It did not go well — the 21-year-old made two relief appearances, tossed two innings, and allowed two hits. Fairly harmless, so far, but he also allowed three walks, two of which were intentional, balked once and surrendered a home run.
His career ERA was 18.00.
But there were six outs in those two innings. And one of those outs was a king, one of the greatest of all-time, a holder of a record today perhaps unattainable. This king was immortal, or so it seemed. He spent 24 years in the majors and three more in the minors. Then he managed for three more still.
This king had 4,256 career hits. He scored over 2,100 runs and walked over 1,500 times and he rarely struck out — in nearly 16,000 plate appearances, he whiffed just 1,143 times. That’s once every 14 stops at the dish.
So this baseball royalty, Pete Rose, should have handled this baseball peon, Dave Cheadle, handily when they met on September 16, 1973, in what was Cheadle’s debut inning. The pitcher already sat down the first batter he faced, Andy Kosco, on a grounder to third. But he was the number nine hitter.
Up stepped Rose. Rose had over 1,000 extra-base hits in his career, and he holds the all-time record for singles. But neither a single, a double, a triple or a home run thundered off his bat. Rose was hit by over 100 pitches in his career, but he did not step into one this time. He had a .375 on-base percentage and knew how to draw a walk — but earn a pass to first he didn’t do here.
Cheadle, whose poor control helped end his professional career prematurely, who was disappointingly middling in the minors, who allowed nearly a hit per inning at that level and more than once walked more batters than he struck out in a season … struck out Pete Rose.
The hit king humbled, Cheadle would pitch just one more major league game after that, and K just one more batter. He spent a few more seasons on the farm, performing poorly, never posting a winning record.
Pete Rose walked away from that game only halfway through his big league career; little did he realize, Cheadle was halfway through his, as well.