Philadelphia Daily News - February 7, 1980
Rose’s Life Is an Open Book
On The Road By Stan Hochman
First of two parts
The sportswriter was wearing one of those flat camel's hair caps. The kind Babe Ruth wore. And Ben Hogan. With the little button on top and the small visor. Only this cap was as big and floppy as an unbaked pizza.
It was supposed to be a press conference in the Versailles Room (lots of filigreed mirrors) of Gus Genetti's Inn in Wilkes-Barre. Drunks were yakking at the bar and kids were yanking on sleeves, and the sportswriter. the one with the floppy cap, asked Rose a question.
Pete did this doubletake and he stared at the guy and he said. "What size hat is that, anyway?"
And then he paused, and he said. "Putting a hat like that on you is like putting earrings on a hog."
The next day Rose explained the cruel needling.
"Ahhhhh." he said, "the hat was OK. But why'd he have to have it on indoors?"
PETE ROSE SETTING himself up as an arbiter of good manners, deciding what should and should not go on in motel rooms... it had to be the second funniest thing that happened on the first day of the Phillies Press Caravan.
The funniest thing? Well, it happened sometime before dawn Tuesday. Paul Owens, the general manager, had taken pitcher Randy Lerch on a scenic tour of the Wyoming Valley.
"We're in this bar." Lerch said. "And a fight breaks out. And The Pope' stops it by singing, 'Oh, Canada!' It was un-bleeping incredible."
"You gotta think fast," Owens explained the morning after, reaching up to tap his forehead and poking his finger in his ear. "The way people feel about Canada right now. I thought it would be more effective than The Star-Spangled Banner."
And how do you think the people of Mexico City feel about Pete Rose these days? He stiffed them last week, pulled a no-show at their big banquet, where he was supposed to give an award to their amateur athlete of the year.
"I didn’t know I was supposed to present an award." Rose said, beginning an intricate alibi. "I thought I was one of four or five speakers.
"During the week I talked to my agent and he was getting bad vibes. They moved the date, and I couldn't get back from there, to Detroit, which was one appearance I couldn't miss, for an old friend.
"AND, BESIDES, IT was nowhere near the $5.000 somebody said it was."
He blew the Child Guidance Clinic bowling ("Nobody told me til two days before") and the Hot Stove dinner ("Bill Giles said he thought he put it on a memo, but he didn’t"). but he made the rest of them, including the freebies.
"I don’t worry about what people think." Rose said, during a lull in the caravan. "Some people are always gonna think the worst.
"Let me tell you about this guy. I did his banquet for free in Ohio last month. He sees my agent, and he says he's mad at me
"My agent says, how come, was he late?
"No. the guy says, he was 15 minutes early. I was. and I stayed afterwards, signing autographs.
"Did he cuss, my agent asks him. No. the guy says, he made a good speech.
"So he came early and he stayed late and you got him for nothing and he didn’t cuss... so how come you're mad at him?
''Well, the guy says, he didn’t look the kids in the eye when he was signing autographs. Some reporter was interviewing me. see, while I was signing 400 autographs.
"So. that's why the guy is hissed off. because I didn’t look 100 kids in the eye."
So. he doesn’t worry about what people think. Which puts him right there with Muhammad Ali. the most charismatic athlete of the 70’s.
ALI USED TO say. "I don’t have to be what you want me to be." Nobody told Jimmy Carter All used to say that, but that's another story.
Rose says, "My father told me. You only live once, but if you do it right once is enough."
Doing it right sounds like wine, women and song. Rose detests wine, dislikes song. Two out of three ain’t bad.
"I'm not a hypocrite." he said defiantly. "What I do. I do in the open."
Which had to distress a lot of the Phillies' wives, including his own. which is why his marriage is on the shoals.
"Karolyn was a good wife, a terrific mother, a fine lover." he said. "What happened wasn’t her fault, it was my fault But I never worry about what the wives think.
"Ill tell you one thing. If I did 25 percent of the things I'm given credit for. I'd be a helluva man.
"I'll give you a statistic Last season I did not go out one time in Philadelphia. Not to a bar. not to a disco. I've been in elan three times, once for breakfast twice for lunch."
Who's counting? Not Dallas Green, the manager.
"The bottom line." Green said, "is that last year he beat two of the toughest raps you can face, a paternity suit and a divorce action, and he handled his profession.
THAT HAS TO impress guys. We all get into our own scrapes, whether they're money, financial, husband-wife things, sickness. How we handle 'em is each guy's individual thing.
"But how Pete is able to handle 'em is amazing.
"When Pete first came here, there was a tendency by some of the players, some of the pitchers, to look down their noses at him.
