It could have been anybody on the back of a Wheaties cereal box. I would have eaten the cereal religiously for 10 days just the same. It just happened to be Pete Rose so I gathered up the necessary proofs of purchase and sent away for the 4192 poster. It was eventually hand delivered by a mailman; the same one momma gave a christmas gift to every year. If anyone deserves gifts, it’s the mailman. Cincinnati was born in my mind.
I remember being disappointed when the poster arrived because it wasn’t a poster. It was a painting or sketch or some art thingamadgegee. Momma encouraged me that it would be ok, just put it up on your wall anyway. And so I did, but nothing really happened.
Pete Rose’s face sits dead center; side view mug shot with straight bangs and that signature snarl expression of Rose reminding us to run out ground balls. And behind his head, the follow through of Rose’s swing. I knew very little about visualization techniques, but Rose had just willed a base hit. I was sure of it. He’s barely out of the batters box, but thinking double anyway.
Ty Cobb stands below Rose. His pear-shaped head and eyes looking in the opposite direction. Scoreboard light bulbs spelling out the number 4192 stretch away from Cobb’s elbow. If Cobb could somehow come to life, he might use the bat leaning over his shoulder to smash those bulbs spelling out 4192; not because Rose gambled on games, but because too much light probably bothered Cobb.
The picture remained on my bedroom wall for years and like everything else, melted into the scenery and became dull and routine. There was no trumpet sound signaling a change, but something happened. I began to notice Riverfront Stadium jetting out from Cobb’s spine and it looked like a doughnut shaped spaceship with Roman pillars. The Ohio River was grey and so was the broccoli patch of trees in the bottom right corner.
There was a small ship pouring from Cobb’s waist into the Ohio River. The sky was volcanic red and so was Rose’s face; Cobb’s paler and almost yellow.I didn’t know anymore. The universe was maybe expanding. That Ohio river was probably filled with fish, turtles, slimy grasses and flowed all the way to the Mississippi. There were boundaries beyond the sand box to explore, skyscrapers to climb.
Pete Rose lives in Vegas now and Ty Cobb somewhere else. Riverfront Stadium was imploded in 2002. No one is anywhere near 4,192 career base hits. The Ohio River apparently comes from the Iroquoian-Seneca word Ohi:yó:h and that translates as “good river” according to William Bright’s “Native American Place Names.
And that good river stretches from its Mississippi mouth to the Ohio and all the way east to its Allegheny source rubbing up on mountains and shores and carrying canoes past the eastern and western gates. The Milwaukee Brewers began their current road trip beside that Mississippi in St. Louis and continued east to Cincinnati and the Ohio River Thursday night.
It’s the Great American Ballpark now; the Great American home run park and Joey Votto is the greatest hitter I’ve ever seen. No one knows the strike zone quite like him. It must take five hours to complete a grocery run with him; scrutinizing the ingredients on each and every label.
Votto hit a deep fly to center field in the first inning. Carlos Gomez raced back; twisted left, then right and jumped over the wall to rob Votto of a homerun. And Votto? He was rounding first base and waved his arm at Gomez in light hearted disgust. “You done it 2 times now!” We could read his lips. Gomez did the same to Votto in a game last year at Miller Park.
The Reds hit three homeruns Thursday and blew the game wide open in the bottom of the 8th. Final score; Reds 8, Brewers 3. The Brewers are 20-9 and Votto didn’t hit a home run, but he’s very much a part of that Wheaties Rose Cobb 4192 Ohio River Poster art thingamadgegee and so is whatever else I see. There’s plenty of room.