post, Jim Lachey, Bob Hoying or Jeff Hartings, or the numerous others who had hung out during the now-defunct Stag Night fundraiser each spring, none were bigger than the former pro who will soon kick up his heels in St. Henry. In a few weeks, the town welcomes Major League Baseball's Hit King, Pete Rose.
Tabbed as a benefit to raise funds for local little league baseball organizations, Rose's appearance will be at Romer's Catering on May 6 for an evening of baseball story-swapping, question-and-answer session, and a meet-and-greet opportunity with local fans.
"This is an event that we have done in a few different places now and it always seems to be something which everyone who attends really enjoys," said Rose during a telephone interview from his current home in Las Vegas. "I have been through St. Henry a couple of times in my life, but this is the first time I will have an opportunity to stick around for a few hours so I am really looking forward to it."
When asked about any background that he knew of concerning the small Mercer County village, Rose was quick to give a shout out to St. Henry's first favorite son.
"Wally Post was a baseball player I idolized when I was a kid," said Rose, referring to the St. Henry native who patrolled the outfield for the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies from 1952 through 1963. "He had a great arm in the outfield and a great bat at the plate. I really looked up to him and even had an opportunity to play with him for one season. My rookie year in 1963 was Wally's last with Cincinnati. He was a great credit to the Reds' organization."
When asked about other former Reds to whom he looked up during his first few years in the organization, he pointed to former greats Frank Robinson and Vada Pinson. "When I came up in 1963, it was a really interesting time to be a Red. They won the (National League) pennant in 1961 and had really high expectations to do well in 1962 and 1963," Rose said. "They had an infielder named Don Blasingame, whom everyone in the club was very high on, but manager Fred Hutchinson had the idea after spring training that this young kid Pete Rose was going to start. The club was very cliquey, so I started to hang out with Frank and Vada, who were African-American. Here's a story not many people know: I actually got called into the office once for hanging out with the African-American players, but at that time, they were really the only ones who fully accepted me as a rookie stepping in and possibly taking a veteran's position."
Rose remained an icon in the Cincinnati lineup from 1963-1978, where he was a member of the Big Red Machine teams which won the World Series in 1975 and 1976. Rose was the National League's Most Valuable Player in 1973, was named to the National League All-Star team 12 times during this stint with the Reds and won batting titles in 1968, 1969 and 1973.
In 1979, Rose left Cincinnati and signed with Philadelphia as a free agent, winning a World Series title with the Phillies in 1980. After helping the Phillies to another World Series in 1983, Rose signed with the Montreal Expos for the start of the 1984 season.
Late in the 1984 season, Rose received a call that he was headed back home to Cincinnati to not only play for the Reds but also manage the team.
"We were heading to San Francisco to play the Giants and I got the call that I needed to get on a plane to Cincinnati and was asked if I would consider being a player/manager for the Reds. I said, 'Sure!' " said Rose, who managed the Reds to second-place finishes in the National League West in his four full seasons as skipper. "The only experience I ever had as a manager was playing for Sparky Anderson and learning so much by being near him in the dugout all of those years. I ended up being with some remarkable players, many of who picked up their first major league hits when I was the manager: guys like Barry Larkin, Chris Sabo, Paul O'Neil, Kal Daniels. Many of them stuck around Cincinnati a few years and helped bring the World championship back to the organization in 1990."
Rose spends the majority of his time in Las Vegas but is also slated to work for Fox Sports covering baseball again this season.
"I don't do a whole lot of traveling anymore, other than to do small gigs like the one we are planning in St. Henry," Rose said. "I will be in Indianapolis for a show on May 5 and then on to St. Henry on May 6. Those who get tickets will be in for a great night. JT Stewart is the host and we will show old Reds highlights on film and he will interview me. After that, we will open it up for questions from the audience. It is a great night to talk baseball and hear a lot of fun stories from my playing and managing days. I'm really looking forward to the event and I really feel the fans will love it as well."