Loran Smith: Charlie Hustle

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Loran Smith: Charlie Hustle

Loran Smith
Loran Smith

There is a new biography out on Pete Rose; the title and subtitle tell it all.  “Charlie Hustle:  The Rise and Fall of Pete Rose, and the Last Days of Baseball.”

Like Rose, the author, Keith O’Brien, grew up in Cincinnati, and he, too, was a passionate Red’s fan. However, when it came to writing this poignant piece of sports literature, O’Brien chronicled all of Pete’s warts as well as his history making hits.  O’Brien did not whitewash anything.  His firebrand subject cooperated with the author in the beginning, but eventually resigned from a cooperative stance.

 

 

 

 

Having had a friendly exposure to Rose, when he was managing the Reds, I particularly enjoyed this book. My exposure was purely fan oriented.  I have always enjoyed meeting accomplished athletes and hearing their tales and their take on things.

It all began in the late eighties when Rose had retired as a player but was managing the Reds, trying to instill in his players the tenets of Charlie Hustle which had enabled him to break Ty Cobb’s hit record which many experts said was unlikely.   Pete was 44-years-old when he hit a single against the San Diego Padres which was his 4,192nd career hit to dethrone the Georgia Peach, as Cobb was known.

Pete’s other records included most games played, 3, 562; most times at bat, 14,053 and most seasons with 200 hits or more, 10. (tied by Ichiro Suzuki in 2010).

 

 

 

 

When the Reds played in Atlanta, I would go by his office in the visitor’s clubhouse and engage him in conversation.  We had a mutual friend, Harley Bowers, Sports Editor of the Macon Telegraph.  Pete was always very approachable and was a delightful conversationalist.  He loved life at the ball park and never gave me the cold shoulder.

Once he made the connection that I was a member of the UGA staff, we often talked football, which he played as a kid, and still enjoyed.  Before I got to know him, and Georgia played Kentucky in Lexington in even numbered years, I frequently saw him at the betting window at Keeneland Race Course.  It is only an hour and 15-minute drive from Cincinnati to Lexington.

On one of my drop-in conversations, out of the blue one day, Pete said, “Tell me about Vince Dooley.  What’s he like?”

I perked up and gave him the answer I would have outlined to anybody.  “Vince is a damn fine football coach,” I said.  “He is a sound, fundamental football coach whose teams do not beat themselves.  He believes the safest way to victory is to run the football and stop the run.  He believes that if you run the football, play aggressive defense and underscore the kicking game, that you will win more often than not.”

Pete had no interest in that assessment.  He didn’t say anything for a moment and then exclaimed, “His teams sure beat the spread a lot.”

If I had been a seasoned sportswriter who had covered Pete Rose for years, his answer would not have come as a surprise. In another session, he told me that he thought his son was a Big League prospect.  “Would Georgia be interested in recruiting Petey?” 

My answer was that I would find out.  I asked the late Steve Webber, then the Georgia coach.  “We might be,” Steve said.  “What kind of a student is he?”  Then he answered his own question, “I know somebody up that way who can find out.”  A few days later, Webber call me laughing. “Petey may be the worst student in Ohio,” he said he was told. “My contact says there are three things Petey likes about school: lunch, baseball and recess.”  Like father, like son.

It has been long established that many athletes are not Phi Beta Kappa’s. Some of their problem is laziness and lack of effort and discipline.  Then there is the matter of ego and arrogance.

I would say that while Pete Rose was pleasant to be around that he never could admit that he was wrong.  Even today his side of the story is different from MLB’s which documented that he bet on Red’s games. This is why his name is not on the Hall of Fame ballot and likely will never be during his time on earth.  Perhaps, forever.

“Charlie Hustle” discloses that Pete Rose thought he could get away with violating Rule 21 which is posted in every locker room throughout major league baseball and has been for decades.  Every person with any sentiment for Pete Rose, the consummate athlete, will concede that whatever you say about the man’s good side, that he brought all of his countless troubles on himself.  

Keith O’Brien has written a terrific book which reveals that for every hit Pete Rose made in his career, he shot himself in the foot an equal number of times.

 

 

 

 

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