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by Harold Friend
On December 5, 1978, the Philadelphia Phillies made Pete Rose baseball's highest paid player when they signed him to a four-year contract worth $800,000 a season. Pete Rose made certain that the entire country knew how great he thought he was. Pete flew around the country in a private plane, showing a 25-minute film of his career to prospective employers.
"But If That's What Other Guys Are Getting, I Want It Too"
At the news conference announcing his signing with the Phillies, 37 year-old Pete, in his usual immodest manner, said, "It took me a long time to get to the top of my profession. I played with Henry Aaron and Willie Mays, and Sandy Koufax, and Don Drysdale, and against Mickey Mantle. And it feels great. I'm not going to stand here and tell you a ballplayer should get $100,000. But if that's what other guys are getting, I want it too."
Pete Rose Thought He No Longer Must Worry About Getting Into Debt
Pete Rose was ecstatic with the money he was going to receive and didn't hesitate to say so, but as Frank Sinatra used to sing, "How little we know, how much to discover. Pete told everyone "I had so many good offers from so many good teams that I didn't know what direction to turn in. Now I probably have enough money so I don't have to worry about getting into debt."
The Phillies Had a Pretty Good Third Baseman
The Pete Rose who signed with the Phillies had more than 3,000 career hits, a .310 batting average, 150 home runs, and was coming off a season in which he had hit safely in 44 consecutive games. Rose had made the National League all-star as a second baseman, an outfielder, and a third baseman. Since the Phillies had a pretty good player at third base named Mike Schmidt, Phillies' manager Danny Ozark indicated that Pete would probably play first base.
Pete Rose Accepted the LOWEST Offer
The Phillies' offer was the lowest, but when questioned why he accepted it, Pete explained that they were his first choice all along, and when they increased their offer, even though it remained the lowest one, he accepted it. "They're a great club, and I have a lot of friends on it. I've said all along that I preferred an offensive team and a contending team."
Two all time great managers, Tommy Lasorda and Don Zimmer, were impressed by Pete's press conference. Lasorda commented that it was outstanding and that the great sum of money would not make Pete any less hungry to win. "When he puts on a uniform, he plays the same as if he's making $150 a year." Don Zimmer felt that the Phillies were giving the money to the right man.
The Missing Piece
The Phillies finished fourth in 1979, fourteen games behind the Pirates, but Pete Rose had a great year, batting .331 with a .418 on base average. Nineteen eighty was different. Pete helped to lead the Phillies to their first World Championship. He hit only .282, but he was clearly the missing piece that the Phillies' teams that were eliminated in the playoffs each season from 1976-78 lacked.
Pete Wanted More More Money
Pete left the Phillies for Montreal in 1984, but his stay in Montreal was brief. In August he returned to Cincinnati as their playing manager, and it seems that despite his earlier claim that he probably had enough money so he didn't have to worry about getting into debt, Pete wanted more money and the means he used in his attempts to obtain it have prevented him from being eligible to be voted into the Hall of Fame.
By JOSEPH DURSO Special to The New York Times. (1978, December 6). Rose Signed by Phils To $3.2 Million Pact :Rose Is Signed by Phils to 4-Year, $3.2 Million Contract Ex-Red Is Now Highest Paid in Baseball Managers in Attendance 25-Minute Film of His Career Switch-Hitting Charlie Hustle. New York Times (1857-Current file),p. A1. Retrieved April 3, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers T he New York Times (1851 - 2005) database. (Document ID: 110978735).