Life on the other end of the Pete Rose chase: as told by Padre starting pitcher LaMarr Hoyt at 5:56 p.m. EDT while Rose took batting practice.
Hoyt, whose team eventually won Tuesday night’s game, 3-2, is eating peanuts as he speaks.
“He’s got a lot of hits, boy. See that sign up there? It says 4,191. All I’ve got is four . . . Look at all those photographers around the cage. How many of those shots ever will make it in the paper? You know, Marge (Schott, the Reds owner) ought to bribe me to get him out. Look how much more money she’d make?
“What if I hit him and broke his wrist? I guess I could never come back to this town. They’d never let me in. Actually, I probably couldn’t make it out of town alive. But if I broke his wrist, think what that would do for season-ticket sales next year?
“He might get the hit in his first at-bat tonight. I’ve gotten him out both times I’ve faced him, but I don’t think I pitched him right when I got him out. I was watching CNN, and they always show his hits, and his swing was always inside-out. When he made outs, he got jammed pretty good. I’ll try jamming him. I’ll throw it at his hands. He might just hit a dinger, though.
“You know, he plays the way I pitch. He’s a battler. I’m a battler. If I give up the hit, it’ll be no big deal because I give up a lot of hits. Well, gotta go, fellas.”
The peanut bag was empty.
Life on the other end of the Pete Rose chase: as told by Padre pitcher Lance McCullers when asked what it’d be like to face Rose.
“Shooooot. Exactly 4,191 came before this. This wouldn’t be any different, would it? But it’d be fun facing him in that situation.”
Well, Hoyt and McCullers got off the hook. Hours later, when the Padre-Red game was baseball history, so still was Ty Cobb’s all-time hit record. In three high-octave at-bats against Hoyt, Rose popped up to shortstop Garry Templeton, flied lazily to left fielder Carmelo Martinez and again popped up to Templeton.
And in a single at-bat against McCullers, Rose didn’t single. Instead, he hit his hardest ball of the night right at Martinez, who couldn’t help but catch it as he moved gingerly to his left.
“I can’t remember the last time I went four at-bats when I didn’t hit the ball on the ground,” Rose said.
Thus, there was quasi-jubilation in the Padre clubhouse after their double victory. Not only had they held Rose hitless for yet another day, they had won a baseball game. Templeton, who finished with four hits, had the game-winner, an RBI single off of Ron Robinson.
Still, the focus was on McCullers and Hoyt.
“How’d you like our young right-hander?” Padre Manager Dick Williams asked members of the national media.
McCullers, 21, had never faced Rose before Tuesday.
“I wasn’t a big fan of his,” McCullers said. “I mean, I didn’t like autographs when I was a kid. I wasn’t an autograph collecter.”
But Pete Rose is a hit collecter. McCullers, who faced him in the eighth inning, made sure he threw him fastballs, his best pitch by far. The first pitch was outside, but Rose swung at the second one, lining it at Martinez.
“At first, I knew he hit it good,” McCullers said. “I thought it had a chance. But it hung up there real good. About one-third of the way, I knew it’d be caught. Shooooot. I’d like to have the chance again. I’d probably try to come in on him more. That’s the way, they tell me, to pitch him.”
He had to leave for a phone call then. Somebody whom he hadn’t seen in years, called to congratulate him.
“I guess they saw me on TV,” he said.
Hoyt, who it seemed hadn’t pitched in years, threw six innings of five-hit baseball, an accomplishment since he had planned to throw four, maybe five innings or 65 to 70 pitches, whichever came first. After five innings, he had thrown 50 pitches and talked pitching coach Galen Cisco into letting him go out there for more. When he left, he’d thrown 67 pitches.
“Well, I felt like I couldn’t really lose,” Hoyt said. “If I give up a hit, it’s something that’ll be remembered for for a long time . . . When I was warming up, I was thinking: ‘Listen to the people screaming. I’ll be part of history.’ Meanwhile, John Milner could slap a double . . . uh, I mean Eddie Milner. Fortunately, he made outs. I certainly gave him pitches to hit.”
Incidentally, Rose hit fastballs each time. All inside.
“I don’t think (it would’ve been embarrassing had Rose got a hit),” Hoyt said. “Anytime you give up a hit to Pete Rose, it can’t be an embarrassing item.”
Lost in the commotion was the fact that reliever Goose Gossage picked up his 22nd save, but first since July 29. He pitched a perfect ninth. But, of course, nobody noticed. They came to see hits, here. Each time Rose made contact, streamers would come flying out of the right-field stands.
Life on the other end of the Pete Rose chase: as told by outfielder Tony Gwynn after he had to avoid all those streamers.
“That was a little ridiculous. They could’ve waited to see if the hits fell in. One time, they threw tissues, a whole package of tissues. It landed right behind me. It was Charmin, I think.”
Life on the other end of the Pete Rose chase: as told by tonight’s starter Eric Show when asked what he’d think about giving up The Big Hit.
“I’m so disinterested in it, I don’t even know how to answer that question.”