The year was 1985, a warm September night, and I was one swing away from breaking Ty Cobb's career record of 4,191 hits — a record that stood for damn near 60 years. People have often tried to compare me to Tyrus Raymond Cobb but I just don't see the resemblance. Cobb idolized his strong-willed father and was pretty chilly toward his mother. As a rookie, Cobb was hated and shunned by the veteran players on his team. Cobb loved baseball with a passion and absolutely hated to lose. Cobb was involved in an alleged gambling scandal that drew a suspension from the American League president. Now, honestly, folks, does that really sound like Pete Rose? Aw hell, let's just get back to the night of the record-breaking hit. As y'all know, I've always been a media-friendly guy. But during the weeks leading up to the big night, I got radiation burn from all the cameras that were constantly stuck in my face.
They were camped out at my house on Indian Hill. They were camped out at the ballpark, and they pretty much followed me everywhere I went.
For 3 straight weeks, I did a press conference, TV, magazine, or newspaper interview every day of the week and twice on Sunday. I did an in-depth interview with Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated and with Lesley Stahl of CBS. But to be honest, none of that stuff bothered me. I was feeling strong, calm, and confident about the whole situation. I had become the most media-experienced athlete of my generation. In fact, when asked where I got my strength to perform under such intense pressure, I just opened my jersey and exposed my T-shirt, which read: "Wheaties, Great out of the Box!" Everyone busted up laughing, which kept the press right where I wanted them.
Top of the first, Browning, our starting pitcher, retires the San Diego Padres in order. Bottom of the first, Milner flies out. Then I step into the box against Eric Show in front of a sold-out crowd of over 47,000 Cincinnati fans, who were screaming and shouting like crazy. I looked back at umpire Lee Wire and he said: "Time to make history, Pete." The first pitch was high, which I took for ball one. I swung easy and fouled off the second pitch and then held off again for ball two. Show's 2-1 pitch was a slider, down and in, which I drove to left-center for a single. Then the fireworks erupted and all hell broke loose. I rounded first and slapped hands with Tommy Helms, my longtime friend and coach. Then the fans just went berserk. Steve Garvey of the Padres stepped in and said: "Thanks for the memories!" First, they took away the baseball and then they took away first base, which I assumed was being sent to the Hall of Fame for posterity. Marge Schott ran onto the field and presented me with the keys to a new red Corvette with a license plate that read "PR 4192."
Then I looked over and saw Tony Perez and Dave Concepcion — two of the best teammates in the world.