Several Reds players appeared on the most recent ESPN Hall of 100, the network’s list of the one hundred greatest players of all time. Here’s my general post on their rankings. I’ve previously covered Barry Larkin (#75) and Ken Griffey Jr. (#35). The numbers in parentheses reflect the player ranking on the ESPN list.

Pete Rose (#38) isn’t the best Reds player ever and yet, he is likely the most well-known. Many people who know little about baseball have heard of Pete Rose.

Rose garnered fame for many reasons. He ran hard on every play regardless of the likely outcome, earning himself the moniker “Charlie Hustle.” Rose has the most career hits of any major league baseball player making him the Hit King of America’s pastime. And most notoriously to some, Rose was banned from baseball for betting on the game while managing the Reds.

Regardless of how fans feel about him and his vices, Rose’s on field excellence is  not debatable. His longevity and consistent excellence allowed him to achieve several records that will be hard for any player to break. These records include the following:

  • Most games played (3,562)
  • Most seasons with at least 200 hits (10)
  • Most total times on base (5,929)
  • Most hits in a career (4,256)

Before Rose became Charlie Hustle, he was a Cincinnati kid playing football and baseball at Western Hills High School. Interestingly, Rose preferred football to baseball in his prep days. He grew up close to Crosley Field and saw the Reds play many times.

The Reds signed Rose out of high school, and he debuted with the club in 1963. Rose hit his way to the Rookie of the Year award with a .273 average and a .334 OBP. He also scored 101 runs.

Shortly after his rookie success, Rose began a stretch of productivity rarely seen in the sport’s history.

From 1965-1978, Rose accumulated at least 3.5 WAR for the Reds in every season. He had at least 5 WAR in 9 of those seasons. During those 14 seasons, Rose hit below .300 only once, batting .284 in 1974. His lowest runs created score (wRC+) was 118, meaning that Rose’s worst offensive season from 1965-1978 was 18% better than the average major leaguer.

A couple years stand out during Rose’s run of dominance. He won the MVP in 1973 as he posted a dominating .338/.401/.437 slash line. He also scored 115 runs and added 64 RBIs. Rose’s 7.3 WAR was the sixth highest total in all of baseball in 1973. He led the majors with 230 hits. The next closest player (Rod Carew) had only 203 hits.

As good as Rose’s MVP season was, his 1976 campaign may have been better. Rose hit .323/.404/.450 while scoring a career high 130 runs. He had an excellent wRC+ (144), and his 7.4 WAR was the fourth best in all of baseball (MVP Joe Morgan’s 9.5 WAR led the major leagues that season).

Rose would play 24 seasons, 18.5 with the Reds. He played in 17 All Star games, his last appearance coming as a 44 year old in 1985. Not only did Rose have 200 hits in 10 different seasons, He had at least 100 hits in 23 consecutive seasons. Rose is the only player to ever play over 500 hundred games at five different positions:­

  • First Base (939)
  • Left Field (673)
  • Third Base (634)
  • Second Base (628)
  • Right Field (590)

Rose also played 73 games in Center Field. His versatility on defense is truly unparalleled among the greatest players in major league history.

After playing half a season for the Expos in 1984, the Reds traded for Rose and named him player/manager.

The climactic moment of his long career came on September 11, 1985 when he singled into left center for hit number 4192, breaking Ty Cobb’s record for career hits.

Of Rose’s 4,256 career hits, 3,358 came with the Reds. He accumulated 76.2 WAR (80.1 total) in 18.5 seasons with the Reds. Rose also won the World Series MVP in 1975. ­

Rose once quipped that he would “walk through Hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball.” And he proved it by playing until he was 45 years old. The Hit King retired as a player after the 1986 season and continued to manage the Reds until the 1989 season. On August 24, 1989, Commissioner Bart Giamatti announced Rose’s ban from baseball. The ban remains today, keeping one of the most decorated baseball players of all time out of the Hall of Fame.

For some, Pete Rose will always wear a scarlet letter for gambling on the game. But his astounding career should be celebrated, especially by those who enjoyed his greatness the most, Reds fans.