It’s a Hit for Timelessness

It’s easy to get 4,191 hits in a baseball career, someone noted the other day. All you have to do is get 200 hits a year for 20 years and then 191 more. Nothing to it.

But until Sunday, among the thousands of players in the history of baseball, only Tyrus Raymond Cobb had managed that feat. Now he is joined by Peter Edward Rose, who, at the age of 44, continues to play that little boys’ game with the same enthusiasm that he had when he broke in with Cincinnati in 1963. Along the way Rose has played first base, second base, third base and the outfield, and, of course, he is now the manager of the Reds as well as the team’s star attraction.

A few years ago people said that Rose had no chance to catch Cobb, whose record seemed as out of sight as Lou Gehrig’s 2,130 consecutive games and Cy Young’s 511 career victories. No other hitter had ever amassed 4,000 hits, much less 4,191. But Rose kept playing and kept hitting, and presently the naysayers fell silent and just wondered when.

Through it all, Rose retained a sense of humor and a sense of style. Though the spotlight was on him, he never showed it. And though he yearned for that record, he kept himself out of the lineup on days when he thought that a younger man, Tony Perez, 43, would do a better job. All of Rose’s hits have come in the National League, where there is no designated hitter, so players must take the field as well as swing the bat. If Rose played in the American League, he could rest on the bench between turns at the plate, and he might be able to play forever.

What did Edison say? Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration? Pete Rose has demonstrated that in a different field (or on a different field) altogether. The rest of us sit back and wonder how he keeps playing at his age. But he keeps getting hits, and there’s no telling how much longer he’ll go on doing it.