The most popular four-digit number in baseball during the 1985 season?

Well, that would be 4191.

As in …

“Cincinnati Reds player/manager Pete Rose collected another hit today, moving him one step closer to breaking Ty Cobb’s record of 4191 career safeties.”

Or maybe it was 4192.

As in …

“Cincinnati Reds player/manager Pete Rose singled off San Diego Padres righthander last night at Riverfront Stadium. Hit number 4192 for Charlie Hustle broke the record previously held by Detroit Tigers firebrand Ty Cobb.”

Those numbers were everywhere — newspapers, magazines, billboards, T-shirts.

Sometimes, it was 4191 by itself … sometimes it was 4192 by itself … sometimes it was 4191 crossed out, superseded by 4192.

All sorts of graphics accompanied the numbers, too, from simple photos to political-style cartoons to paintings. Rose’s march toward Cobbs’ record was a phenomenon the likes of which most fans born in the 1970s and 1980s had never witnessed before.

For the older-timers, of course, it must have been a bit ho-hum compared to Hank Aaron’s Babe Ruth chase in 1974, but there was no denying the excitement that unfolded there in Cincinnati that summer of 1985.

And when it all went down, with that bloop single on September 11, Rose stood at first base, tears in his eyes … acknowledged the raucous fans … consulted the sky, pointed to it.

He would later say that he was thinking about his own father, and about Cobb himself.

The ghosts of the past were all around him that night.

And then … they were back, to lead off the 1986 Topps set.

See …

After Rose’s base card at #1, Topps rolled out six cards celebrating Charlie Hustle’s Topps career, presenting miniaturized versions of his Topps issues over the years, four per 1986 card.

Through 1985, Rose had been featured on 23 Topps cards (base division), leaving one slot open on card #7.

Fittingly, Topps used the leadoff hole on that final tribute card for the man and the ghost he chased …

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

Years later, we’d learn that one of Cobb’s games had been double-counted, meaning his actual hit total was 4189, and not 4191.

And we’d also learn that Pete had some things going on that made him not quite what he seemed, too.

While that hindsight might have changed the actual facts and tarnished the man, nothing could dim the memories of that moment — not for Reds fans, or any fan that witnessed the thing in the moment.

That sort of all comes flooding back when you look at the upper left-hand corner of 1986 Topps card #7 — it’s just Pete and one of the ghosts he was chasing, no “reports” or asterisks in sight.

These days, that Rose-Cobb combo is a $30-40 card in top grades, while you can usually find raw copies in the low single-digits — or even cheaper.

You have to wonder, though, if somewhere out there, there isn’t someone offering up some sort of deal — two for $41.91, maybe.

Or maybe 4 for $192?

Those are magical numbers, after all — 4191 and 4192 — and still hard to shake, even all these years later.

Want to see a video version of this article?