Thursday, December 5, 2013

December 5, 1978: The Phillies Sign Pete Rose

On December 5, 1978, after he signed on the dotted line that guaranteed him $3.2 million over the next four seasons Pete Rose became a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. Rose was the free agent prize of the offseason, he was courted by Philadelphia, St. Louis, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City. Despite the fact that each of the other cities in the mix offered him more money he made the decision to play in the City of Brotherly Love because of a close relationship with several of the Phillies players and the organization's willingness to add the fourth year to the contract. At the time Rose was 37 years old, he was coming off a remarkable season, he not only joined the 3,000 hit club early in the campaign, he also strung together a 44 game hitting streak. He had spent all of his 16 years in the league with the Cincinnati Reds and after he left he said he would have signed for half the amount to remain in the city in which it all began only to have them balk at negotiations.While in Cincinnati he was a key component of the team that was known as "The Big Red Machine" and a machine they were. From 1970 to 1976 they averaged 98 wins per season with men like Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, and Pete Rose led by Hall of Fame skipper Sparky Anderson. The pinnacle for those great teams came with back-to-back titles in '75 and '76. When he hit the free agent market in '78 the bidding wars included a beer distributorship in St. Louis, race horses in Pittsburgh, and stock interests in Kansas City. While the perspective offers from each of the other cities in the running were considered higher they did not involve the same amount of cash and in the end cash is king and Rose with the sure thing. The contract amounted to $800,000 annually and made him the highest paid player in the game. When he was inked the owner of the club Ruly Carpenter thought he had found the final piece to a World Series puzzle. Some might have thought it was a bad deal after the Phillies failed to make the playoffs in '79 but I would bet those same people changed their minds in 1980 when they watched Rose roll through downtown Philadelphia as the city celebrated the first Phillies title since 1950. He exited Philly following the '83 season and signed with the Montreal Expos where he became the only the second in the history of the game to record 4,000 hits in a career. The stop in Montreal didn't last long, in August of '84 he was dealt to the Reds where he was named player/manager. It was a triumphant return to the city that helped build his career. He surpassed Ty Cobb's record of 4,191 in September of 1985. After playing in 72 games during the '86 campaign Rose turned his focus to managing. His playing career spanned 24 years and the list of the accomplishments are too long to list. Unfortunately, we all know how it ended for Pete with the lifetime ban, but everything in between was pure greatness. I'm sure the fans in Philly are glad he wore their uniform as he made his journey through baseball.

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