The story of Pete Rose’s last walk-off RBI

Pete Rose played in 199 walk-off wins, the most of any player for which Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index has data. That might be the most all-time, though I’m wondering about the totals for the likes of Ty Cobb. Regardless, it’s not surprising that Rose had so many given his longevity.

What I thought was most interesting in Rose’s walk-off ledger was that his 20th and final walk-off RBI was a triple as a 45-year-old player manager in 1986 for the Reds against the Phillies, a month prior to the last game of his playing career.

How amazing that someone of Rose’s age, aptly named Charlie Hustle, would continue to live up to that moniker right to his final days in the big leagues.

And then I was disappointed by an the account of one Philadelphia sportswriter, who said that Rose had been given the triple in error, that he’d never reached (or presumably come close to) third base.

Nonetheless, the scoring stands 32 years later and it’s apt that a goofy decision remains intact given the bonkers nature of the baseball game in which it happened. Let us summarize the newspaper accounts and the box score thusly:

“It was weird. And it was wild. And it was wacky,” wrote a young Jsyson Stark in the pages of the Philadelphia Inquirer the next morning. “But was it baseball?”

Indeed it can be confirmed that each team fielded nine men and moments involving sticks, gloves and spheres took place on a dirt field, surrounded by greenery. So it was baseball. And it was weird.

Though the teams combined for 13 runs, each team yielded three unearned runs. A Rose error opened the door to two Phillies runs in the seventh inning, allowing the visitors to go ahead 3-2 on Jeff Stone’s two-run single.

In the ninth inning, two more Reds errors turned a 4-3 Phillies lead into a seemingly safe 6-3 cushion. Except it wasn’t so safe.

The Reds scored three runs to tie in excruciating fashion. Phillies second baseman Juan Samuel botched a potential double play grounder. The tying run scored with two outs on a passed ball by Phillies catcher John Russell.

Onwards this game went into the 11th inning. Max Venable started the winning rally for the Reds with a walk against reliever Tom Gorman (best known for allowing an 18th inning home run to pitcher Rick Camp the year before). After a force play, Rose came up. Phillies right fielder Glenn Wilson played shallow, not expecting the right-handed Rose to drive the ball to the opposite field.

But that’s what Rose did. Phillies rightfielder Glenn Wilson retreated to try to catch it, overran it, recovered, but then had the ball clunk off his body and his right hand, and fall away. The winning run scored and Rose had his final walk-off RBI. It was the only one scored a triple.

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