Tuesday, September 28, 1999

Pete Rose is Alive and, uh….by Andy Maltz

Okay, I admit that my first reaction could be considered smug and superior--how low can ya go--but when I read that Pete Rose had entered the world of professional wrestling, I laughed. When a couple of days later I brought up this fact with a few friends, we all laughed. Let’s face it, if this is the first time you are hearing it, you’re probably laughing right now. It’s funny. Don’t feel guilty, I have a feeling that Pete wouldn’t want you to anyway.

When Pete Rose stepped into the wrestling ring in Boston and started harassing locals with derogatory comments about their “loser town” and dissing among others, Carl Yastremski, he drove the crowd into a frenzy. When one of WWF’s star wrestlers, a fella who goes by the one syllable moniker “Kane” jumped in the ring to stop this blasphemous screed, the audience was wound up even tighter. And when Kane upended Rose and dropped him to the canvas with his trademark “tombstone” maneuver, Rose was removed on a stretcher and the crowd, having already gotten their money’s worth screamed with approval. When Pete Rose left the auditorium that night, he had only done what he did for more than 20 years on the baseball diamond: he entertained the people.

I’m sure that Pete was remunerated for his evening’s labor. The WWF reported a gross of $1.3 million just for the live gate; this is a record for Massachusetts.

By all accounts Pete Rose is what is called a “hard sign,” meaning that he is aware of his value and is not afraid to ask for it. He was criticized for this early on in his baseball career. When baseball players were considered to be little more than serfs who were lucky to be playing a game and getting paid for it, Rose realized that he was a draw. With his style of playing--running to first on a walk; stretching a single to a double; a double to a triple; the head first slides--Charlie Hustle was bringing people to the ballpark, and he only thought it was fair to share the wealth. Now mind you, we’re not talkin’ a whole lot of money even by early sixties standards; Rose just didn’t want to have to sell used cars during the off-season to make ends meet. So he asked for the money. And I bet he can still ask.

Before you say, “But that’s baseball; this is (gasp) WRESTLING!,” I say to you at the end of the night the equation is the same. Rose played baseball in a way that above all else was exciting and entertaining. This is not to say that he was hot doggin’ at the expense of the tam, or wasn’t playing to win. On the contrary it was precisely his teamwork and will to win that added the spark that made Pete Rose something special on the ball field. He played baseball the way it was meant to be played.

Pete Rose holds at least 12 major league records. The record that really speaks volumes is this: Pete Rose has played in more winning games than any player in the history of baseball. That means if you were a reds or Phillies fan (I won’t mention the Expos) when Pete Rose was playing, you got your money’s worth. Same as those people in Boston.

I’m not saying that Pete Rose would pave your driveway for $50. But if you upped the price to $50,000, put your driveway in a hockey rink filled with people, and gave him some competition (let’s say maybe Lou Ferrigno) you’d probably have a deal.

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