It was September 11……..1985. Cincinnati was buzzing because their hometown hero Pete Rose was one hit shy of breaking Ty Cobb’s longstanding hits record of 4,192 hits. Pete had returned to play for the Reds the year before as a player-manager. He was the heart-n-soul of the famous Big Red Machine. He grew up on the west side of Cincinnati, played for the Reds, lead them to multiple world series, was the hero of the 1970 All-Star game played in Cincinnati – then in the late 70s he was traded to Philadelphia. After a few years with the Phillies and a short stint with the Expos, Pete was back home.
The hits record was a monumental achievement. Ty Cobb had set the record when baseball was still in its infancy. Now Pete, some 70 years later was about to break his record.
Pete had tied the record on Sunday afternoon in Chicago, but instead of taking himself out of the game, he stayed in, and almost broke the record had the Cubs shortstop (Shawon Dunston) not made a brilliant play.
The Reds returned to Cincinnati to play the Padres. Monday night the Padres sent LaMarr Hoyt to the mound. Pete went 0-4 with two pop outs and two ground outs.
Tuesday night Eric Show (pronounced “ow”,like ow, I hurt my hand) took the mound. I was sitting at home just like much of Cincinnati when Pete, batting second came up. Marty Brennaman’s call says “he levels the bat a couple times…” then he smacked it into left field for the record breaking hit. It was euphoria! For what seemed like an eternity there was celebration on the field. But there was one scene that did somewhat steal the moment. It was Eric Show sitting somewhat dejected on the mound. There was instant buzz about his reaction to Pete’s moment. Obviously he knew that he would be forever remembered as the guy who gave up “the hit”. Even team mates scorned Show for his reaction
Finally things settled down and the game resumed. In fact later in the game Pete would get a triple with a shot to center.
What a magical night, right? Right?
Pete Rose, the hit king, would eventually be banned from baseball. After a 1989 investigation found him guilty of betting on the sport, he accepted an offer from baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti to be permanently banned from the game. This included no induction into the Hall of Fame. On August 24, 1989 Pete was officially banned from the sport where he was king
8 days later Bart Giamatti would die of a heart attack
One year later the Reds, who Pete had been manager of, won the World Series. Pete watched it from home
As for Eric Show. He would continue to pitch for a few more years with San Diego before finally ending his career in 1990. Not long after retirement Eric fell victim to substance abuse. He checked himself into a rehab facility in California in March 1994. On March 16 he was found dead in his room due to an overdose of crystal meth, heroin, and alcohol
The warm late summer Tuesday evening in Cincinnati will forever be etched in folks mind. “Where were you when Pete got his hit?”
In the end though I don’t think anyone “won”. Pete will probably never see Cooperstown. He has spent much of the past 25+ years going to trade shows and signing autographs. Giamatti died and Eric Show overdosed. One could even argue Cincinnati didn’t win either. The shame and frustration surrounding Pete over the last couple of decades has removed much of the magic from that Tuesday night.
September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday as well.