Pete Rose is arguably the greatest free agent signing in the history of Philadelphia sports. The iconic ballplayer left his hometown Cincinnati Reds and was the missing piece of a talented but enigmatic Phillies team. “Charlie Hustle” helped the franchise win its first ever World Series title in 1980. Rose, 73, who is slated for an “Evening With” show Thursday at Harrah’s Atlantic City, waxes about that championship season, the Hall of Fame, which refuses to open its doors for the hit king and number 14 weighs in on Ryan Howard andDomonicBrown.
What missing ingredient did you provide the Phillies 1980 squad that enabled the franchise to win that first World Series title?
I didn’t do anything differently. But I think I made Mike Schmidt a better player. Instead of being the best player in baseball two or four days a week, which he was before I played with the Phillies, why not be the best player in baseball seven days a week? That’s what he became when I joined the Phillies. I did all that I could to help that team win on and off the field. My first year we didn’t win but I had a great year (Rose hit .331 with a .418OBPand .848 OPS.
Which individual doesn’t get enough credit for that team’s success?
Dallas Green. He was a big reason we won. Dallas was a great influence on everybody.
There aren’t many Dallas Greens managing today. It appears that the inmates run most of the asylums in baseball.
You might be right about that. But if the inmates do run the asylum, the team won’t win. Look at the Giants, who have won three of the last five World Series. Nobody runs that clubhouse but Bruce Bochy.
Speaking of Bochy and running. One of the most memorable plays of the 1980 NLCS against the Houston Astros is you running through a stop sign and hammering Bochy in the face with your left forearm as you scored a huge run. Detail that experience and you ran through few stop signs in your career, correct?
That was the only time in my career that I ran through a stop sign. We needed the run and I decided to take a chance when I saw how the ball caromed off the wall. Fortunately for us, the shortstop shorthopped the ball to the catcher. When you take a chance like that and you’re good, you’re an expert. If I was out, I’d be a bum.
You’ve been in some of the most memorable collisions at the plate. How do you feel about players not being allowed to collide with the catcher?
My philosophy for a catcher is that if you don’t want a collision, don’t block the plate. You look at the 1970 All Star Game. Ray Fosse had the plate blocked. I had no choice but to collide with him. But the collision at the plate was part of the game. It wasn’t as if anyone was trying to hurt a catcher. I would guess that 99 percent of the time, the runner was not trying to hurt the catcher. But I didn’t see much controversy with the plays at the plate this year. We’ll see how it goes next season.
What’s the biggest difference between contemporary players and those from your generation?
The game is the same. Baseball is still such a great game. But today the guys are making more money than when we played. We were more interested in putting the ball in play with two strikes. We were more fundamentally sound.
With so many teams I don’t think players spend enough time in the minors. You can’t learn to play the game on the major league level, like it’s on the job training. It’s not going to work in baseball.
Which brings us toDomonicBrown. This is a guy, who appears to have all of the physical tools but there’s an element missing. Should the Phillies shoot themselves in the foot and sell at the lowest possible point or work with Brown?
You have to keep working with the guy. All managing is is understanding people. When I managed the Reds, I never asked a player to do anything I didn’t do. If I managed the Phillies tomorrow andDomonicBrown was one of my players, you better believe me that at the end of the year, he would be a real good player. I’m not saying anything bad about Ryne Sandberg. He was a real good player. You just have to work with Brown in a certain way. You have to keep investigating to find out what’s wrong with him. If you unlock that, you could have a guy, who played so well for that stretch (in 2013), be a real good ballplayer. There’s some guys that take longer to get there than others. I saw it throughout my career. I think Brown just might be one of those guys that is taking longer to develop.
There’s a lot of buzz about trading Ryan Howard. What do you think will happen?
There’s nothing you can do with him except hope that he produces like he did in the past. Nobody is going to take on that salary. You can’t take on Ryan Howard. He’s untradeable.
The league made adjustments against Howard and he doesn’t adjust, which is a problem since baseball is a game of adjustments.
It is exactly that. But it’s not just Howard. Can you believe only two guys got 200 hits last year? The leading hitter in the NL hit only .319. There were only seven .300 hitters in the NL. That’s terrible.
Players strike out more than ever.
It’s true. Who is the best player in the American League?
I sense a set up here since I’m the one asking the questions.
C’mon, just answer the question.
Mike Trout. Where’s the trap door?
Trout struck out 184 times.
Alright, but he also hit 36 homers and drove in 111 runs and he’s only 23. I’ll take him despite the strikeouts.
I’ll take him too. But Trout has to cut down the strikeouts. If he put the ball in play about 50 more times his average (.287 in 2014) would be much better.
What can’t you take?
Guys that don’t hustle.
Since baseball has a new commissioner, do you think there’s a chance that you might finally be considered for the Hall of Fame?
I don’t know. I’m not worried about that situation. I don’t think that’s going to happen. I just don’t see it.
But America is the land of redemption. Just ask Michael Vick, who served a long sentence and so have you, in a matter of speaking.
There are all different cases out there. I’m not worried about anyone else’s case, just my case. But America is a great country, which will give you a second chance I’m just waiting for my second chance.