Fifty years ago today, one of the longest-lasting players in baseball history made his major league debut: Pete Rose with the Reds.
Rose is one of the biggest names in the baseball universe. He had one of the longest careers in history. He is, after all, the man who played in more games than anyone else: 3,562. Rose is also first in at-bats (14,053), plate appearances (15,890), singles (3,215), times on base (5,929), and—oh, yeah—hits: 4,256 of them.
That last item is his main claim to fame. Ty Cobb’s hit record stood for decades with no one seriously threatening, but Rose pulled it off. He combined tons of plate appearances with a high batting average, durability, and an amazingly long career arc.
Plenty of players had a great stretch of a few years getting hits. Kirby Puckett was a monster for a while. Wade Boggs had a string of 200-hit seasons. Others got off to faster starts. But Rose started hitting early and kept hitting forever.
Rose has been such a big name for such a long time that it’s easy to assume he’s always been part of the baseball landscape, but of course that wasn’t the case. Fifty years ago today he was just a cocky young middle infielder who was certain he belonged in the major leagues.
In his first trip to the big league plate on April 8, 1963, Rose got on base, though without getting a hit. Pirates pitcher Earl Francis walked him. Though Rose typically looked for a hit, he wasn’t excessively aggressive. He walked in about one-tenth of his big league trips, ending his career with 1,566 walks, 14th most all time.
Rose scored the first of his 2,165 career runs a few moments later when teammate Frank Robinson bashed one of his 586 career home runs. That would be it for Rose on the day. He’d ground out, reach on an error, and fan in his remaining trips to the plate. It would be a few days before he got his first hit, but once he started, it took a long while for him to stop.
Rose had a nice 1963, winning Rookie of the Year Award. He still was more an up-and-comer than a genuine star, though. He missed the All-Star Game that year and in 1964. He finally made it in 1965, as the second baseman batted .312 while playing every game, giving him the first of a record 10 200-hit seasons. Rose won a smattering of support in the MVP voting that year and was on his way.
Rose solidified his reputation as one of the best-hitting second baseman of the 1960s, and winning back-to-back batting titles in 1968 and ’69 ensured that he was at the front rank of baseball stars. The Reds then became a powerhouse, winning four pennants from 1970-76, and Rose picked up his MVP in 1973.
He remained a huge star the rest of his career, and breaking Cobb’s hit record made him one of the most famous names in the game’s history. Rose’s reputation was so massive in the mid-1980s that Bill James once said Rose had a chance to become the first person elected to Cooperstown by unanimous vote.
Of course, that didn’t happen. It didn’t even come close to happening. Rose still is not in Cooperstown. As beloved as he was for as long as he was, by 2013 Rose has been vilified for almost as long as he was once lionized. The worm has turned.
But Rose’s path to fame and infamy began with his first big league game, and that took place 50 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
1,000 days since George Steinbrenner dies.
3,000 days since the Rays sign Roberto Alomar.
4,000 days since Brad Lidge makes his big league debut.
4,000 days since the Dodgers’ Odalis Perez faces the bare minimum 27 batters in his one-hit, complete-game shutout of the Cubs. Corey Patterson prevents the perfect game thanks to a bad-hop infield single.
5,000 days since the Red Sox trade Mike Maroth to the Tigers.
5,000 days since the Royals trade longtime star Kevin Appier to the A’s for three players.
5,000 days since the Mets trade Brian McRae to the Rockies.
5,000 days since the Mets trade failed prospect Jason Isringhausen to the A’s, where he’ll revitalize his career as a closer.
7,000 days since the Indians sign free agent catcher Tony Pena.
7,000 days since the Tigers sign free agent pitcher Tim Belcher.
7,000 days since basketball legend Michael Jordan signs a minor league baseball contract with the Chicago White Sox.
20,000 days since star pitcher Larry Jackson finds himself in hell. Yesterday the Cardinals pitcher surrendered a bases-loaded, walk-off walk to Willie Kirkland. Today he gives up a game-ending, bases-loaded, walk-off hit-by-pitch to Jim Davenport. Yuck.
At some point today it will be 1,000,000,000 seconds since the official end of the 1981 players’ strike.
1859 Lady Baldwin, pitcher, is born. He’ll top the NL in wins in 1886 with 42 (and blow his arm out in the process).
1891 Kid Carsey, starting pitcher, makes his big league debut.
1909 Star first baseman Hal Chase comes down with smallpox. It was a very different time.
1915 Kirby Higbe, pitcher, is born. He’ll star for the 1941 pennant-winning Dodgers, going 22-9 with league-leading totals in wins, games, starts, batters faced, wild pitches, walks, and earned runs allowed. He’ll be a workhorse who walks 100 or more batters in a season seven times.
1920 The Cardinals release veteran starting pitcher Red Ames.
1922 The Cardinals debuts a uniform familiar to us, one with two red birds perched on ends of a bat with the word “Cardinals” across the front.
1927 Charlie Maxwell, a two-time All-Star Tigers left fielder, is born.
1932 Washington signs free agent Moe Berg. That’s the Washington Senators. The Washington federal government won’t sign him as a spy until later.
