Twenty-some years ago, Peter Edward Rose was just another tough kid growing up in the river wards of Cincinnati. He was a tough kid who liked girls and fast and fancy cars and baseball. Today, at the age of 38, not much has changed about Pete Rose. The girls have turned to women and fast cars are getting more expensive. But Rose, who makes his living–and a very good one, at that–playing baseball, is still tough. And he is still very much a kid.
Rose may play with different toys now–a $4000 fur coat, an $8000 gold-and-diamond watch and a $44,000 car that goes 130 miles an hour–but he hasn’t really changed. Baseball has. The game has become big business and he has grabbed more than his share of the big bucks that go along with it. At an age when the major decision facing most players is whether to become a car salesman or to open a taproom, Rose was faced with the enviable task of choosing from among a slew of major-league teams offering him millions of dollars for starters. And Rose, who had never played a home baseball game outside Cincinnati, picked the Philadelphia Phillies, who would pay him at least $3,200,000 over four years.
But how, many asked, could Rose be worth the money? Well, he packs ball parks. And while, as a technician, he really can’t be ranked up there with the Dave Parkers, the Rod Carews and the Jim Rices, Rose has one very important thing going for him. He has become perhaps the most famous white sports star in the world.
Just last year, a world far beyond baseball watched as Rose look on the seemingly unbreakable record of Yankee great Joe DiMaggio–who hit safely in 56 straight games. In a streak that started in mid-June, Rose scratched, clawed, hustled and bunted his way to one plateau after another. On July 31, 1978, he set a National League mark of 44 straight games. The streak would stop there, but Pete Rose would go on to a White House visit with Jimmy Carter, a highly heralded tour of Japan and commercial deals that would make him millions. And while Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium was only a line drive away from his boyhood home, Rose had come a long way.
Rose is the son of a bank employee. His father’s passion for sports rubbed off easily on him. Too small to make it as a football player, he concentrated on baseball. He played hard and tough, but he never had a great deal of natural talent. Luckily, he knew somebody in the business. His uncle was a minor-league scout for his hometown team, the Reds. He talked them into giving the kid a tryout. Rose was impressive enough to be signed to a minor-league contract. He spent three years riding the battered buses of thefarm teams. The Reds finally called him up in 1963.
That’s when baseball people really started to take notice of this hard-nosed kid who ran to first on a base on balls, the hustling hot-shot who, instead of sliding, dove headfirst into bases. They noticed him enough to vote him Rookie of the Year.
It was the beginning of a notable career. Along the way, he would lead the league in batting, runs scored, hits and doubles. Rose would become the perennial All-Star and consummate team player, switching positions, moving to wherever he was needed most.
In 1976, Rose, who broke in making less than $15,000, led his team to a world-series sweep over the Yankees. He had become the major drawing card for the 2,600,000 fans who came to Riverfront Stadium that year. He had become the strongest driving force on a team that was called the Big Red Machine. And Rose decided it was high time his wallet got oiled. He decided he was worth $400,000 a year. That, he said, was what the Reds would have to pay him to retain his services.
That contract ended with last season, one that had Rose spending much of his time in the sports headlines. When the Reds’ management refused to talk to him about a bigger money package, he decided to test his value in the open market. He became a free agent, negotiating with any team that would have him. And many would. They saw Rose as a team leader and a great drawing card. He traveled all over, eventually narrowing his choice to five cities–St. Louis, Atlanta, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. He presented his case and sat back and listened to the offers. In addition to tremendous amounts of money, they included everything from a beer distributorship to race horses.
The team that was offering the least financially was Philadelphia. Why go with the lowest price? Well, Rose had some friends there. But mostly it was because the team was a winner. And if there was one thing Rose hated more than anything else, it was losing.
He had survived some rocky times in his marriage, a relationship that yielded him a 14-year-old daughter, a carbon-copy ten-year-old son and, last summer, a troubled separation from his wife, Karolyn. And just when things were back together and looking good again, Rose was slapped with a paternity suit by a young woman from Tampa who had spent a good deal of time in his company.
With the pressures of the season, the suit and the big money hanging over him, Rose has been reluctant to talk about much more than baseball clichès. To get the real story behind this curious American folk hero, Playboy sent Maury Z. Levy and Samantha Stevenson, who had teamed up recently to write “The Secret Life of Baseball” (Playboy, July), to talk with Rose. Levy is editorial director of Philadelphia magazine and Stevenson is a seasoned sports free-lancer who made headlines when she successfully sued to get into the Phillies’ locker room.
They followed Rose halfway across the country, starting in Philadelphia, following him home to Cincinnati, and then on the road to St. Louis and New York, to talk with him. Levy’s report:
“Rose thought this was going to be just another interview. And he’d been through so damned many of them, he had his act down pat. We spent the first couple of hours in his hotel room in Philadelphia. It was all very patterned. He had answers to questions that weren’t asked. He was running through his basic Pete Rose interview, the one he had done on national TV with Phil Donahue and others and the one that had appeared in almost every newspaper in the country. He had it down so well he didn’t even bother looking at me through most of it. Instead, he lay in bed, his eyes fixed on the television set that he insisted on leaving on. He was watching ‘Days of Our Lives.’
“It was clear through all the clichès, though, that Rose was not just another dumb athlete. He’s not much of an elegant speaker, but you learn quickly to look beyond that. He has a street sense that is very sharp. It was OK for him to be talking about baseball in generalities, but when it came to money, he was specific to the penny. He rattled off profit margin from projected business deals like a Wall Street wizard.
“‘I see you’re wearin’ one of them Cartier watches,’ he said to me. ‘See this baby,’ he said, pointing to a very large Corum gold-and-diamond Rolls-Royce watch on his own wrist, ‘this baby cost me 8000 bucks. That could buy a lot of Cartiers, couldn’t it?’ “You can take my word for it. There will be no athlete anywhere that will make more money than me this year.”
“Rose had easily convinced me that he could buy and sell me. He had also proved that he had the attention span of an eight-year-old. He couldn’t sit still for more than a few minutes. His mind would wander and then his body. ‘Ain’t you asked enough questions yet?’ he would constantly want to know. ‘You’re all business, man. Don’t you ever have any fun?’
“Rose’s idea of fun was driving me around Cincinnati at 90 miles an hour while he blasted Rod Stewart tapes on his stereo. I kept expecting him to pull into a hamburger joint, grease back his hair and try to pick up some girls. When I told him about my own hot-rodding experiences, he was finally convinced that I was all right.”
PLAYBOY: Who’s the best player in major-league baseball?
ROSE: I am.
PLAYBOY: How do you figure that? Are you a better hitter than Rod Carew? A better slugger than Dave Parker? A better all-round player than Cesar Cedeno?
ROSE: It’s not that simple. If you’re talking about everything included–selling the game of baseball, public relations, popularity off the field as well as on the field, versatility playing more than one position, hitting the baseball from both sides–I’m number one. That’s why I make the most money.
PLAYBOY: A lot of people would dispute that. There are other players who make more—-
ROSE: You can take my word for it, there will be no ballplayer or no athlete. I don’t think there will be any athlete anywhere that will make more money than me this year.
PLAYBOY: What about Carew’s salary and Parker’s?
ROSE: Yeah, you can read this stuff about Dave Parker and you can start saying–well, you can get $100,000 if he is a Most Valuable Player and $50,000 if he is second. So he will be a millionaire if he does all these things he has to do, including helping the parks that draw 1,500,000 people. So there is a lot of stipulations in his contract.
PLAYBOY: And there aren’t any stipulations in your contract?
ROSE: That is my salary. I don’t have to get 200 hits or draw 2,000,000 people or anything like that.
PLAYBOY: You sound pretty sure of yourself.
ROSE: Look, I’ve been here 16 years and I still do it all. I got the fan appeal. I play harder than anybody. I’ve played against Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Henry Aaron, Roberto Clemente. It’s hard to become number one when you’ve got guys like that around. But I done it.
