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Why "The Hit" and the hitter still fascinate after 28 years

jvh33 of Flickr from a 35mm slide
Pete Rose walking on the field in this photo from the mid-1970s.

Mention Pete Rose and you get mixed reactions.  To some, he's the guy who got kicked out of baseball for life for gambling.  To others, he's a hometown hero who got a raw deal and should be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame for his achievements on the field.

Rose has spent his life after the game in a number of roles, lending his celebrity status to various products and ventures.  On this Opening Day, he's showing his newest role as a stage performer as he brings his production of "4192--An Evening With Pete Rose Live" to U.S. Bank Arena.

How Rose and his hit made it from the field to the stage

J.T. Stewart with Sprocket Entertainment got the idea from the Terry Lukemire documentary "4192:  The Crowning of the Hit King."

"We decided to make this a theatrical version," said Stewart, the show's producer and second performer.  "I was talking to a buddy of mine in Nashville.  We talked about how to do it and thought, 'Well, let's give this a shot.'"

The shot worked.  After talking with Rose and his people, Stewart said they decided to give it a go.

A rose by any other name 

4192's title is a little misleading.  It's not just about Rose's baseball career.  Stewart describes it as journey that takes the audience through Rose's life, including his childhood and why he was so driven.  Rose shares stories from the Big Red Machine championship team he played on and conversations from the field.

The show culminates with "The Hit", number 4,192, on September 11, 1985.  The single off San Diego Padres pitcher Eric Show propelled Rose past Ty Cobb and into the record books.   (Video from WCPO)

The show was performed a few times last year.  It's scheduled for 25 dates this year.  Stewart says the audience reaction has been good and yielded some surprises.

"People are surprised that Pete is that engaging," he said.  "They're probably a little surprised that he's that funny; and they're probably really surprised that he can become that emotional."

Every rose has its thorns 

Rose was a Red for 17 years and managed the team for five.  Without a doubt, this baseball hero from Cincinnati's west side had a sterling career:

  • 4,256 hits, a record that still stands  
  • An All Star 17 times at five different positions
  • 1963 National League Rookie of the Year       
  • 1973 National League Most Valuable Player
  • 1975 World Series MVP
  • 3-time National League batting champ

But in 1989, when he was managing the Reds, things got thorny for Rose.  He was investigated by Major League Baseball for gambling.  
The Dowd Report concluded he had bet on baseball, leading then MLB Commissioner Bart Giamatti to ban Rose for life from the game, including any chance of ever getting in the Hall of Fame. Current baseball commissioner Bud Selig has declined to reinstate Rose.

Another moment in the spotlight

Rose's show is his chance to highlight a point in his life and career that still evokes intense pride for Reds fans.  People never forget that late summer night almost 28 years ago when Pete Rose smacked the ball into left center field at Riverfront Stadium, knocking Ty Cobb from what had been considered an untouchable record.  

 Like many other moments when history was made, you can ask, "Where were you when Rose hit 4192?"