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Friday, February 26, 2021

Tommy Helms both played and coached in majors with Pete Rose; In 1989, he took over after Rose's ban

Tommy Helms' career tracked closely with his longtime friend Pete Rose.

The two played in the minors together, then in the majors with the Reds. Later, he coached under Rose.

"I always pull for Pete and he always pulls for me," Helms told The Pittsburgh Press early in his career, in 1966. "When Pete went to the big leagues first, I always told people I was proud we had played together."

Later on, Helms was also there to take over the Reds as interim manager, after Rose got suspended from baseball for life.

Helms' long career in baseball began in 1959, signed by the Reds as an undrafted free agent out of his native Charlotte, N.C.

Helms started with the Reds at Class D Palatka in the Florida State League. He made Class B Topeka in 1961 and Class A Macon in 1962. He hit .340 in 139 games there. He then played 1963 at AAA San Diego.

He saw his first major league time in 1964, two games with the Reds. He returned for 21 more in 1965 and became a regular for 1966.

He hit .284 in 1966, then .274 in 1967 and .288 in 1968. In 1967 and 1968, Helms made the All-Star team. Helms had a down year in 1970, where he hit .237, but still helped his team to the World Series.

"When you hit .237, all you can hope is that you win and we did," Helms told UPI as the World Series was about to begin.

Helms continued with the Reds through 1971. He then moved to the Astros for four seasons, then ended his career with the Pirates and Red Sox. He hit .269 over his 14 seasons.

By 1981, he'd turned hitting coach with the Rangers. In 1983, he joined the Reds as hitting coach. The next year, Rose rejoined the club as manager.

Helms first took over briefly in 1988 when Rose was suspended for a month for bumping an umpire. Then, in August 1989, he took over as interim manager when Rose was banned for life.

"This isn't the way to get a big league managing job," Helms told reporters then. "Pete Rose is a friend, a small business partner and it's a sad day."

Helms then finished out the season. When he wasn't retained, he returned home to Charlotte and took over as manager for the AA Knights. 

His stay at Charlotte, however, lasted until mid-season, when he resigned. The minor league life wasn't for him. He later returned to the field in 2000 and 2001 as manager with independent Atlantic City.

1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,586
Made the Majors:1,244-34.7%-X
Never Made Majors:2,342-65.3%
5+ Seasons in the Majors:517
10+ Seasons in the Minors:305

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