PLAYBOY: Does that make you a superstar?
ROSE: Yeah, I think so. I think I’m consistent, adjust to situations, handle people. I think I do all those things. A superstar don’t necessarily mean you have got to hit 40 home runs. It don’t mean you have to get 234 hits or 235 hits every year. I mean, a superstar does a little bit of each. A little bit of everything. Now, Frank Sinatra is a superstar in what he does. He’s consistent over a period of time. He can handle situations. That is why he is a superstar. Just like me.
PLAYBOY: So you feel you’re some kind of legend?
ROSE: I don’t even know what a legend is. A legend is old times. A legend to me is something like a Jesse James or Bat Masterson or somebody like that. Jesse James. Babe Ruth is a legend. I guess. I have a lot better chance of being a legend if I get Stan Musial’s record [for most hits in the National League]. You know, I will become the number-one hitter in the history of our league. That is really something to work for. How many guys in the history of this league do you think have a chance to do that?
PLAYBOY: Is that how you feel you became a legend?
ROSE: Well, you know a legend–there aren’t too many guys who can look at you and say I have got a little girl 14 years old. I only failed to hit .300 one time since she was born. Fourteen years old she is.
PLAYBOY: If you’re not a legend yet, how would you describe yourself?
ROSE: How would I describe me? Well, I have fun. I play the game with enthusiasm. I play unorthodox. I’m not graceful. You know, most guys are graceful. But I’m not one of those guys that everything’s got to look smooth. I swing good. But I’m not smooth when I catch a ball. I’m not smooth when I run. But I just play like a roughneck. I play baseball like a football player would play it. I’m hard and I’m tough.
PLAYBOY: And you’re pretty cocky.
ROSE: Well, some people will call me cocky and arrogant, but I’m not arrogant. I’m just confident. And I just learned a long time ago that I have to have confidence and believe in myself, because there’s going to be people who doubt you out there. There’s going to be people who don’t like you out there. I mean, a lot of people thought that I was arrogant when I made the statement that I felt I should be the highest-paid player in baseball. A lot of people don’t realize that I’m not the same as the other ballplayers in baseball. There’s a little difference with me, because the other ballplayers in the game, they’re not as well known as I am everywhere. That’s the truth. There may be a couple close. But other than Muhammad Ali, who is the most recognizable athlete in this country?
PLAYBOY: O. J. Simpson, maybe.
ROSE: And me. So I’m the only white one, right?
PLAYBOY: If you say so.
ROSE: No contest.
PLAYBOY: And you didn’t exactly get to the top on grace and finesse, did you?
ROSE: Naw, like I said, I was a roughneck. I wasn’t scared of nothin’. And I didn’t give a shit about anything. I still don’t worry about anything. I’m not a worrier. If something’s going to go wrong with your business or your marriage or things like that–the best way to make the problems easier is to have a good year. You create more problems if you hit .220. You create less problems if you hit .310 every year. You’ll have less problems than anybody. That’s the best way to go about your job, just have a good year and everything will fall into place. It’ll take care of itself. You’ll get the commercials. You’ll get the raise in pay and everything. “How would I describe myself? I have fun. I play the game with enthusiasm. I play unorthodox. I’m not graceful.”
PLAYBOY: That’s if it’s all going right. What if it’s not?
ROSE: Everything goes wrong when you have a bad year if you’re an athlete.
PLAYBOY: And as you get older, isn’t it easier for things to go wrong?
ROSE: Well, I didn’t shrink last year. It was one of the most at-bat seasons I ever had in my career, 700, and I struck out 30 times, the all-time low. So what that says is, the more experience you get, the smarter you get and the more you learn. I’m smart enough to know it’s going to come to an end someday. But I’ve been fortunate to be able to prolong it.
PLAYBOY: Why do you say fortunate? Don’t you have the reputation for taking good care of yourself?
ROSE: I like to think I play every game like it’s the last one. That’s a good way to play the game. But maybe it’s just something that’s interlocked inside your mind, that this might be your last year or next year might be your last year. So I don’t think about what’s going to happen tomorrow. I worry about what’s going to happen today.
I play like a machine. I don’t get tired. I just keep coming back and coming at you. I’m the type of guy, if I was in a fight, the other guy would knock me down and I would get back up and he would knock me down and I would get back up. I would be like Rocky.
PLAYBOY: Is that how you’d like to be remembered?
ROSE: Well, I don’t want them to forget me as a man out of baseball. I don’t want them to forget me. I mean, I just want people to say there is a guy that worked the hardest and the longest to become a switch-hitter, the best switch-hitter that ever lived, plus the guy who no matter where he played, he was a winner.
PLAYBOY: You mentioned being the most popular guy in the game–but you do have a lot of people who dislike you. Why is that?
ROSE: There’s people who would dislike me if I’d signed for the Reds for $300,000, or if I had said I’ll play for the Reds for S100,000 and to hell with the money. There’s still somebody who’d say, well, he still makes too much. You know, there are so many people in the world. There’s idiots everywhere. Just downright stupid people. They have no values of money or no values of talent or nothing. They’re just stupid people.
PLAYBOY: What do you think makes the fans so angry with you?
ROSE: There’s a lot of things that make them mad about me. Maybe the way I talk on TV. There are some people who don’t like me the way I play, because I prove to people if you work hard at something, you can accomplish it without super talent. And, see, I make the lazy guy look into the mirror and be mad at himself. I show up lazy people because I play hard and play every day. Because they could do it if they worked hard themselves, and they know they’ve messed up.
PLAYBOY: And so they resent you?
ROSE: Sure. They resent it because they’re saying, “There’s no ballplayer worth that.” I mean, was I supposed to say I don’t want it? I’m not worth it? You know, I don’t understand people.
PLAYBOY: Maybe the fans forget that you are being paid to entertain.
ROSE: Yeah, but they don’t get mad if Rod Stewart makes millions of dollars for his concerts. They don’t say nothing. I never hear anybody say anything about Wayne Newton making $5,000,000 a year in Vegas. You know, I’m not saying he’s not worth it. He’s the best entertainer out there. Frank Sinatra gets $250,000 a week out there. Ann-Margret makes $200,000 a week. But they’re worth it, because they get up and they do two shows a night.
PLAYBOY: And Sinatra doesn’t get booed if he misses a note. How does it feel, getting booed?
ROSE: Booing’s something you learn to live with. But sometimes the fans go nuts. Like, a guy threw a whiskey bottle at Bake McBride in St. Louis. You know, that kind of shit, that ain’t part of the game. And I’ve had that happen to me. I’ve had to be taken off two or three fields. L.A., New York and Chicago. I had to be taken off the field because garbage was being thrown at me. I don’t agree with people who think that’s part of the game.
PLAYBOY: Were you in danger at any of those times?
ROSE: Well, a whiskey bottle just missed my head. I got shot on my neck with a paper clip and it bled for three innings. What if the guy had put my eye out? What’s the guy gonna get, a $25 misdemeanor fine? And my career is over? Guys threw bottles, chicken bones, garbage. A guy threw a crutch at me once in left field in Chicago.
PLAYBOY: That sounds as though it could have hurt.
ROSE: See, you’re just like the fans. Whadya mean, that coulda hurt? When a crutch hits you, you get hurt. I don’t classify them idiots as fans. Most fans who go to the ball park are good fans. There’s always a couple. You know, you get a 40,000 crowd, there’s got to be an idiot in the crowd. I mean, there’s got to be some people who just don’t have any sense. They’re just there to make a scene.
Look, I go watch Rocky, Sylvester Stallone ain’t gonna give me an autograph. He’s not gonna give me a boxing glove. He’s not gonna talk to me. If people go to the ball park, they think they’re supposed to get an autograph. You’re supposed to give them a bat. They think all that’s part of the four-dollar ticket. I mean, they forget about the entertainment of the nine-inning game.
