With another book about Pete Rose which came out earlier this month, it brought back a couple of old memories that I have with the former Cincinnati Reds star.
One memory took place in 1968 when my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates and superstar Roberto Clemente visited the Reds for a weekend series at Crosley Field. Before going to the ballpark for Sunday’s game, my parents and I went for a breakfast at Jorge’s, a popular downtown restaurant where the players were often spotted. And we recognized three baseball standouts – Matty Alou (who was the National League batting champion in 1966) and Manny Mota of the Pirates, and Rose at the restaurant.
Wearing a custom-made baseball jersey with No. 21 – the number worn by Clemente – on it, I nervously approached Rose, who was sitting at a corner table, to ask for his autograph. He noticed my Pirates uniform right away, not smiling.
“Whose number are you wearing,” Rose said in a deep voice.
“It’s Clemente’s,” I proudly responded.
“Get away from me,” Rose mocked, then laughing as he patted me on my head or shoulder, commenting that Clemente was a good fellow.
I also got autographs from Alou and Mota, both of whom were sitting on the counter.
Another Rose memory took place during the mid-1970s when I was a very young sportswriter during my college days. While I was interviewing Lexington native and Reds player Doug Flynn in the dressing room for a story, I began to notice someone was lurking over my shoulder and then stared at my face. That person was none other than Rose who was joking around.
I’m sure Rose doesn’t remember these episodes, but it is kind of nice to have old memories about a superstar not named Clemente. (Speaking of Clemente, I had a special childhood relationship with him, but that’s another story.)
Last summer we also took a short family trip to Cincinnati to watch the Pirates face the Reds. And we had our pictures taken with Rose and other ex-Reds standouts at the Great American Ball Park. Jim Maloney (who threw two no-hitters), Tony Perez, Eric Davis, Chris Sabo, Wayne Granger, Tom Browning and Tommy Helms were among the other players who appeared at the special “Meet and Greet” sessions which were held at the Reds Hall of Fame in the stadium.
It was great to see some of the former Reds that I haven’t seen in a long time. Another great memory, too.
Speaking of Rose’s new 290-page hardcover, his memoir is titled “Play Hungry: The Making of a Baseball Player” (Penguin Press, $28). Rose wrote about how he became one of the unlikeliest stars in Major League Baseball through hard work and sheer will. He said he learned at a very young age that winning was everything while growing up in Cincinnati with a father he adored and idolized. As a superstar and manager for the Reds, Rose shared many memories with the readers and discusses his shortcomings, including gambling on baseball and the pain it caused his family and fans, as well as today’s MLB.
In the book, Rose also mentioned that “Roberto Clemente helped me more than any player who wasn’t my teammate. You had to listen closely to everything he was saying because his English wasn’t the greatest. So you paid more attention. Plus, he was Roberto Clemente, the greatest Puerto Rican ever to play the game. There is only one way to become a master in your own right, and that’s to learn as much as you can from the masters. …. ”
Besides his dad, Rose, who is now 78, added he received lots of advice from other baseball stars Willie Mays and Hank Aaron as well.
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There are several other recently-published books that sports fans may enjoy reading this summer. Some of the new volumes include:
--“Last of a BReed: A Legendary Kentucky Writer’s Journey Through Six Decades of Sports and Journalism” by Billy Reed (Acclaim Press, $26.95) is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at his sportswriting career as he developed personal relationships with well-known folks like Bob Knight, Adolph Rupp, among others. An award-winning sportswriter who is retired for the most part, Reed, as you may remember, wrote articles for the Louisville Courier-Journal, Lexington Herald-Leader and Sports Illustrated.
--“Let’s Play Two: The Legend of Mr. Cub, The Life of Ernie Banks” by Ron Rapoport (Hachette Books, $28) is a revealing biography of baseball hall of famer Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs who was a popular figure. The 454-page hardcover is written by a sportswriter who knew him and wrote columns for the Chicago Sun-Times for more than 20 years.
--“SoccerWomen: The Icons, Rebels, Stars and Trailblazers Who Transformed the Beautiful Game” by Gemma Clarke (Bold Type Books, $16.99) is a 339-page paperback featuring the remarkable women who have defined the sport. The book is based on original interviews with more than 50 current and former players and coaches. Players profiled include Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, Hope Solo, Marta, and many others. The author is a British sports journalist based in the U.S.
--"For the Good of the Game: The Inside Story of the Surprising and Dramatic Transformation of Major League Baseball" by Bud Selig (William Morrow, $28.99) is a part memoir which chronicles Selig's career, takes fans inside locker rooms and board rooms, and offers an intimate account of the process involved in changing the America's pastime. A longtime baseball executive, Selig is a former commissioner of the sport. The 319-page hardcover is scheduled for release on July 9.
--“No Place I Would Rather Be: Roger Angell and a Life in Baseball Writing” by Joe Bonomo (University of Nebraska Press, $27.95) is a story about one of the greatest baseball writers. Born in 1920, Angell has watched Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig hit home runs at Yankee Stadium before starting his writing career. He began writing about baseball in 1962 and has written several baseball books. The author teaches in the Department of English at Northern Illinois University.
Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime columnist in Kentucky, is the author of four books about UK basketball. He is the editor and founder of KySportsStyle.com magazine and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. You can follow him on Twitter @KySportsStyle or reach him via e-mail at KySportsStyle@gmail.com.