It has been announced that TLC’s reality show about Pete Rose, Pete Rose: Hits and Mrs., will not have a second season. This is most likely for the best, as the show probably didn’t pull that many viewers, and wasn’t very good all-in-all.
I should be up front about something, I love Pete Rose. Well, I love Rose as a character and a player. I don’t know him as a person. It’s cliché, but his persona as a hard-nosed, anything-to-win, day-in-day-out gamer is appealing to me. His nickname is Charlie Hustle, for Christ’s sake. Say what you want about him as a person, but Charlie Hustle is a perfect fucking nickname. Me being a “writer,” Rose’s character also has appeal. Barry Bonds has now eclipsed him, but for a long while, Rose was probably the most controversial ballplayer alive. As fans, we tend to overlook a lot of things a player does in his personal life, but that list ends at drugs (that help you get better at baseball) and gambling (when it directly — and only directly — affects baseball). Since Rose participated in the latter, he’s now been marked a heathen. Whether he’s worthy of the label or not isn’t relevant. Every baseball player has two lives; the before and the after. Rose screwed up the first, and now that has forever become part of his second. He’s two people with the same name and face.
And, for what it’s worth, his reality show did a fairly decent job at portraying that. There are seemingly two Pete Roses on the show.
- Pete Rose #1: The new family man. Pete has found love in former model Kiana Kim, and they are engaged to be wed. There are struggles due to his spending most of the week working in a different state and trying to simultaneously raise and get to know Kim’s two kids. There are parties to plan and family relationships to heal, all while Pete does a great job of retelling jokes, running a kid’s baseball camp, and being slightly racist (but in a grandpa kind of way.) He has to explain the birds and the bees to his step-daughter-to-be, and tries to convince his hot Korean wife not to remove her breast implants. It’s very typical reality show fare. There is very little action spread out over a long period of time.
- Pete Rose #2: The fallen superstar. In one episode, Rose and his family travel to Cooperstown, so Pete can sign autographs all day at a nearby store (signing autographs seems to be his only job. He does the same at a store in Las Vegas four or five times a week, it seems.) Kiana and her kids go to the Hall of Fame museum, where plenty of Rose memorabilia lives, but his plaque is, of course, absent. This leads to tears from Kiana and an awkward question-and-answer session between her kids and Pete. This stigma hangs over him in every episode. He is constantly making references to mistakes he made, and things he screwed up (“I’m the reason I’m not there,” he said about the Hall). He is a man with a clouded past trying to clear up his future.
Because reality TV is reality TV, the show focuses mostly on Pete #1. “That’s the movie business,” as Pete would (and literally did) say. Most scenes involve Pete meeting Kiana’s parents (her mother only calls him Hit King, probably due to the monogram on his shirt collars), bitching about Steve Garvey, or complimenting his fiancée on her looks. Trouble arises when Kim’s son doesn’t like playing baseball, or her daughter starts hanging out with boys, but that’s all boilerplate stuff. You could substitute any family in for those scenes.
I watched Hits and Mrs. to see how Rose consistently toed that line between tragic hero and ignorant buffoon. He really has that mojo of a fun uncle who went away for a while and no one talks about why. He’s friendly and loving, and does genuinely seem to be enjoying life. Perhaps he’s done fighting for Pete Rose #2, and is content living out the rest of his days as boring old Pete Rose #1. We’ll probably never find out. And that’s a shame, because I really would like to see Rose and Johnny Bench get in a headlock fight at Pete’s wedding.
We can always hope for a special, right?