PLAYBOY: Maybe there are some people who still don’t think you’re worth it.
ROSE: I don’t give a shit what people think. I used to really worry about that, too. I really did. When I used to hold out for more money every year, I used to worry about that, because I always wanted to make everybody like me. Playing hard, being nice, signing autographs. I used to give in to the Reds a lot, because I didn’t want to hold out. But when you start getting letters like I get and phone calls and stuff like that, and people being idiots, I say the hell with them. I’m not going to worry about anybody.
PLAYBOY: What kind of letters do you get?
ROSE: Oh, you know . . . racial letters and shit like that. I say the hell with them. I mean, some guy is sitting behind me when I’m getting in my car one night. He’s getting in his truck and he’s got his load of people with him and he’s gotta yell at me. He’s gotta tell me, “Got all your money in your suitcase?” I say, “I can’t get it all in there, asshole.” And he just shut up. I mean, why don’t he just get in his car and move on?
PLAYBOY: Fans can be fanatics.
ROSE: Oh, Yeah. They always want a piece of you. I was at a place the other day; I’m sitting upstairs with [Larry] Bowa and Schmitty [Mike Schmidt], we’re having breakfast and I come in and I go to the john. So I’m sitting there, going to the john, and all of a sudden I hear this guy come in. Now, I haven’t said nothing to Bowa and Schmitty. And this guy, I guess he’s taking a leak or something, and this other guy walks in and he asks him how he’s doing. He says, “Oh, I’m doing fine.” He says, “I just been upstairs and had breakfast with Pete Rose and I been talking to him.” And he don’t know I’m sitting in there. You know, I’m sitting there, saying, “You’re a goddamn liar.” That’s why when I go in a bar, I don’t drink and I never let anybody buy me a drink, never. Because people go to work next day and say, “I was out drinking with Pete Rose till four in the morning”–only I left at 10:30.
PLAYBOY: Are you hassled by fans at home?
ROSE: Oh, I can go home, where I can listen to prank telephone calls. Shit, I get my phone number changed every three months. It’s the idiots that just sit and think or reasons why they should call. That’s the way people are. I just laugh at them. That shit don’t really bother me. Nothing bothers me except these people that start calling me disloyal and stuff like this. I abandoned Cincinnati? I put in a lot of endless hours of hard work for that city, both on and off the field. And I’m not looking for anything for it. That’s why I ain’t gonna try to satisfy everyone. Just like the time the Reds’ management told me not to drive my Rolls-Royce to the ball park, because it makes the fans mad.
PLAYBOY: And, naturally, you didn’t agree with their way of thinking.
ROSE: I told them to go to hell. I worked hard for that car. They didn’t tell [Joe] Morgan and those guys not to drive their $20,000 Corvettes and Cadillacs to the ball park.
PLAYBOY: Those sound like the problems of a rich and successful athlete. Were you always a winner? How about when you were growing up?
ROSE: No, I was a loser with the books. I was too busy playing ball and getting into trouble.
PLAYBOY: Did you ever get into any real trouble in school?
ROSE: No, just punk stuff, like throwing rocks at windows and putting shit in a bag and setting it on fire. Knocking on somebody’s door. Let them open the bag.
PLAYBOY: What about chasing girls?
ROSE: I had my share when I was a kid. I think I got the pretty girls. I don’t know if they got the good-looking guy, but they got the guy everybody knew.
PLAYBOY: When did you first get involved with girls?
ROSE: What are you asking, when did I get my first piece of ass? Is that what you are asking?
PLAYBOY: Not exactly, but that’s a good start.
ROSE: I don’t remember specifically what day it was or how old I was. I’m no different than any other kid.
PLAYBOY: Well, were you a teenager?
ROSE: Probably. No, I don’t think I was a teenager yet, I don’t remember.
PLAYBOY: Since we brought up the subject, let’s talk about sex. Should an athlete have sex before a game?
ROSE: It makes you tired.
PLAYBOY: You believe that old wives’ tale?
ROSE: Well, let me ask you a question. If you make love for a half hour or 45 minutes or an hour on the day of a game, are you tired? How are you going to go to the ball game and perform at the utmost of your ability if you are mellow? If you have got to go to the ball park hyper?
PLAYBOY: But you’ve had other things to take your mind off the game. You and your wife, Karolyn, separated last summer. Wasn’t she ready to file for a divorce?
ROSE: Well, I don’t think it is anybody’s business. I don’t know what the accounts were. But I don’t think she was going to file for a divorce. It was better to separate when I did, because, like I just said, one of the secrets of playing baseball is not going to the ball park and being worried or being mad about something. So if I was going to be mad living at home, the separation was my fault, it wasn’t her fault. So it proved that I had some weaknesses. I mean, I am not the only guy in the world who ever separated from his wife for a couple of months. So it ain’t that big a deal to me. It ain’t nobody’s problem in Philadelphia and no one’s problem is the same as mine. And I handled it. I handled it in my own way. Other guys would have handled it differently. I handled it my own way.
PLAYBOY: Did it work?
ROSE: Yeah, well, obviously.
PLAYBOY: Still, aren’t there women everywhere who turn your head?
ROSE: Once in a while they turn my head. As long as I don’t touch.
PLAYBOY: What kind of women do you like?
ROSE: Just, I guess, I like class. I don’t mean rings and cars and clothes. I mean just people who you can just tell have class by looking at them. You know, just the way they handle themselves and the way they walk. I like people with personality.
PLAYBOY: Do you like pretty women around you?
ROSE: Oh, yeah. I like women with pretty legs. Pretty legs and pretty mouths.
PLAYBOY: What is it about mouths?
ROSE: I just think because that is what you look at. You don’t talk to somebody and look at their navel or at their shoulder. People with pretty mouths are pretty. And most people with pretty legs are built good. So those two qualities usually make a complete girl.
PLAYBOY: You don’t like breasts?
ROSE: I can only speak for mine. I don’t like mine. I mean, to be kissed. I don’t know. I can’t stand it . It bugs the shit out of me. It makes me feel like someone’s taking their fingers to a screen door.
PLAYBOY: What’s your fantasy life like?
ROSE: What’s a fantasy?
PLAYBOY: Imagination. Illusion. You can have sexual fantasies.
ROSE: What is the sense of having a fantasy about going to bed with somebody that is supposed to be the prettiest girl in the world? If I can’t do it, why should I waste my time even wondering about it? Sitting here right now, I am fantasizing about playing in the world series with the Phillies. I would like that to happen. Yeah. That is the utmost thing on my mind right now.
PLAYBOY: OK, back to baseball. You mentioned earlier that you get “racial” letters from baseball fans. What did you mean?
ROSE: It goes back a long way. I was actually called into the office in 1963 for hanging with the black players too much.
ROSE: The white players didn’t want to associate with me. See, in 1961, the Reds won the pennant and they had a guy named Don Balsingame on second base. In 1962, he had his best year ever. He hit .281. So because of those reasons, in 1963, they all thought that he could help them win their pennant again. Fred Hutchinson, the manager, stuck me at second base, and they all resented that. They didn’t want a rookie on second base, because they had veterans in all the other positions. And the only guys that treated me with any dignity and decency was Frank Robinson and Vada Pinson, the black guys. It was a very cliquish team in those days. That’s why they didn’t win.
The black players were just like me when I was a kid. No car, no money, no suit of clothes. All they had to do was play sports. If you ride downtown Manhattan, every time you go by a basketball court or a handball court, they’re all blacks out there playing. How else are they going to get an education? How else are they going to make a good living? So the blacks do it because they don’t have the things.
PLAYBOY: Had you always been a second baseman?
ROSE: I was a catcher all the way up to high school. That’s why I was never a polished fielder. When I made the big leagues, I was only second baseman for three years. One year of high school and two years of the minors. And you don’t become a good fielder if you don’t practice day in and day out.
PLAYBOY: Why do you think that fans started coming back to baseball?
