Lough: Rose a hit on visit to Mercer

mlough@macon.comFebruary 6, 2014 

There are many reasons why it would be good for me to be a big lottery winner.

Many reasons. Thousands.

And one came a few nights ago.

It sure would have been nice to have that scratch on Tuesday night to try and bring together two of the more fascinating, living-full-lives, story-filled people of our lifetime, merging two huge parts of our entertainment existence.

How much would you pay to get five or 10 friends and get locked in a room for a couple hours with Willie Nelson and Pete Rose?

Me, too.

Let’s ponder that possibility for a second, because on Tuesday night, the two such legends were in town, less than two miles apart.

Icons. Willie and Charlie Hustle. Here. And not far from Willie, Big Head Todd and The Monsters.

Bellyache away, Macon whiners. Nothin’ to see here. Nope, yet another dull night in the Mactown. Nothing happens, nobody comes here, no options.

I just giggle at imagining Rose and Willie at a table with the right gathering for an off-the-record-or-be-punched session. What a memory and imagination overload.

Friends who saw Willie got their money’s worth. And those who saw Rose were thoroughly entertained, many no doubt departing a bit surprised at that, and more of a fan than they expected to be.

Rose was stunningly enthused, engaging, deprecating, cocky, blunt and more than a few times rated NC-17 at Mercer’s “First Pitch Classic” baseball fund-raiser.

He was money.

While a good portion of the crowd likely knew little about Rose, the rest was well aware of the baseball greatness that stood on the stage and just started regaling.

What I didn’t expect was to see Rose to enjoy himself so much. Figured there’d be some eye-rolling responses on a topic he’d tired of over the years, some mailing it. And when he started with questions after 15 minutes, the words “uh oh” came to mind.

Instead, Rose was fresh all evening, if not a little too fresh for some sensibilities at times, and took questions for 30 minutes.

Me, I took the “over” that about five adult bleepable words would blurt out of the PA, and only one really did.

There were no lulls, he didn’t really veer off into any rambling stories and wasn’t short with anybody. Certainly a few of the more conservative folks cringed at times, and there a few “maaan, he really said that” faces.

Folks, it’s baseball, not arts and crafts. In baseball talk, shoot, it was G-rated.

To the Cubs fan who made the mistake of admitting it:

“Why? You’re a Cub fan? Really? You dummy you. You know what God told the Cubs? ‘Don’t do a damn thing till I get back.’

“You ever been on that Cubs website? They don’t have one. They can’t put three Ws together.

“I used to love to go to Wrigley Field, ‘cause I knew I was going to get six hits in three games. It was almost as good as going to Atlanta.”

Oh, he was seeing nothing but flat 79-mile-an-hour waist-high fastballs all night.

Speaking of the Braves, there was some success against Atlanta pitchers Phil and Joe Niekro:

“I got 66 hits off of Phil Niekro. I got 40-something hits off his brother Joe. Think about that. I got a 40th of all my hits off the Niekro family.

“If she’d have had five boys, I’d have gotten 5,000 hits.”

On teammate Dave Concepcion getting out of a slump in Chicago:

“They got this big dryer. ... Davey’s kidding around, he’s a bout 6-foot-2, he gets in this dryer. ... Tony Perez walks in and hits the wall, and all of a sudden the dryer starts going around.

“We finally got it stopped. ... He got out. It burned all the hair off his arms, it burned all the hair off his legs, and he went out and he got 3-for-4. But he didn’t go near that dryer the next day.”

On his son calling amid an 0-for-20 slump:

“I said, ‘what the hell are you callin’ me for? Call Concepcion.’ I said, ‘I went 0-for-5 one time. 0-for-20? Ray Charles can go 0-for-20.’”

He spent a few hours beforehand meeting with Mercer baseball players and apparently had a blast while in town.

Didn’t expect that at all.

His exchange of jerseys and conversation with junior standout Chesny Young to end the night might have been the best dessert of any big-name Mercer speaker since baseball got this going with Jeff Francoeur back in 2009, with the likes of Dick Vitale, Clark Kellogg, Dale Murphy, John Smoltz, and Chipper Jones having been at Hawkins Arena.

Charlie Hustle and Willie in town on the same night. Oh, to have that pair together.

Alas, we’ll just have to settle for a night’s worth of quality entertainment from a pair of legends. And wait for the next time.

Contact Michael A. Lough at 744-4626 or mlough@macon.com.

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