Earlier this December week, I was in Las Vegas attending a convention. After several days inside for meetings, I ventured out for a walk up and down Las Vegas Blvd. Since I was with a friend who hadn’t visited the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace, we ventured in for a stroll. Less than two minutes after walking through the doors, we came within three or four feet of the former heavyweight boxing champion (and actor from the hit movie “The Hangover”), Mike Tyson! It wasn’t easy getting a view of the ferocious ex-champ as the owners of the Field of Dreams sports memorabilia shop hid him away behind a banner to be seen only by those who purchased a high priced ($250 & up) item for him to sign. Still, once inside the shop, we managed to get good views of him and that famous tattoo on the side of his head!
Wait a minute! This blog is not about Tyson. It’s about arguably the greatest hitter in the history of baseball, Pete Rose. Nicknamed “Charlie Hustle,” Rose is the all-time Major League leader in hits (4,256). He won three World Series rings, three batting titles, one Most Valuable Player Award, two Gold Gloves, and the Rookie of the Year award. He made 17 All Star appearances at five different positions! (2B, LF, RF, 3B, & 1B). No one has ever done that. Rose played for 23 years from 1963-1986 and managed from 1984-1989.
Seconds after we had just seen Tyson, we walked near another shop called Antiquities International. Sitting at a table steps away from the entrance, you could clearly see the legendary Pete Rose. In contrast to the previous shop, the greeter was friendly and invited us in. I immediately asked the cost to get a photo with Pete. Surprisingly, he responded that I could take a photo for free as long as I remained behind the roped off area that was for those who had Rose memorabilia to sign. At this time, there was no line at all in front of the table. Rose is not a movie star like Tyson. He is, however, a baseball player whose been tainted by the fact that in 2004 he admitted to betting on baseball. As such, he was ruled permanently ineligible for entry into baseball’s Hall of Fame.
The lack of paid autograph/photo seekers gave me an opportunity to chat with this great player, a player I had watched play many times as a very young teen. I asked Pete about the great rivalry between his then team the Cincinnati Reds and the Oakland A’s, the team I grew up watching. These teams played a momentous seven game World Series in 1972 that the A’s won. Pete was quick to note that it was a series the Reds did not win, but gave credit to Oakland for a series well played. Next, I asked what he thought about the book/movie “MoneyBall” about A’s general manager Billy Beane. This is where you could tell the baseball purist Rose was and is. He immediately said you can’t have another “brand” of baseball – “Moneyball.” He also noted that the A’s have not won a World Series under Beane. I pointed out that the A’s did win 20 games in a row under Beane’s management in 2002. Rose wasn’t aware of it off the top of his head, but said winning games in a row was not what mattered – winning championships was.
It was really something for a sport’s fan like myself to engage Rose in conversation if even for a short time. I came away from it respecting him as the legend I imagined. Like many others, I believe without question he should be a Hall of Famer. He’s “Charlie Hustle.” He’s the great Pete Rose.