"That was their World Series victory," he told teammates before Game 7. "Now it's time to get ours."
They all nodded, pumped their fists, smiled. But did they see it the way that Pete did? Well ... no, apparently they did not. By the sixth inning of the game they could not lose, the Reds were losing by three runs. They were playing dead. They hadn't scored a run. They were about to blow the World Series.
"How could we come all this way to play like a bunch of losers?" Rose shouted. There were two outs in the inning. There should have been three. Pete had kept the inning going. He was on first base, and Bench hit a routine ground ball—a double play, for sure. Only Rose would not allow a double play, he could not allow it. He barreled into second base with all the fury and violence he had been raised to unfurl. His beloved father, Big Pete, a savage semipro football player well into his 40s, had taught Little Pete one lesson about fighting: Hit first. Pete raced in with everything he had; he was ready to knock Denny Doyle into leftfield. Doyle was able to jump out of the way, but his throw soared too high to finish off the double play. Pete was out, but the inning was still alive.
"We're not going to lose this game," Rose shouted in the dugout. "No way. You hear me? We are not losing tonight. You know what people are going to say about us? We're nothing. They'll say we're losers."
Pete walked up and down the bench and looked hard at each player's face.
"We're not f------ losers," he shouted.
Tony Perez was standing at home plate, ready to hit. They called him the Big Dog, or Doggie for short. Doggie had grown up in Cuba, before Castro's men came rushing down from the mountains. He had been raised to spend his life lugging bags of sugar at the refinery near his home. That's what his father did, that's what his brothers did, and when he turned 14, that's what he did too. He would never forget the way his body felt at the end of those days. And he would always tell his mother that he wanted something more, he wanted to play baseball in the United States under the bright lights. She told him to grow up and stop dreaming about nonsense.
"You will work in the factory just like everyone else in this family," she told him. He signed with the Reds for two dollars and 50 cents, the price of a visa. While he played ball in America, Cuba fell to Castro. Doggie had not seen his mother in more than a decade.
What made Doggie different was hard to explain.... It was a kind of peace. He never made anything too complicated. See the ball, hit the ball. That's what he said. He knew when to joke with a teammate, and he knew when to lay down the law. He knew how to break tension, serving as a sort of peacemaker between Bench and Rose. Inside the clubhouse everyone looked to Doggie. He seemed to have the answers.
"What you so worried about, Skip?" Doggie had said to Sparky just a moment before he went to hit. His manager looked lost. He had jolted awake in the middle of the night, sweating, an unremembered dream still haunting him. He had awakened another dozen times with the uneasy feeling that the Reds had already lost this game. "What do you mean, Doggie?" Anderson said. "We're losing 3--0."