ROSE: Because we brought them back. Me and the Reds, after that ’75 world series with Boston. That was the greatest world series in the history of baseball, action-wise. Five out of seven of the games were one-run games. That’s what started people coming back. Baseball was exciting again. And then there was my hitting streak. . . . What that did, what the 44 streak did, what that did to me is, a lot of people were rooting for me that didn’t even know me, that didn’t know anything about me. Because that got a lot of national attention–or publicity. You know, ’cause people started following that every day. Every day that I hit, they had it on TV. So that really helped me out in that respect. It brought a lot of fans back, too.
PLAYBOY: What was the most memorable thing to you about the ’75 series?
ROSE: I was Most Valuable Player.
PLAYBOY: Anything else?
ROSE: Well, getting some key hits, making some key plays and winning. There’s a big difference in winning a world series or just losing one. Most guys are just happy to get there and they don’t even concentrate on winning. Not me. I don’t get nowhere to lose.
PLAYBOY: How do you find Philadelphia? Is it as strait-laced a town as Cincinnati?
ROSE: We had too many rules in Cincinnati. I guess it was because it was such a conservative town. No long hair, no mustaches–things like that. I guess in Philly, I can really let my hair down.
PLAYBOY: And you don’t like to follow rules?
ROSE: Well, if a guy sets rules, yeah, I’ll follow them. In Philadelphia, you have the type of players who don’t need a lot of rules. Danny Ozark don’t have to stand there with a gun and make sure I get my ground balls. He’s got guys that are professional enough that they go about their job in the right way. What Danny does is tell you what he wants done and lets you go about it. He lets you be your own man.
PLAYBOY: Is one of your goals to become a team leader to the Phillies?
ROSE: No. That’s not my goal. I probably coulda had a better impact on the team as far as leadership if I had a good spring training as far as getting a lot of hits. But I hit .194. You know. But I think the guys on the Phillies know that I work hard and I do my job and I’m just gonna play hard every day. You know, it takes some time to earn the respect of your teammates. You just don’t walk in and say, “I hit in 44 in a row, I got 3000 hits, I’m your leader.” I mean, you just can’t do it.
PLAYBOY: But you would like to be the leader of the team, wouldn’t you?
ROSE: Oh, sure. I think it took a long time for me to become a leader in Cincinnati, even though you got a guy like Johnny Bench. He hits all them great home runs, makes all them All-Star teams and is a great player. Great, but that don’t qualify you as a team leader. A team leader has to come from a guy respected from the way you play day in and day out. Consistency. You don’t have to be the best player to be a team leader. No, you have to be a certain type player. Johnny Bench is good, but he just ain’t the type.
PLAYBOY: When do you think you became the leader of the Reds?
ROSE: I think probably after the ’73 play-offs with the trouble with New York. The fight I had with Bud Harrelson. I just knocked the Mideast war off the cover of the New York Daily News.
PLAYBOY: And that’s when the Reds noticed you?
ROSE: Yeah: “Look at this guy. He’s incredible. He don’t care about nothin’. All he wants to do is win.” I was playing the whole city of Manhattan.
PLAYBOY: You were certainly swinging away then. Would you categorize the Phillies as a swinging team?
ROSE: I don’t know what you mean by swingers. I don’t drink, so I never been out with any of them. I don’t know what they do off the field. In order to have that image, you have to hang in bars. I mean, because girls don’t hang in supermarkets. I just don’t like to go to bars and stuff–and I’m not a prude or anything–I just haven’t been able to convince myself that drinking is gonna do anything for me. That don’t make them guys bad guys and me a good guy. Some guys like to go have a beer after the game and just relax. It’s good for you in that respect. I’d rather go home and watch TV and get room service and that way no one bothers me. I take my phone off the hook at 11 o’clock, and I’ll be a son of a bitch if some guy didn’t call me at 20 after two and wanted to get an autograph. In the hotel. I don’t know how he got through. They say it’s the price you gotta pay, but if I go someplace to eat, all I do is sign autographs.
PLAYBOY: Is that bad?
ROSE: It’s getting worse. I don’t have no time of my own. Somebody always wants somethin’ from me.
PLAYBOY: So you just stay in your room and hide?
ROSE: No, I go out some. I go into bars, but I don’t drink. Yet, there will be people who say they saw me in there drinking. People have a tendency to think you’re drinkin’ if they see you there in a bar. If they see me go into a room with a girl, they think we’re in there screwin’. That’s what people want. They think what they want to think. It’s the truth. Regardless of what happens, people are always going to think the negative things. That’s just the way the world is.
PLAYBOY: How about on the field? How is the atmosphere in the Phillies’ dugout?
ROSE: Good. Wide-awake. Well, you’re rooting for each other and if you make a good play, they’re always patting each other on the back. You know, keepin’ in the game–bein’ involved in the game. The players should be out there rootin’ for each other. They shouldn’t be up in the clubhouse during a game, drinkin’ coffee or playin’ cards during a game.
PLAYBOY: What do players talk about in the dugout?
ROSE: The game. The situation of the game. Always. You don’t talk about where you’re going to eat and shit like that. You may do that if you’re ahead 12-1 or something. A laugher. But in a close ball game, there’s strict attention to what’s going on.
PLAYBOY: Do you give advice or offer help to players?
ROSE: I always do. Every time I come back, I always tell the guys what the pitcher is throwing. If they’re smart, they listen to me.
PLAYBOY: Who’s the most eccentric player you know?
ROSE: The guy that’s craziest, is that what you mean? On the field?
ROSE: Probably the most eccentric guy I ever played with was Pedro Borbon. He’ll pitch his ass off any time they ask him and if there’s a fight, he’ll be the first one there. He’s the type of guy if he gets in a fight, you just have to kill him to stop him. He don’t give a shit about nothin’. Just a nice, even-tempered guy, but if you push him the wrong way, he’s got that Latin temper and he can get his dander up real good.
PLAYBOY: What are your feelings now about being on first base?
ROSE: There’s a lot of action there. Boy, it’s fun. I’m getting more and more used to it every day. I like the communication there. The action part of it is nice. Hell, you talk to the runners, the coach, the umpires, the pitcher. You’re talking to everybody there.
PLAYBOY: Do you psych guys out when they get on first base?
ROSE: No, you can’t psych major-league ballplayers out.
PLAYBOY: What do you say on first base to your visitors?
ROSE: I just tell them nice hitting. What kind of pitch was it? You want that one back you fouled? Stuff like that. Kidding. Having fun. I might ask them about their family, ’cause a lot of guys ask me that—-
PLAYBOY: Such as “How’s Karolyn?”
ROSE: No, like how my little boy is. They just talk about my boy, they don’t talk about how my wife is.
PLAYBOY: Do you have it a lot easier now in the field, playing first base?
ROSE: Hey, the people who say first base is easy are full of it. It’s the most involved position I’ve ever played. You make put-outs, you hold the runners on base, you work real close with the pitcher. You don’t have to have a ball even hit to you and you get an easy 15 chances a game. You never handle that many chances at third base. Plus, you’ve gotta bust your butt hustling over to be the cutoff man. But it’s fun.
PLAYBOY: What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done in baseball? Was it your hitting streak?
ROSE: No, the hardest thing I ever had to do was keep my edge during the 1975 world series against Boston. We were rained out . . . what . . . three straight days? I guess that was good for the league, ’cause they got all that extra ink, but it was tough on the players. I’ll never forget a bus ride out to Tufts University for those practices. There we were, a major-league baseball team in full uniform, sitting on a Greyhound bus, stopping at a gas station to ask directions to the school.
PLAYBOY: Doesn’t it all get to you after a while, playing baseball every day without rest?
ROSE: When you don’t play games, you lose your sharpness. You gotta play a week, ten days straight to really find your groove. When you play a game, then sit around for two or three days, it slows you down. If I set up the schedule, I’d have all the Eastern clubs play on the West Coast the first month. There’s a lot of things they could do to improve the schedule. They could eliminate off days. That way, they could start the season two weeks later and end it two weeks earlier. Weather wouldn’t be as big a factor. We don’t need off days. I didn’t have an off day last year. Every day we didn’t have a game, I worked out. What’s the difference?
