"First time I saw Perez was in '63 when he was with Macon and 1 was with Chattanooga. He was six-two, about 165 pounds, and he could hit. 'Where the hell did they get this guy?' I said to myself.
"First time I saw Morgan, we were playing in the Astrodome, and this five-foot-seven individual walks up to the plate against Chris Short in the ninth inning and hits a homer, and we go inside. I guess we were inside already. Anyway, Gene Mauch, the manager, says, 'Who the hell ever heard of Joe Morgan?' Well, we heard about him for a few more years."
Rose on Perez: "We started the same year, 1960, in Geneva, New York. Reno DeBenedetti was our manager. I came to play second, and Doggie had to move to third. He was built just like Davey Concepcion is now, really skinny. He was just out of Cuba, didn't speak much English, but he was a good guy in the clubhouse even then. Then he filled out. It's funny because he never had the big forearms power hitters have, he was just strong in the bottom. But I never saw a better power hitter than he was in the first half of 1970. He must have had 90 ribbies. He was the whole team."
Perez on Rose: "I was playing second base at Geneva, if you can believe it. Petey was signed in the middle of the season, so they moved me to third. He was an aggressive type of player, but he was not that good an athlete. Three years later I watched him in spring training and couldn't believe it. He'd worked so hard he made himself a ballplayer."
Morgan on Rose: "It wasn't until '65 that I got to know him, but just like everybody else, I became a Pete Rose fan. Even back then, when I was still with Houston, a bond developed between us. We were both second basemen—actually, I was a real second baseman and he just happened to play there—and when he was running the bases, he would try to knock me over at second. Then I would try to knock him over at second. I remember about 1965 he told me that in seven years I was going to make a $100,000 salary, which was big, big money in those days. That tells you how long ago that was."
Rose on Morgan: "He was an incredible player at Cincinnati. Still is."
Perez on Morgan: "He was a good player when he came to Cincinnati, but then he put everything together. Two MVPs in a row [1975-76]; you couldn't ask for anything more. I did my part, supplied the home runs and RBIs, but he was doing everybody's part, stealing bases, driving in runs, hitting for average, hitting homers, getting on base. He was doing things he wasn't supposed to be doing. Now all of us are doing something we're not supposed to be doing—we're still playing."
Morgan on Perez: "He could do it in the clutch. Johnny Bench, Pete, me, we got the MVPs, but Tony was just as valuable as we were. He was important in the clubhouse and on the airplanes, too. When they traded him before the '77 season, I got upset. I told the front office, 'Did you think that we might not be able to win without Tony?' The first month and a half of that season, we kept getting into situations that he had always come through in. We kept waiting for him and waiting, but there was no Tony. Tony was in Montreal. There's no doubt in my mind that if he'd played for us in '77, we would have won our third straight World Series."
But they broke up that old gang of Rhine. Perez helped make contenders out of the Expos and Red Sox, Rose went to another world championship in Philadelphia, and Morgan brought his winning ways to the Astros and Giants. Among them, they've played 7,925 games, had 8,711 hits, scored 4,729 runs and won seven World Series rings.
Morgan is coming off a .289 season with 14 homers, 61 RBIs, 24 stolen bases in 28 attempts and one big assist in knocking the Dodgers out of the pennant race—with a game-winning home run against them on the final day of the season. Two years ago he looked as if he was through.