1934 For the first time ever, the A’s and Phillies legally play Sunday baseball in Philadelphia.
1934 Turk Farrell, a four-time All-Star reliever, is born.
1943 John Hiller, star Tigers reliever from the 1970s, is born.
1946 Hall of Fame workhorse pitcher Catfish Hunter is born.
1952 The Braves trade outfielder Bob Elliott to the Giants.
1954 Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter is born.
1963 The Tigers make a fantastic move, claiming minor leaguer Denny McLain off waivers from the White Sox. At the very least, this costs Chicago the 1967 pennant.
1963 Gil Hodges manages his first game.
1964 The White Sox sign aging outfielder Minnie Minoso.
1964 Houston Astros pitcher Jim Umbricht dies at age 33 from cancer.
1964 George Moriarty, a deadball third baseman for the Tigers, dies at age 78.
1966 The Astrodome debuts.
1968 MLB decides to postpone its Opening Day due to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the subsequent riots across the nation.
1969 Billy Martin manages his first game.
1969 Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego is dedicated. The Padres win the first game there, 2-1 over the Braves, before 23,370 fans.
1969 Dick Allen first plays first base.
1969 The Expos win their first game, giving them a franchise record of 1-0. It’s the only time their cumulative franchise record has ever been over .500.
1969 Red Sox star Tony Conigliaro plays for the first time since his 1967 beaning. Things won’t work out the way everyone wants them to.
1969 The Seattle Pilots play in their first game, losing 4-3 to California.
1971 Starting pitcher Steve Stone makes his big league debut.
1973 Starting pitcher Ray Burris makes his big league debut.
1975 Frank Robinson becomes baseball’s first black manager when he fills in the lineup card for the Indians.
1975 The ill-fated Lyman Bostock makes his big league debut.
1976 Jim Slaton wins his 49th game as a Brewer to become the all-time franchise leader in wins. He still is despite having a losing record with Milwaukee.
1976 Volatile starting pitcher Joaquin Andujar makes his big league debut.
1978 Former commissioner Ford Frick dies at age 79.
1978 Sensational fielding outfielder Dwayne Murphy makes his big league debut.
1978 Future batting champion Carney Lansford makes his big league debut.
1979 Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan has his best game ever according to WPA. He is 4-for-6 with a double, reached on error, stolen base, RBI, and run in a 7-6 Reds victory over San Francisco for a 0.734 WPA.
1982 Rickey Henderson sets a personal mark he’ll tie 18 years later when he walks five times in one game. He gets on base seven times in all, also a personal best.
1984 Dickie Thon, a young promising shortstop, has his career derailed when an errant fastball from Bob Ojeda smashes Thon’s face, shattered his cheekbone. Thon will recover enough to play, but he never lives up to his original potential.
1985 For the only time in his career, should-be Hall of Famer Alan Trammell gets on base via catcher’s interference.
1986 Star Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez is born.
1986 Female fans in St. Louis’ Busch Stadium invade men’s restrooms due to the excessively long lines in their bathrooms.
1986 Jimy Williams manages his first big league game.
1986 Wally Joyner makes his big league debut.
1986 Rangers slugger Pete Incaviglia makes his big league debut.
1987 Al Campanis resigns from the Dodgers front office because of his statements on national TV a few days earlier about why there are no black managers.
1987 B.J. Surhoff makes his big league debut.
1989 Jamie Moyer fans 13, a career high for him.
1989 One-armed pitcher Jim Abbott makes his big league debut.
1991 Sammy Sosa enjoys the first of 69 career multi-home run games.
1993 Carlos Baerga makes history by becoming the first player to homer from both sides of the plate in the same inning.
1994 Kirby Puckett gets his 2,000th hit. He does it in impressive fashion, going 5-for-6 with three doubles and a half-dozen RBIs. It’s taken him just 1,542 games to get to 2,000. At the time, it looks like he’s a shoe-in for 3,000 and beyond.
1994 Braves pitcher Kent Mercker no-hits the Dodgers, 6-0. He fans 10 and walks four. Mercker had a previous no-hitter, but this is his first complete-game no-hitter.
1994 Dodgers Korean import Chan Ho Park makes his big league debut on the mound.
1995 Orel Hershiser leaves LA, signing as a free agent with Cleveland.
1995 Colorado signs star right fielder Larry Walker.
1996 MLB gives 325-pound umpire Eric Gregg a leave of absence to lose weight. This is in response to John McSherry’s fatal on-field Opening Day heart attack.
2001 Young Pirates third baseman Aramis Ramirez hits three home runs in one game.
2001 CC Sabathia makes his big league debut.
2001 Pedro Martinez fans 16 in just eight innings. He walks three and allows three hits but no runs.
2002 Houston star Craig Biggio hits for the cycle.
2003 Ivan Rodriguez walks five times in one game in just five plate appearances. Not bad.
2004 Texas signs free agent outfielder Gary Matthews Jr.
2005 Eddie Miksis dies at age 78. He was a utility player in the 1940s and 50s.
2007 White Sox starting pitcher John Danks makes his big league debut.
2007 For the second time in his career, Roy Halladay picks a runner off. He did it in July of 2002, here, and that’s it.
2011 Manny Ramirez announces his retirement after major league baseball notifies him of a “drug policy issue.”
2011 The Boston Red Sox, preseason favorites to win it all, are now 0-7 to begin the year.