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SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR
Ron Fimrite
December 22, 1975
Baseball enjoyed its grandest season in years, culminating in a World Series that held a nation breathless with tension and anticipation. Saluting the sport as well as the man, we honor Cincinnati's Pete Rose, in whose person are combined so many of the qualities of excellence that merit his designation as sportsman of the year
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December 22, 1975

Sportsman Of The Year

Baseball enjoyed its grandest season in years, culminating in a World Series that held a nation breathless with tension and anticipation. Saluting the sport as well as the man, we honor Cincinnati's Pete Rose, in whose person are combined so many of the qualities of excellence that merit his designation as sportsman of the year

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Morgan himself has said, "When I played against Pete, I assumed nobody went that hard all the time, that he did that just against us. You can't judge a player when you see him only a few games a season. Now that I have seen him day in and day out, I find him amazing."

The sheer force of Rose's personality was felt most compellingly, perhaps, in the sixth inning of the final game of the World Series. The Reds had closed an early 3-0 Red Sox lead to 3-2 on Perez' home run in the top half of the inning. There was someone on base for Perez to drive home only because Rose, sliding with typical fury into second, had intimidated Denny Doyle into throwing wildly to first on what would have been an inning-ending double play. Now, with the Red Sox about to come to bat, Rose gave an astonishing performance. He set about rousing his teammates, as if they were troops on the front line. He bellowed encouragement, pounded his fist into his glove and bounced about the infield with enthusiasm that was contagious. He seemed to grow physically in stature, to tower over the situation. Even in the stands, his will to win could be felt. Though they still trailed in the game, it seemed inevitable the Reds would win. It was a highly charged moment of a kind rarely, if ever, seen in a major league baseball game. Rose had stirred his teammates, hardened professionals, to a collegiate pitch. The Reds won, of course, with Rose driving in the tying run and Morgan the finisher.

Peter Edward Rose is the third of four children born to Mr. and Mrs. Harry Francis Rose. He has a younger brother, David, 27, and two older sisters, Jackie, 37, and Caryle, 39. Jackie, Mrs. Albert Schwier, still lives in the Rose family home, a rambling, 85-year-old, two-story wooden structure on a hill commanding the Ohio River. It is the same house in which her mother, her older sister and she were all born. Rose's father was called "Pete," a name he liked well enough to pass on to his first son.

"Daddy wanted a boy real bad," says Mrs. Schwier, a small, black-haired, handsome woman. "That's why my name is Jackie. My father loved sports and when Pete finally came along, he was tickled. He started taking him to ball games when he was only two. Pete was the waterboy on the semipro football team Daddy played for. He'd go everywhere Daddy went. It's a funny thing, I used to feel sorry for Pete. He'd come home having done these terrific things in sports and Daddy would concentrate only on the bad things he'd done. He never wanted Pete to get too self-satisfied, to get to the point where he wasn't always trying to do better."

Harry Francis (Pete) Rose began working for the Fifth-Third Union Trust Bank as a messenger when he was 15. He eventually became assistant cashier, laboring over figures for so many hours that he developed frequent headaches. He played Sunday baseball and football, and was a member of the original Cincinnati Bengals football club of the late 1930s, a semiprofessional team that played in the tough Ohio-Kentucky league. "Pete's dad was quite an athlete," recalls Whitey Willenborg, a former teammate of the father's and a business partner of the son's. "It sounds funny to say it, but he had the instincts of an O.J. Simpson."

Says Rose himself: "My dad was tough, man. He had more guts than any two guys I've ever known. But he was mild-mannered. There are three things in my life I never saw: I never saw my dad smoke, take a drink of hard liquor or argue with my mom. I like to think my relationship with my son is the same as my father's was with me. I want my boy to be an athlete, too. He's Peter Edward Rose II—none of that Junior stuff—and he's a strong little kid, only six, but he weighs over 60 now. Big hands and feet. I'm built like my dad. Stocky, strong—my body is my best asset. My dad was really something else. There I'd be, a hundred-thousand-dollar ballplayer, and he'd be waiting for me outside the clubhouse to let me have it for not hustling enough."

Rose frowns. His rock-featured, open face is a window to his changing humor. "I was actually better in football than baseball in high school. If I'd been eligible my senior year, I'd probably have gone on to college. I was a halfback, captain of the freshman team. At that point in my life, football was a big thing to me, my dad being a football player and all. The thing was, when you were a sophomore you had to be invited to try out for the varsity. Well, I was little, only about 130, but tough, like my dad. But they said I was too small and I didn't get invited. That hurt me, hurt me real bad. You can imagine how my dad felt. I lost all interest in school. I flunked, and not because I was stupid. It's just that I didn't want to go to school anymore. I had five years of high school because of it. I played both baseball and football my second sophomore year and my junior year—I'd grown a little by then. But I was ineligible as a senior. No one could ever know how hurt I was back then unless they knew me and my dad."

On a December day five years ago, Harry Francis Rose left work at the bank early. He was feeling ill, and it was more than just the headaches. He took the bus home rather than go directly to the doctor. He'd be O.K. at home. As he entered the old house above the river, he staggered and fell face forward on the steps to the second floor. He was dead at 58 of a blood clot in the heart.

"It was the biggest blow in Pete's life," says an old friend, Karl Hauck.

"When you lose somebody you're close to," says Pete, recalling the day, "you can cry all you want. But my dad got to see me win batting titles, play in All-Star Games and in the World Series. The way I look at it, I repaid him."

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