The Factory, New York, November, 1985
Andy Warhol wanted to paint me because I broke Ty Cobb's hit record.
Usually, I spend the offseason drinking at the Blind Lemon downtown,
or driving to the harness races in Lebanon. "Mr. Warhol would like to
paint you," his assistant said over the phone. "Sure, why the fuck
not." I said. I'm Mr. 4,204. People in Ohio don't get Warhol's work,
including me, but they flew me to New York, let me wear my uniform. I
posed with a bat in front of a blue tarp. So I've been there a while,
under hot lights, and suggest:
"Make me deformed and stretched out, like Plastic Man. I see the
highlights of me on WCPO after a game and I look like one of those
Japanese toy robots -- boxy and hunched over, especially when I run to
first. I shuffle so much I expect sparks to come out of my fucking
mouth. My play resembles Plastic Man more. Can you do that, Andy?
Maybe my left arm stretches over the wall, robbing Willie Stargell.
Maybe I have a big-titted Price Hill fraulein wrapped up in my right
arm. Don't you pop-art fags paint shit like that?"
"You're thinking of Lichtenstein, Peter."
Andy dips a thick brush into blue paint. In the copies he'll make
later, I will stand in front of red, yellow, and green -- kind of like
Pele, except I won't look like someone dumped sherbet on my face.
"Lichtenstein," I say. "Is that right? Sorry. Jack Cole."
"Jack Cole drew Plastic Man and the big-titted broads in those
Playboy cartoons -- fine artist. He did all the work himself. He
penciled the figures, inked and colored the panels, and wrote the
stories -- just took everything straight to the editor. I think we were
kindred spirits. Cole, he fucking hustled. I fucking hustle, hit,
"Interesting, Peter. I never heard of Jack Cole."
"He shot himself in a meadow with a .22. His wife and neighbor found
him still alive, with a head wound, and took him to the hospital.
Jack died a half-hour later. The next day his wife and Hugh Hefner
received suicide letters he mailed before he drove out to the meadow."
"That's awful, Peter, just awful."
"I don't know, Andy. It's not a pretty way to go, but they'll
fucking write books about him -- he'll always be at the drawing board, in
photographs. Christ, sorry about all this. Sorry for the fag
comment. This is nice, that I am a subject for your painting. Can I
put the bat down for a second? My skin boils under these lights."
Andy doesn't answer. He washes the blue off, and then mixs beige,
yellow, and pink with the thick brush.
Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti's office, New York, August 24, 1989
With those black circles, Bart's eyes resemble assholes. He
restates Major League Baseball Rule 21 (d):
"BETTING ON BALL GAMES: Any player, umpire, or club or league
official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any
baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform
shall be declared permanently ineligible."
Then he reads the agreement to ban my ass out loud -- when he's done, he
has said "Peter Edward Rose" 28 times. He pushes the agreement across
the oak table.
"My wedding night with Karolyn was the last time I heard my full name
that many times -- fourteen times when we fucked, fourteen times when we
got drunk on champagne," I said.
She didn't know my full name until the priest asked her if she took
Peter Edward Rose to be her lawfully-wedded husband. She said the
name was the name of an insurance salesman, not a ballplayer. I take
Bart's fountain pen. He taps at the line, and I sign.
Lebanon Raceway and Equestrian Track, Lebanon, Ohio, July 2009
Yes, I remember what Bowie Kuhn said about gambling dens being no
place for baseball heroes. To retort, Bud Ford and his family have
held season tickets since Big Klu and Crosley. Bud IV drives me up to
Lebanon to promote the track, sign baseballs, and drink free beers.
The money made goes to Our Sister's Mercy of Lebanon, less my twenty
percent. I sit at a white card table and try to grin. No one expects
much from me in person; they think I'm an ass or a briar. I'd rather
express myself through precise action. Personal messages of thanks
and signatures do not entail precise action -- swinging a fucking bat,
colliding with a punk catcher at home plate. Those are actions.
A skinny kid, no more than twenty, asks me to sign his Warhol print -- I
never saw the final product. Andy did a good job capturing my stance;
my hair looks good under the helmet, like I'm Hit King Valiant. My
skin looks a little yellow. I write on the print: To Sean, Prince
"Hit King" Valiant, Mr. 4,256. I want to tell Sean how much I love
the print, how this beats the baseballs of dads with goatees and
bloated guts. The only thing that comes out of my mouth, though, is
"Christ, I look like I have fucking jaundice. Thanks, kid." Sean
scratches his chest through his tight t-shirt, and nods his head out
of politeness I guess.
Doctor Hershel's office, Our Sister's Mercy of Price Hill, July 15, 1960
I collided with Roy Fasse at home and separated his left shoulder. I
sit across the oak table as the Doc explains that I broke the tendons
of his acromioclavicular joint from the scapula of his shoulder blade.
The Doc holds a model while he explains all this -- he fingers the mock
tendons. "This looks much like the tape you roll around your bat's
handle, eh Peter?" he asks. The tendons flap back and forth.
"Yeah, but I wouldn't want that shit holding my fucking shoulder together."
"Oh, don't worry. Tendons are much stronger than tape -- we're more
resilient. We suture the tendons, let them heal. This is a common
Roy won't play legion ball for three months. I don't know the kid
well -- he was two years behind me at Western Hills. I signed with the
Reds, but haven't reported to camp yet. Jackie, the scout and Doc's
brother, suggested legion ball to keep me in shape until he called for
Doc Herschel gets one of the nun-nurses to take me to Roy's room.
He's awake and sitting up in bed and rubs his shoulder, which is held
up in a sling. I don't know how to fucking talk. I want to explain
the commonness of the injury, how this was a legion game, but one that
came down to the bottom of the ninth. Roy won't look at me. All that
comes out of my mouth is, "Christ, sorry kid. I play ball. I fucking
hustle. I have to." He doesn't look at me.
Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati, September 11, 1985
A fraulein from Price Hill with brown hair and tits the size of Mt.
Airy should hand me flowers from the Cadillac they drove on the
field -- not Marge Schott and her dog. I like Marge, she's a good owner,
but, Christ, I hooked a bullshit fastball to left-center and stand at
first-base the new Hit King. Her face is weathered and tough, like
the Cadillac's white leather interior. The roses do not smell like
her Marlboro's, thank God. Where are the big-titted broads and
frauleins in the red sequin dresses, the legs coming down at an
awkward tilt into high-heel black shoes? I have 4,192 fucking hits.