Narrated by J.K. Simmons, the film is a spectacular highlights reel of its subject's staggering achievements on the diamond intercut with interviews with Rose, as electrifying a storyteller as he was a ballplayer. He attributes his success to a father and uncle who mentored him and taught him to be a switch-hitter.
Rose opens the film with an anecdote about his father's unique form of motivation. After one of the son's early games, Dad demanded: "Did you run as hard as you could? No? Don't embarrass me in my town. You know better than that."
Filling the gaps in his story are former teammates Tony Perez and Mike Schmidt and Reds announcer Marty Brennaman, who paint a glowing picture of Rose as a team player and sparkplug whose 200 percent work ethic was his play ethic.
One gap - approximately the size of the Grand Canyon - goes unfilled. The film fails to mention why its subject, despite stats worthy of three Hall of Famers put together, is barred from admission to baseball's pantheon. Twenty-one years ago, accused of gambling on games while playing for and managing the Reds, he was banned from baseball and ruled ineligible for the Hall of Fame. For 15 years he denied the accusations, though he finally admitted in his 2004 biography that he did bet on - never against - the Reds.
Clearly, Terry Lukemire's crisply made film, with its terrific archival footage and heart-tugging score, is intended to sway the jury of public opinion to clamor for Rose's induction at Cooperstown. I must admit, I was almost persuaded.
When the movie started, I agreed with his biographer, Michael Sokolove, that Pete Rose deserved to be in the Hall of Fame but Charlie Hustle made him ineligible. When the movie ended, as that crawl of Rose's incredible stats scrolled by, I thought, OK, OK, let him in with an asterisk.
But on further deliberation, I think Rose should be happy with the status quo. He's got two things most Hall of Famers do not: a hall-of-fame-quality documentary and records that will not be broken any time soon.
4192: The Crowning of the Hit King ***
Directed by Terry Lukemire. With Pete Rose, Tony Perez, and Mike Schmidt. Distributed by Barking Fish.
Running time: 1 hour, 55 mins.
Parent's guide: No MPAA rating.
Playing at: Ritz at the Bourse
Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/flickgrrl/.