PLAYBOY: After a game, your locker looks like a delicatessen on a Saturday morning. All those people waiting to talk to you. Does that get to you?
ROSE: It’s been quite a challenge to get my work done and still be cooperative with the media. I could have been a bad guy about it, but I’m not that way. I try to cooperate with everybody, but it’s hard to find peace. The games are the easiest part. So you can get away from all the questions. I wish they’d stop asking me about my salary. That’s all anybody ever talks about–money. In St. Louis the other day, a group of fans said they expected me to catch a ball that was ten rows in the stands because I was making$800,000 a year. It’s just not fair. I didn’t ask for anything. I turned down twice that amount.
PLAYBOY: What really makes the Phillies your kind of team?
ROSE: Well, this team will entertain you more ways than any team in baseball. We have speed, long-ball power, great defense, guys who are capable of pitching no-hitters, a great bull pen. And, sure, I think we’re gonna win, but what’s more important, I think we’re gonna have fun. The old Reds team, we used to have fun. Everybody was loose, cutting up. Did you see the Reds when we played them this spring? I stood around the batting cage. I couldn’t believe how quiet it was. Nobody said a word. That’s not like the Reds. Morgan and those guys were always yapping. There’s just something missing now.
PLAYBOY: Have you analyzed the Phillies’ problems? The team seems to fold during play-off games. What do you think?
ROSE: I don’t know, they just ran into bad breaks. They don’t play with the same aggressiveness in the play-offs that they do in the season, it seems like. Why? I don’t know. It’s just experience. If we get in the series this year, things will be all right.
PLAYBOY: And what if you don’t make it to the world series?
ROSE: Well, I can’t do everything.
PLAYBOY: One of your trademarks is the headfirst slide into first base. Have you always done it that way?
ROSE: Yeah, always did it that way. I used to practice that. I used to practice in the swimming pool all the time, used to always dive in the swimming pool like that. Exactly like you’re playing baseball. That’s about the only place you can practice that without getting hurt.
PLAYBOY: Why do you do that? Some people think it’s just to showboat.
ROSE: Showboat, shit. It’s just the easy way to slide and the fastest. And the safest, I think.
PLAYBOY: Is that how you got the nickname Charlie Hustle?
ROSE: No, that came in 1963, in spring training. Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford gave it to me because I ran to first every time I got a walk.
PLAYBOY: What made you start that?
ROSE: Oh, my father brought that to my attention one night. He just said that’s the way to play the game of baseball. You play it hard. Always run. Have fun and be happy.
PLAYBOY: That was the Hustle. When did the Charlie come in?
ROSE: Back in those days, any time you did anything, you know, you put Charlie in front of it. Hot-dog Charlie. Hollywood Charlie. Charlie Tuna. Anything.
PLAYBOY: Do you like that name?
ROSE: Yeah, that name’s all right. The image is OK, because it’s not a phony image. It’s not something that I started doing when I became a big-league baseball player. I can honestly say that the reason that I run to first on a base on balls is just that it’s a habit. It’s something I’ve been doing ever since I was nine years old. I run to first if I’m 0 for 15 or if I’m 15 for 15. I still run to first on base on balls.
PLAYBOY: How about running to your position? You’ve stopped doing that.
ROSE: I know how to conserve my energy. I don’t walk to my position. But I don’t sprint. I get out there and I look good on the way.
PLAYBOY: Why do you think you are such a consistent hitter?
ROSE: Well, there’s a lot of reasons. I’m a switch-hitter. I don’t strike out. I know how to hit. I hit the ball to all fields. There’s a lot of reasons why I’m a good hitter. But when I give a hitting clinic, the less you can talk about, the better off you are. There’s just three or four different things you talk about–you don’t want to get a kid thinking about 15 different things. I just think if you’ve got good eyes and strong hands, you can be a good hitter if you practice.
PLAYBOY: OK, so a kid is up there ready to learn how to hit. Tell us what you would tell him.
ROSE: Well, aggressiveness. Swing and get the bat out front, lift from the top. Don’t worry about your shoe, or your feet or your knees or hip. Don’t worry about anything. Your ribs, your shoulders. Don’t worry about how you look. Just go and hit the ball. Because it’s immaterial how you look. The whole secret to hitting is being comfortable.
Then you just put the basics of getting the bat out in front and being aggressive and being quick. You can’t tell a guy to swing at strikes only. Because there’s some guys if they swung at strikes only, they wouldn’t be aggressive. Roberto Clemente, if he swung at strikes only, he’d have been a .230 hitter. But he was super-, superaggressive. Yogi Berra was another one. Bad-ball hitter. But a good one. Joe Morgan swings at nothing but strikes, and he’s been successful that way. So, you know, whatever you’re successful at, that’s what you should do.
PLAYBOY: Is choking a mental thing?
ROSE: Yeah, 75 percent. There’s 15,000 different things that can go wrong as you hit the baseball, and when you’re hitting the baseball, everybody knows what you’re doing wrong. All the experts know. I do six things when I go in a slump. I move back in the box, up in the box, further away from the plate, closer to the plate. Heavier or lighter bat. I can tell what I’m doing wrong by the flight of the ball. If I’m batting left-handed and everything I’m hitting is over the third-base dugout, I know it’s swinging late. If I’m fouling everything down here, I’m swinging too early. That’s why before every game, I clean my bat off. After I bat the first time, I go back and look at my bat. I can see where I’m going wrong, where I’m hitting the ball. I make adjustments when I’m not at the plate hitting. Other guys don’t do that.
PLAYBOY: Are baseball players an unintelligent group of men? Are they dumber than other groups of athletes?
ROSE: Oh, I don’t know. I think baseball players are some of the smarter guys. Because, you know, a lot of the football and basketball players, when they have college education, all their college education is, is physical education. And baseball players get the education of hard knocks, going through the minor leagues and becoming street smart like me. You know, they may not talk like it, put their words together right. Just like me. I don’t talk good, but you understand everything I’m saying. I think I have a vocabulary and tone for getting things people understand. Kids understand me. I can get across to kids because I talk just like them. I’ve listened to football players and basketball players on interviews and I don’t know what the hell they’re saying. That don’t mean they’re stupid. I can get up in front of a bunch of people and I can have them laughing for a half hour. But I have to–because I can get $5000 for starters to do it.
PLAYBOY: You don’t seem to be stupid when it comes to making money.
ROSE: Well, nowadays you have to be more conscious about what you are going to have and what you are going to do after you get out of baseball. You know, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, the old-time ballplayers, they didn’t worry about saving money. They didn’t worry about what they were going to do when they got out of baseball. But today, with the prices the way they are and what is expected of you today, to be in a baseball park, you have to be taught about what is going to take place when your baseball-playing days are over. You don’t want to play baseball your whole life and at the age of 35, you have to pick up and get a new job and don’t have any money to start in that job. So I think we are more thinking about what is going to happen when you are through playing.
PLAYBOY: Do you realize that you are only playing a game?
ROSE: I realize it’s a game, but the odds of the game are the win. You know, you learn that in professional sports, you get in trouble sometimes, when you say that around kids, but winning is everything.
PLAYBOY: What kids are told is that winning or losing isn’t important; it’s playing the game that counts.
ROSE: It all depends on what kind of person you are. I mean, there are some guys that just fall in the trend that they’re used to losing. Other guys–some guys can’t stand the pressure of playing on a winning team. They can’t. I mean, that’s what I was reading the other day. I didn’t say it, but somebody was saying the other day that they wondered how Carew’s reaction would be if he played with the Yankees, a winning team. I don’t know. There are some guys who can’t play–because there are some guys who feel the pressures of being on a winner every day, day in and day out. Anybody can play on a last-place team.