"As they watched the man play, they had to come away with respect for him.
"When look over and hit him leadoff. you could see him setting his mind on getting 200 hits. And damn if he didn't do it.
"And that has to tingle you."
Rose went 53-for-125 that last month. That's.424. Wound up with 208 hits, a J3I average. You'd have to be half-dead not to tingle at the way Rose played in September.
That's why Rose doesn’t want the Willie Stargell role on this ballclub. Not because he's got enough people calling him "Pops" already.
"I can't do that kind of thing, talk to guys, worry about guys, and still concentrate on playing the game." he said.
"My philosophy is. all I can do is lead by example. Anybody can sit and tell you the right way to play the game But the best way is to just watch me.
"If the guys don’t see how you can be successful by hustling, playing hard, hey...
"IF A MAN ISNT smart enough to see the potential of what he can make... If he doesn't feel an obligation to bust his ass, he ain't got no pride.
"And if he ain’t got no pride, it don’t matter who it is. he won’t follow you.
"My own personal opinion on what hurt the Phillies is one word, and it's what we're talking about. Discipline.
"Ruly Carpenter is such a nice guy. And he handles these guys in such a nice way. But where's the discipline?
"Grooming, the way guys dress on the road, the way they act on an airplane.
"Maybe it's because I was so used to Cincinnati. That's one thing I really appreciated, the discipline in Cincinnati. And because of that discipline, other problems weren't created.
"We didn’t have jealousies. Look. Sparky (Anderson) had more rules than the Marine Corps. I didn’t agree with all of 'em.
"Short hair. What if I had shaved my head and shown up at the ballpark? They wouldnt have liked that, would they? What's wrong with someone wearing a mustache?
"The little rules add up to big rules. I don’t think you win a game because you're on time for the bus. or because you wear a jacket in the hotel.
"But if you become disciplined to those things, you become disciplined to bunting the guy over when you're asked to sacrifice.
"Sparky had one set of rules. But you need to know the personnel. How to get those rules across. Some guys you build up, some you tear down.
"YOU'D SAY something negative to a guy like Clay Carroll, and you'd lose him for a month. That's what makes a manager's job so tough.
"Sparky was lucky. He had a black superstar, a white superstar, a Latin superstar. That makes the job easier.
"But some guys, no matter who talks to 'em... the Good Lord himself could come down and talk to 'em and they won't run a ball out."
Rose has neither the time nor the temperament to apply mouth-to-ear resuscitation to those with fain’t hearts, to guys who think tingle is a new mouthwash.
"Everything I've got" Rose said, "I've got through hard work. And that's why I appreciate it.
"And that's why people like me."
He does not mix with the wine-drinkers or the song-singers. But none of that really matters, if they shared some portion of Rose's swaggering pursuit of excellence.
And for all the slapstick comedy of the first two days of the press caravan, there was one glint of significant change. Rose, in his own earthy, awkward way, was showing some public awareness of the agonies of two teammates.
"Come out to the ballpark," he challenged the people in Trenton and Wilkes-Barre and Allentown and Hazelton. "But don’t boo Greg Luzinski or Mike Schmidt. Boo me.
"Nobody expects a standing ovation when they strike out with a man on third and less than two out But some guys can handle the boos. Boo me, I can handle it."
LARRY BOWA SAT there, at the head table, shaking his head in wonder.
"Intimidate, that's what he does." Bowa said later. "He's going from first to third and he's two steps past second and the outfielder has the ball.
"And he goes anyway. And somehow he's safe.
"Garry (Maddox) or me, we try that and, pow, the guy makes a perfect throw and we're dead, out by a mile.
"And now, he's intimidating the fans. Boo. him, he tells 'em. Can you imagine anyone else saying that? Can you just see Schmitty telling the fans to boo him?
"They'd bury him. But Pete don’t care."
Pete don’t care. He don’t care what the writers write. He don’t care what the gossips gossip. He don’t care if the stars grumble because he gobbled up all the endorsement loot in Japan by going over there a week early.
He don’t care if people mutter about the potato chips he eats or the way he spends his winter getting on and off airplanes for appearances in Chicago (this week) and Vancouver (next week). Or how he looks in a full-length fur coat (like putting a necklace on a raccoon).
He remembers what his momma told him about removing his hat indoors, and he remembers what his daddy told him about only going around once, so he is very kind to pretty strangers.
He plays tennis three days a week, thrashing around the court chasing after everything, sweating under three layers of clothing, keeping those bulky legs in shape.
He will be ready when the starting gate clangs open. You can bet the bouse on it.
(Tomorrow: A different approach)