Monday, August 10, 2009

Poor Petey

This blog is, of course, about copyrights, trademarks and patents and not about baseball. But I made a few recent blog entries about baseball and here I go again. I merely point out that today is the anniversary of one of the greatest feats in baseball history: Pete Rose’s 3,631st career hit in the National League. Rose beat Stan Musial’s NL record in 1981 while playing for the Phillies against the Cardinals. Amazingly, Rose accomplished this feat in only 2,886 games. It took Musial 3,026 games to hit 3,630.

Rose is the all-time baseball hits leader with 4,256. Ty Cobb is second at 4,189. Hank Aaron is third at 3,771. The closest active player is Ken Griffey, Jr. in 58th place at 2,679 hits (through 2008 season).

In the past 28 years, no one has come close to reaching Rose’s mark. Indeed, Griffey is some 1,500 hits distant. Rose’s accomplishment is even more amazing when you consider that so many batted balls are not recorded as true hits, such as hitting into a fielder’s choice, or fielding errors on the hit.

The problem here is not lack of admiration for accomplishment but rather the presence of personal vile. Rose has been banished from baseball for years due to his gambling on baseball, including gambling on his own team’s games. Such conduct is reprehensible. But Rose’s on-field hits record remains amazing.

I saw Rose a couple years ago in the crowded Caesar’s Palace mall in Las Vegas. He was sitting in front of a sports memorabilia store at a folding table trying to sell his autographs to the shoppers and gamblers. While I was watching – for about ten minutes – no one stopped for his autograph or even to speak to him. I did not. He was a curiosity – like the shrunken head in the circus sideshow. He was out of place. He looked old and tired. He looked sad. Or, perhaps, I was sad for him.

None of the present-day players who take banned substances or chew snuff or scratch their backsides or spit seeds or play in specialized situations have been able to come close to Rose’s achievement. Many of these current players, though, have something that Rose does not have – multiple zillion dollar contracts, the ability to continue wearing the uniform, and the enduring adulation of the fans. None of these current players were present in Caesar’s mall that day a few years ago trying to sell their autographs. Only Rose.

Hitting a moving baseball coming at you at 100 miles per hour is said to be the hardest endeavor in sport. Hand-eye-bat coordination is essential. So is out-guessing the sinking path of the ball, and hitting it where they ain’t.

Despise Rose if you must for his rule-breaking gambling, but admire him for what he alone accomplished in baseball. Then give him his due.

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