On this day in 1985, Cincinnati Reds player-manager Pete Rose gets the 4,192nd hit of his career, breaking Ty Cobb’s major league record for career hits. Rose was a folk hero in Cincinnati, a homegrown talent known as “Charlie Hustle” for his relentless work ethic.
Pete Rose was just 5 feet 10 inches tall and 140 pounds when he graduated from Cincinnati’s Western Hills High School. Despite his slight build, the switch-hitter was drafted by the Reds in 1960. Determined to improve after an unremarkable debut season in the minors, Rose committed to an intense weight-lifting regimen, long before such training became de rigueur in baseball. By the time he reached the majors, Rose was 5’ 11″ and 205 pounds of muscle, with 27-inch thighs. In 1963, he hit .273 and scored 101 runs and was named Rookie of the Year. Rose went on to hit .312 in 1965, and then over .300 in 15 of the next 17 seasons, leading the National League in hitting three times. On “The Big Red Machine,” as the impressive Reds teams of the 1970s were called, Rose was the spark plug, leading the team to back-to-back World Series victories in 1975 and 1976. Rose signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as a free agent in 1979, then led the Phillies to the first World Series championship in their 97-year history in 1980. On August 10, 1981, Rose broke Stan Musial’s career record for hits as a National Leaguer when he collected his 3,631st hit.
In 1984, Rose returned to the Reds after a stint with the Montreal Expos. On September 8, 1985, he tied Cobb’s 57-year-old record for career hits (4,191) with two hits against the Chicago Cubs. Three days later on September 11, Rose came to the plate in the first inning of a game against the San Diego Padres in front of a home crowd at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium.Rose watched the first pitch to gauge pitcher Eric Show’s speed, fouled off the second pitch and then laid off the third pitch. With the count at 2-1, Rose lined a hanging slider into left-center field for a single. The Reds rushed out of the dugout to surround the new hits king and Rose’s longtime teammate Tony Perez lifted him in the air in celebration. The Cincinnati crowd of 47,237 stood and applauded for a full seven minutes as their hometown hero wiped tears from his eyes.(Show started to take warm-up tosses with the catcher during the tribute, and then sat down on the mound to wait, a move many in baseball found in appropriate.)
Pete Rose retired as a player during the 1986 season, but remained in his position as Reds manager until August 24, 1989, when he was banned from baseball for life for gambling on Reds games.