Winning and losing is everything. I think you learn the differences in professional sports. I think you should teach it to kids, because winning and losing is important in life or in sports or in schoolwork or anything. I mean, if you had to worry about winning and losing in school, you wouldn’t worry about passing or flunking. I mean, winning or losing is passing or flunking, isn’t it? So when parents say that it is not important to my kid to worry about winning and losing, it’s just not true. “Winning and losing is everything. . . . When parents say that it’s not important to my kid to worry about winning and losing, it’s just not true.”
PLAYBOY: But the bottom line today, past who wins or loses, is how much money you’re paid to win, right?
ROSE: Well, I’m not in it to make everything I can as fast as I can, just to make a fast buck. The guys in Atlanta offered me $7,000,000 for four years–with some conditions attached. That’s pretty serious. So I didn’t get into this game to try to become independently wealthy overnight. A lot of people seem to think that. The Philly deal is a great deal. All the deals were great deals. I couldn’t have gone wrong with any deal. And when you start talking about friends on other teams and personnel on other teams and fans and ball parks, the Phillies lack nothing. Everything I looked at, the Phillies were right at the top. Fans, fan appeal, ball club, personnel on the ball club, the ball park, the ownership. Everything I looked at for the Phillies was positive. Now, Pittsburgh is a good, ball club, good ownership, good management. No fans. No fan appeal. Nobody goes to the ball park.
PLAYBOY: Having all those people bid so highly on you must have swelled your head a little.
ROSE: I don’t know why that should be. The only difference between this year and last year, or the only difference today as compared with when I was nine years old, I get just as dirty today playing ball as I did when I was nine years old. The only difference today, I make better money. I wasn’t a poor guy last year. I made almost $400,000. That’s not exactly suffering. But I gotta play to make it. My philosophy is, I gotta prove to Philly I deserve it. That’s the funny thing about this game. No matter how old you are or how good you are, you can hit .300 for 15 years and you get 38 years old and you gotta prove to people that you’re not old. By hitting .300 this year, I’ve got to prove to them next year that I’m not going downhill. Because there’s some people who are just sitting there, waiting for me to go downhill, so they can start yelling at me.
PLAYBOY: What is your net worth? With all the deals and endorsements you’ve got going, do you really know how much money you’ve got?
ROSE: I get a statement every three months. But I’m not going to tell you how much. It’s not good to do that, because you get idiots who’re kidnapers sitting out there, waiting for that kind of stuff. But unless it’s totally necessary, I don’t see the importance of putting a specific figure in the paper. I mean, so I’m a millionaire ballplayer. OK. I mean, everybody knows that. So what’s the difference if I got $2,200,000 or $1,600,000?
PLAYBOY: It’s a big difference from last year, isn’t it?
ROSE: Oh, I made good money last year. Well, I knew all that hard work and all that busting my ass and everything was going to pay off. I mean, the one reason, besides pride, I guess, that I worked so damned hard to get it is so I won’t have to worry about where I get my next meal from. I’ve seen many, many of my friends and guys I’ve played with, and they don’t even have a job. They’re looking for a job and their home is in hock and their family is hungry. Once I sign the contract, I forget about the money. Money’s not that important. It goes to my financial advisor, anyway. I never see a check.
PLAYBOY: How has your lifestyle changed?
ROSE: None. Hasn’t changed at all.
PLAYBOY: Nothing? Still buy the same clothes?
ROSE: My wife still shops at K Mart.
PLAYBOY: You have a Rolls-Royce.
ROSE: Well, you know, I don’t try and be a big shot because my wife drives a Rolls-Royce. I think it’s smart to buy a Rolls-Royce rather than buying a Lincoln or something–or a Cadillac every year and losing $3000, $4000 on it. Get a Rolls-Royce, you ain’t going to lose no money.
PLAYBOY: How did you manage to become an international media celebrity out of Cincinnati, Ohio?
ROSE: The reason for that is that I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of things exciting happen to me on national TV. The fight with Harrelson started the All-Star thing with Ray Fosse. The world series, the hitting streak, you know, all the magazine articles, covers of Sport, Sports Illustrated. You know that I’ve been on the cover of every magazine. I mean, I’ve been on the cover of Ebony!
PLAYBOY: You’ve become a highly marketable commodity, in other words?
ROSE: Other ballplayers don’t understand that that’s why I got that big contract. Because I’m recognizable, I’m marketable. You know, Parker, [Jim] Rice, Carew, those guys are tremendous ballplayers, but I mean, do you think they deserve the money that I do? Because you have to put more things in perspective than just hitting the baseball. I mean, Ted Turner, in Atlanta, wanted me to play for his team so he could sell his TV station. You know, the guy from Pittsburgh wanted me to play with their Pirates so they could turn their attendance around. The Phillies wanted to sign me to a contract and surpass their all-time record of season tickets by 5000. That proves something to me, that somebody thinks I’m marketable.
PLAYBOY: Is there a point where you begin worrying that you might be over-commercializing yourself?
ROSE: No, because if the stuff is credible and it’s class, you can’t be overexposed. If you get attached to a nice bank or a good supermarket, a good automobile agency, oil company, you don’t have to worry about it. But baseball players as a rule don’t make a lot of money in commercials. I mean, I do commercials for Aqua Velva and I get paid pretty good. But, hell, if I told you some of the salaries that Bob Hope and those guys get. . . . Because there’s only one Bob Hope. If they don’t want Pete Rose, if he says no to Aqua Velva, they can get Larry Bowa. If he says no, they’ll go to Dave Parker. There’s so many guys they can get.
PLAYBOY: But one of the reasons you are considered so marketable is that you’re a white athlete, wouldn’t you agree?
ROSE: It has something to do with it. Look, if you owned Swanson’s Pizza, would you want a black guy to do the commercial on TV for you? Would you like the black guy to pick up the pizza and bite into it? Try to sell it? I mean, would you want Dave Parker selling your pizza to America for you? Or would you want Pete Rose?
PLAYBOY: Doesn’t all that show business interfere with your game?
ROSE: Oh, I don’t do that shit during the summer. No, once baseball starts, I don’t fool with it. I don’t do no autograph signings, no charitable work, none of that stuff when the season starts. I’m not going to mess up the hand that feeds the mouth. I just play baseball in the summertime.
PLAYBOY: But off season, you seem to be everywhere. What’s next, the movies?
ROSE: I could have went into that last year. I just didn’t feel like it. What they wanted me to do, it just seemed like a lot of time and hard work for what they were going to pay me.
PLAYBOY: What movie were you going to be in?
ROSE: I was going to be a copilot in an airplane cockpit. Something to do with the Government. I didn’t get all the details, because I didn’t want to do it. I don’t need them. I didn’t need that film publicity.
PLAYBOY: How about the new candy bar you’ve come out with? Supercharg’r?
ROSE: Not candy. Don’t put candy down there. It’s all natural. It don’t have no sugar.
PLAYBOY: Just lots of royalties.
ROSE: Yes, that could be the best royalty I’ve ever got. I’ve had other bars–energy bars. When you took a bite out of them, you almost needed a glass of water to wash it down. But you can substitute them for a meal, too. They sell half of what the projection is, I’ll make one and a half times more than I do with the Phillies.
PLAYBOY: Do you have a ball-park idea of how many you think you’ll sell?
ROSE: Some of the competitors sell 57,000,000 and they don’t taste good. If I sold 300,000,000 of those bars, I would make $4,500,000 myself, just me. There’s no question about it. I can’t wait.
PLAYBOY: So you’re a pretty good money man. That must have helped you in your negotiations with other teams.
ROSE: Yeah, I guess you could say I really had my pick.
PLAYBOY: What were some of the other deals like, the ones you didn’t take? We’ve heard some outrageous stories.
