CINCINNATI — Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb's career hit record Wednesday night, 57 years to the day after Cobb's last swing. The historic No. 4,192 was a characteristic single, giving the Cincinnati Reds player-manager the record.
The hit was a liner to left field on a 2-1 pitch from San Diego Padres right-hander Eric Show with one out in the bottom of the first inning.
With one swing of the bat, one of the biggest records in all of sports fell to the calloused, workman's hands of the 44-year-old Rose, in his 23rd major-league season.
Peter Edward Rose, the scrappy "Charlie Hustle" and future Hall of Famer, surpassed Tyrus Raymond Cobb, the brawling "Georgia Peach" and original Hall of Famer, as baseball's all-time hit king.
Rose's record triggered celebration in Cincinnati, his hometown and where he played his first 16 seasons and the last 1 1/2 seasons as player-manager.
His teammates streamed out of the dugout to congratulate him, and he was hoisted briefly onto the shoulders of Tony Perez and Dave Concepcion. Team owner Marge Schott led a sellout crowd, many of whom arrived too late to see the hit, in wild cheers as Rose wept on the shoulder of first-base coach Tommy Helms. After his 15-year-old son, Pete Jr., came out to congratulate him, Rose motioned, "Play ball."
The first-base bag was removed and taken to the dugout, along with the historic ball, fielded by left fielder Carmelo Martinez.
All Show could do was sit on the mound until the cheering ended. Cincinnati won the game, 2-0.
Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, who watched Rose try and fail to break the record Tuesday night, was in New York when the big moment came.
"All of baseball salutes Pete Rose for breaking a record experts said would never be broken," Ueberroth said in a statement. "His 4,192 hits is a tribute to his great talent and strength, his indomitable spirit and his iron will. Not only has he reserved a prominent spot in Cooperstown, he has reserved a special place in the heart of every fan alive today and every baseball fan to come."
It was Rose's 95th hit of a season highlighted from the beginning by a day-by-day countdown of the biggest record chase since Henry Aaron passed Babe Ruth in career home runs in 1974.
It was the 3,162nd single of Rose's career. He also has 738 doubles, 132 triples and 160 home runs. Cobb had 3,052 singles, 724 doubles, 297 triples and 118 home runs.
After his record hit, Rose walked and scored in the third, then later flied out and tripled for No. 4,193.
Rose's return to Cincinnati, where he got his first hit on April 14, 1963, was the final stepping stone to his assault on Cobb.
"If the Reds hadn't needed a manager, he might not have gotten the chance," former teammate Johnny Bench said. "Maybe it was fate or destiny."
If it was his destiny, at least Rose has tried to keep it in perspective of his dirt-to-diamonds career.
"When I get the record," Rose said, "all it will make me is the player with the most hits. I'm also the player with the most at-bats--and the most outs. . . . I've never said I was a greater player than Cobb."
Indeed, Rose never expected to supplant Cobb, who built his record in 2,339 fewer at-bats over 24 seasons and compiled a .367 career average, 62 points higher than Rose's.
Cobb, who died in 1961, ended his career on Sept. 11, 1928, popping out as a pinch-hitter for the Philadelphia Athletics at Yankee Stadium.
"No other record in no other sport has the impact of this," said the Padres' Steve Garvey.
No one playing now is anywhere near Rose. The closest active player is Rod Carew of the Angels with 3,030 hits, 1,162 back and 13th on the all-time list.
Rose took the first pitch from Show high and outside, and he fouled the second pitch straight back. The third pitch was inside, and then Show dished up the record-breaker.
The ball sliced gracefully into left-center field, falling in front of Martinez, who fielded it on one bounce.
Rose tied the record last Sunday in Chicago, going 2 for 5 against the Cubs for career hits No. 4,190 and 4,191. He returned home Monday night, much to the relief of Schott, thousands of fans who wanted to take their part in history and to Rose himself. They all wanted the record-breaker to come in Cincinnati.
But Rose did not play in the series opener against Padre left-hander Dave Dravecky. Tuesday night, Rose started against Padre right-hander LaMarr Hoyt but went hitless in four at-bats. He hadn't had a hit in his last six at-bats, and for the fifth time in the past nine games, he had gone hitless.
Cobb was the son of a teacher who became a Georgia state senator, William Herschel Cobb. Rose was the son of a banker, Harry Rose.
Both men were heavily influenced by their fathers. In each was instilled a fierce competative spirit.
In Cobb, it festered. In Rose, it matured.
Rose grew up watching his father play semi-pro football. He remembers his father once breaking a hip in a game, then crawling downfield to make a tackle. It was typical of Rose's dad.