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The Two Faces of Pete Rose

The Two Faces of Pete Rose

By Allan Kalish
Rose walks onto the field with the Cincinnati Reds
Rose walks onto the field with the Cincinnati Reds (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anybody who knows a baseball from a watermelon thinks Rose is one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Simply put… HE WAS! He was one of the major reasons that the Phillies won the World Series. What an amazing player and inspiration he was!

Having played a small role in bringing him to Philadelphia, I had a unique opportunity to get to know the real Pete Rose. Years later, I still wonder if there really is a “Real Pete Rose”. Here’s an example of the basis for my confusion, involving the first two times I was in Pete’s presence.

The first time was in the office of Bill Giles who was the CEO of the Phillies. I was there to meet Pete and start talking about getting him, regional sponsors. Pete wasn’t there when I arrived. He was at Temple University Hospital where a thorough physical exam was being done. That’s usually the way things go when players are traded from one team to another.

Eventually, Pete stormed into Giles’ office much the same way as he stormed to first base when he drew a walk. He announced that the doctors at Temple declared that he had the body of a healthy eighteen-year-old so he was rarin’ to go. He went on and on about his physical assets.

Giles, deeply interested but always courteous, finally had a chance to introduce Pete and me to each other. Being courteous myself, I began to stand up and shake hands. However, this couldn’t happen because Pete had moved almost directly in front of my chair.

Looking down at me, he pointed a finger and stated, “I’ll do whatever you schedule for me but don’t you ever, EVER, schedule anything that has the slightest chance to interfere with practice or a game.” He was extremely direct, standing above me while shaking a fist for emphasis.

I believed his gesture. I was shocked, even frightened. Suddenly, he seemed a lot bigger than I’d expected him to be. I agreed meekly to never even attempt to schedule him for activities that had a remote chance to interfere with practice or a game. NEVER!

How did I feel after that exchange? Not great and not friendly. In fact, I didn’t like him at all. This concluded our first encounter

We arranged for him to have a free apartment at a Center City luxury facility owned by a client of ours. I owned an ad agency in those days, long before my days creating ad agency project management software. One of Pete’s favorite things was going to the horse races. We had agreed to meet in the lobby of his building and to go to the track for dinner and a few bets. He was big news in Philly. Everyone reacted when they saw him, audibly admiring him. Some asked for autographs, some said “Welcome to Philadelphia.”

One man did a double take and ran up to Pete, saying “My nephew is having his bar mitzvah next week and your autograph would be a great gift.” Not surprisingly, Pete was gruff in responding, “What am I supposed to sign with? Get a paper and pen!” Embarrassed, the guy went to the desk, grabbed pen & paper and scurried back to where we were standing. He thrust the pen and paper at Pete who said “If you bought a gift for your nephew, how much would you spend?” The guy was stunned, and stopped in his tracks. I was not surprised because I’d already decided that I didn’t like Pete. He was all about money. No kindness. No humanity.

The guy gulped and said, “About fifty dollars.”

I was shocked to hear Pete’s response. “ I’ll sign a note to your nephew if you swear that you’ll give fifty dollars to United Way.”

Still reeling, the guy said he would and Pete wrote a brief note to “Jerry.” The guy grabbed the autograph, and ran to the elevators.

I started liking Pete Rose that evening. Of greater importance, I learned not to make such quick judgments. All books, good and bad, have covers. I learned that Pete wasn’t always warm and fuzzy person but he was a helluva ball player.

Allan Kalish is co-founder and Chairman of Workzone, LLC, a provider of web-based marketing project management software.