ROSE: That ain’t so outrageous. Ted Turner, he’s a real character. He wanted to pay me 1,000,000 bucks a season for the years I could play and then $100,000 a year for as long as I live. See, he owns the TV station down there that carries the Braves games. He figured he’d make up the money easy in what they’d bring in on bigger ratings.
PLAYBOY: Sounds good. Why didn’t you go for it?
ROSE: I’m telling’ you, I really wasn’t in it for the money. What could I have done for the Braves? Make them a contender, maybe. There’s not much more one man could do for that club. It was more important to me to play with a team that could win the pennant, a team that could take the world series.
PLAYBOY: But turning down $1,000,000 a year?
ROSE: And that wasn’t the only one. John Galbreath, the Pirates’ owner, wanted to make me a millionaire, too. He owns Darby Dan Farm, too. He was going to give me race horses. Brood mares. He knows what a horse-race nut I am. He was going to give me some mares to breed with a couple of the best studs in the world. You know what that would be worth? You can’t even put a price on that. And the guy was going to pay me $400,000 a year besides that.
PLAYBOY: That must have been hard to turn down.
ROSE: Yeah, and there was others, too. Kansas City was offering me over $1,000,000 a year. And Augie Busch in St. Louis was going to throw in a big beer distributorship with his money. I really coulda had my pick. “My problem over all these years with contracts in Cincinnati was that I am always too fair.”
PLAYBOY: And you picked Philadelphia for less money?
ROSE: Well, the money wasn’t that much less. And I got lots of friends on the Phils. This team’s got a first-class front office. That meant a lot to me after what happened in Cincinnati.
PLAYBOY: What exactly did happen?
ROSE: Well, I’ll tell you, my problem over all these years with contracts in Cincinnati was that I am always too fair. See, some guys, if they want $100,000, they ask for $500,000. If they want $50,000, they ask for $80,000. You know, one year, I wanted $100,000, I got $92,000. Another year, I wanted $85,000 I got $75,000. I asked for $50,000 and I got $36,000. I never went over my head and then compromised. That’s the way it should’ve been done.
PLAYBOY: The president of the Cincinnati Reds, Dick Wagner, seems to have been a thorn in your side during negotiations with the Reds. If he had come through, would you still be a Red?
ROSE: I looked at Dick Wagner last year and I said, “Dick, what do you negotiate a contract on?” “All right,” he said, “it’s consistency. Years of experience. Popularity and statistics.” And I said, “What the hell do I lack in? On those four categories, what do I lack in as far as being number one in America? Who’s been more consistent over a 16-year period than me? Don’t say Rod Carew, because he’s only been there 12 years. And stats. Who’s got the stats? Now, if you say stats and a guy looks at me and says, well, you’ve only got 150 home runs. That’s more than anybody in the history of the National League for a switch-hitter.”
PLAYBOY: What did Wagner say to that?
ROSE: He didn’t say nothing. What could he say?
PLAYBOY: Does he have something against you?
ROSE: Evidently. Maybe it’s the flamboyant style I have off the field. But he should realize that all that does is sell tickets.
PLAYBOY: Let us play the devil’s advocate for a moment.
ROSE: All right. You give me what you think he’s saying and I’ll answer it.
PLAYBOY: He’s got you under contract. He’s paying you $400,000 and you’re busting your ass and he knows it. You’re the big draw. Let’s say 40,000 people come to a game. Now, if he doubles your salary, you’re not going to double attendance for him.
ROSE: That’s probably right.
PLAYBOY: You might not even add 10,000 more people a game.
ROSE: Well, look at it like this. Just like the Phillies said. They sold 5000 more seats in tickets per game this year.
PLAYBOY: But the Phillies didn’t have you.
ROSE: No, you’re misleading yourself. Because the Reds were not going to take me from $400,000 to $800,000. The Reds could’ve had me for $450,000. Four-five-oh for the rest of my career. They would not do it. Not $550,000 not $650,000, not $750,000–$450,000.
PLAYBOY: And you would have been happy with that figure?
ROSE: When I got my 3000th hit on May fifth, the Reds decided to have a Pete Rose Day, and my attorney, Reuven Katz, said, “Mr. Wagner, why don’t you give Pete–for the fans on Pete Rose Day–a career, nonguaranteed contract of $450,000 a year?” Career nonguaranteed contract. Wagner said, “Well, we don’t want to negotiate during the season.” But a week before, he was negotiating with Mike Lumm and his attorney and he had a meeting set up for two weeks after that. Which was later canceled because we found out about it. So those are the double standards I’m telling you about.
PLAYBOY: When was your next meeting with Wagner?
ROSE: After the season was over, we go in to see him and he says, “Well, that’s just a little bit too much.” I said, “Well, OK, if that’s the way you feel, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t just go through the free-agent draft to see what other teams think I’m worth.” Then we went to Japan for exhibition games and the draft took place. At no time in Japan did the Reds ever try to negotiate with me. So, finally, two days before Wagner leaves to come back to the United States, he says he’d like to have a meeting with me when he gets back. I said, “Don’t worry about it. I will never sign another contract before I talk to the Cincinnati Reds.” We get back and we go down and have a meeting with him. Now, this is almost two months after the season is over, right? And we go in there and we sit down, and he has an idea what these other teams have offered. We say, “Well, Dick, have you come up with anything? What do you think?” You know what he says? He says, “I haven’t had time to think about it.” Been two months. It’s a Friday. He says he’ll get back to us Sunday. He gets back to us Sunday. He calls me and says, “I don’t think we have any common ground to negotiate with.” And that was it. He’s still on the $400,000 figure. Which is less money than he’s paying a couple other players on the team. Now, is there any way possible you can see it to be fair for me to be the third-highest-paid player on Cincinnati’s team? They even had polls on TV in Cincy. Should Pete Rose be the highest-paid player on the Reds? You know, should he make the most money? More than any other player on the Reds? I mean, that’s a stupid question for anybody to ask anybody.
PLAYBOY: Did Wagner realize he could have gotten you for $50,000 more?
ROSE: Well, what happened, Wagner knew that he could’ve had me for $430,000, $440,000 of $450,000 way back in June. And he probably told his bosses that. Now, all of a sudden, it’s up to $650,000. What’s he gonna do, tell his people he can get me for $650,000? Well, they’ll say, “Hey, you could’ve gotten him for $450,000 three months ago. What the hell happened?” It makes him look bad. So he just said, “The hell with it. Take a chance.” Wagner took the chance that I wouldn’t have a good year. Do you think he knew I was going to go on a 44-game hitting streak? He took a chance and he lost.
PLAYBOY: How did that make you feel? Hurt, pissed off?
ROSE: No, I can’t be hurt because one guy didn’t like me. How can I be hurt?
PLAYBOY: Because he prevented you from having what could have been a continuous career–hometown boy, sticking with one uniform….
ROSE: Well, that’s another thing that was awful peculiar, as far as I’m concerned. Here’s a guy, Wagner, that’s an outsider. I’m 16 years a Cincinnati Red. Louis Nippert is a grand gentleman who owns the Cincinnati Reds, 89 percent, or something like that. I negotiate with all these guys I’m just telling you about. They pick me up at the airport, they drive me to their house, they negotiate and they drive me back to the airport. Mr. Busch, I negotiated with him four hours in the hospital where he was in for a hernia operation. So, finally, I asked Mr. Wagner, I said, “Mr. Wagner, why don’t you let me sit down and talk to Mr. Nippert? He owns the team. He’s from Cincinnati.” You know what he says? “You can talk to him but not about money.” Then doesn’t it seem strange here that at no time did I ever get to talk to the Cincinnati Reds’ owner? I spent 16 years, starting headfirst and playing anywhere they wanted me to play.
PLAYBOY: Did Nippert try to contact you?
ROSE: Mr. Nippert made a quote in the paper that no one ever asked him if I could talk to him. I never once got to negotiate about my contract. And I used to sit with him on the bus in Japan on the way to the ball park and talk to him. Nice fellow, great. But that just goes to show you that in Cincinnati, Mr. Nippert has nothing to do with what goes on with the ball club. It’s all Mr. Wagner.
PLAYBOY: Did you really want to finish out your career in Cincinnati?
ROSE: Sure. I used to think, especially when I went to St. Louis, I used to walk to the ball park there. I used to dream about having a statue like they’ve got of Stan Musial down at the Red’s stadium. I probably screwed that up now.
PLAYBOY: How has all the fuss affected your wife? What is Karolyn like?
ROSE: Crazy. Funny personality. She’s got a better personality than I got. She gets along better with people than anybody I’ve ever seen. Very outgoing. She’ll go to a banquet, a baseball banquet, and before we leave, she’ll have already kissed ten guys goodbye. I mean, nice to see you again and you know. She’s like a Jewish person. You know, all they do is kiss and shake hands.
PLAYBOY: Is that right?
ROSE: Yeah, you know it’s true.
PLAYBOY: How do you keep your marriage together? Obviously, there have been rocky times.
ROSE: I don’t worry about it. Nothing bothers me. If I’m home in bed, I sleep. If I’m at the ball park, I play baseball. If I’m on my way to the ball park, I worry about how I’m going to drive. Just whatever is going on, that’s what I do. I don’t worry about a bunch of things.
PLAYBOY: Is Karolyn a good baseball wife?
ROSE: She’s a perfect baseball player’s wife. Yeah. She went to a Cincinnati wrestling match and refereed the match between the Sheik and Bobo Brazil, and she came home, I swear to God–she had a sweat suit on, and she had, on one side, all the way down one side, nothing but blood on her pants. I mean, real blood.
PLAYBOY: She really got into it?
ROSE: Oh, man, they threw a chair and it just missed her. She had blood all over the damn place. She had fun.
Karolyn is understanding. She knows I go on road trips. She knows I am going to be away from home half the time. And she is a great mother, great housekeeper. She has got her own personality. She is outgoing, with a great personality. I guess marriagewise, her best enemies are her friends.
PLAYBOY: Why? Do they tattle on you?
ROSE: Because a lot of people have a tendency to think they know everything that goes on about me. They don’t know nothing. So a lot of people always talk about hearsay. And they can’t wait to tell her about hearsay. And hearsay can start more trouble than anything.
PLAYBOY: Karolyn told us that she has called you on the road and not been able to find you; she said she presumes you are screwing around. She seems to make a joke out of it.
ROSE: Well, she wouldn’t make a joke about it. But she will take it. She won’t say nothin’. She knows what I like for her to say or not to say.
PLAYBOY: Doesn’t sound like much of an example as far as equality goes. What about kids? Do you think much about the example you set for them?
ROSE: You mean in baseball?
PLAYBOY: Not necessarily. How about other areas–such as drugs?
ROSE: I have never been on drugs.
PLAYBOY: No one ever passed a joint at a party?
ROSE: I have been around where there has been, but I never did. I always worry too much if I do, something like that and some guy with a camera takes my picture or they arrest me. I have got too much to lose for something like that.
PLAYBOY: Cocaine has become the playtime drug of the major leagues, according to a Playboy poll. What do you think about your teammates’ using it?
ROSE: It is OK with me. You know all of my teammates don’t do it. I hope the guys who I play against do it. I don’t give a shit. It is just going to make my job easier.
PLAYBOY: What if you found out that particular teammates were doing it?
ROSE: I’d try to straighten them out. And I would try to make them see the light. I mean, I am no Elmer Gantry. Even though I don’t hang in bars and drink or nothin’. I mean, I’d try to make them see the light. In everything you do, there is a right way to do something and a wrong way to do something. And just explain it to them the right way without . . . I forgot the word . . . you know I’m not–I don’t disagree with every thing–I am not a pure person.
I guess I heard some of the guys I used to play with did cocaine or marijuana and I tried to talk to them, but, you know, I can think of a couple of guys that should have listened to me. ‘Cause they are under 30 and they are out, they are gone now, looking for jobs.
PLAYBOY: A lot of guys say they need an amphetamine, or two or three before a game. What do you think?
ROSE: Well, a lot of guys might think that there are certain days you might need a greenie, an upper.
PLAYBOY: Would you take one?
ROSE: I might. I have taken stuff before.
PLAYBOY: What stuff?
ROSE: A painkiller when I had a bad arm. You know, just, it’s not against the law to do that.
PLAYBOY: No. We mean something to pick you up.
ROSE: Well, that would get you up.
PLAYBOY: Have you taken greenies?
ROSE: Well, I might have taken a greenie last week. I mean, if you want to call it a greenie. I mean, if a doctor gives me a prescription of 30 diet pills, because I want to curb my appetite, so I can lose five pounds before I go to spring training, I mean, is that bad? I mean, a doctor is not going to write a prescription that is going to be harmful to my body. “A lot of guys might think there are days you might need a greenie, an upper. . . . I might have taken a greenie last week.”
PLAYBOY: It depends on your body.
ROSE: So a greenie can be a diet pill. That’s all a greenie is, is a diet pill. Am I right or wrong? I know I am right. An upper is nothing but a diet pill.
PLAYBOY: But would you use them for anything other than dieting?
ROSE: There might be some day when you played a double-header the night before and you go to the ball park for a Sunday game and you just want to take a diet pill, just to mentally think you are up. You won’t be up, but mentally you might think you are up.
PLAYBOY: Does that help your game?
ROSE: It won’t help the game, but it will help you mentally. When you help yourself mentally, it might help your game.
PLAYBOY: You keep saying you might take a greenie. Would you? Have you?
ROSE: Yeah, I’d do it. I’ve done it.
PLAYBOY: Have you ever found homosexuality among baseball players?
ROSE: I have never heard anything mentioned about any homosexual in baseball. Either on my team or on the opposing team. So I know nothing about it. I read about it on football teams, but I don’t know.
PLAYBOY: Psychologists have claimed that there are homosexual tendencies in everything athletes do–patting and hugging. Do you agree?
ROSE: I disagree with it. When the shot is from under the butt, it is just a good place to slap because of the way your hand is. Your hand is right there, I mean. In hockey, they do that, too. They also hit each other on the head. Well, most guys pat guys on the butt because they already passed them. We always hit each other on the hand. But you can’t hit a guy on the hand if he has already walked by you, so the only place to hit–there is only one place to hit him. I disagree with that stuff. They want me to be that way, that is why they say that. You can’t tell me. Because I hit more guys on the butt than anybody. They’re going to say that I have homosexual ways. I just scream at them. I just say that is stupid.
PLAYBOY: There’s just one more topic to talk about, and that’s the paternity suit filed against you by Terryl Rubio, the young woman in Florida who says she had your baby.
ROSE: I ain’t gonna say nothin’ about that. You’re wastin’ your time even askin’ me.
PLAYBOY: Why won’t you talk about it?
ROSE: It’s nobody’s business. It’s private.
PLAYBOY: Private? It’s been on national television and in every newspaper in the country. And there are a lot of people in baseball who’ve told us that you spent much of last season traveling around with the girl while she was pregnant. You didn’t seem to be hiding it then. How can it be so private? Do you deny the allegation now?
ROSE: Look, you can say anything you want, ’cause you ain’t gonna get nothin’ from me.
PLAYBOY: Then let’s go on and finish the interview. There are still a couple of things we’d like to clear up.
ROSE: What the hell more do you need? I’ve already talked to you for weeks.
PLAYBOY: We know that; we made that clear to you from the outset. You’re the one who has canceled appointments and stood us up.
ROSE: Well, it’s finished. I don’t want to talk to fuckin’ reporters anymore.
PLAYBOY: Why? You made such a point of how you always cooperate with the press.
ROSE: Look, I know what you’re gonna ask me and I ain’t gonna talk about that shit. So why bother me? That’s personal shit, man.
PLAYBOY: So the interview’s over?
ROSE: Fuckin’ right it is.
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