At 74, Pete Rose moves slowly now, but baseball’s all-time hits leader clearly still has the power to bring his hometown fans to their feet.
He proved as much at the 86th Annual All-Star Game on Tuesday night when he was introduced to the sellout crowd at Great American Ball Park.
“I’ve been going through this love affair for 30 years,” Rose said. “Fans are great.”
Rose, who has been banned from Major League Baseball for 26 years because he bet on baseball, was part of a pregame ceremony because fans elected him as a member of the Reds’ Franchise Four greats.
He joined Johnny Bench, Barry Larkin and Joe Morgan on the Reds’ Franchise Four, drawing a bigger ovation than all three of those Hall of Famers.
Judging by the ovation that lasted about a minute, it’s clear fans in his hometown are ready for new baseball commissioner Rob Manfred to lift the ban.
“You saw it,” Larkin said. “Everybody experienced it. I don’t know if it would just happen in Cincinnati. I’m assuming that would be the reception around all of baseball.
“Pete Rose is the Hit King. He is the man. You heard the fans’ response. Hopefully the commissioner or whoever has to make the decision heard it too because the man’s a legend. He should be in the game.”
Rose, who was born and raised in Cincinnati, made his big league debut with the Reds in 1963. He spent 18 ½ of his 24 years in the majors with the Reds, collecting 3,358 of his record 4,256 hits with his hometown team.
Charlie Hustle, as he was known affectionately because of the way he played the game, also served as a player-manager with the Reds from late in the 1984 season through 1986. He also managed the Reds through part of the 1989 season.
Based in part by evidence detailed in former federal prosecutor John Dowd’s 225-page report, then-commissioner Bart Giamatti banned Rose from baseball in August 1989.
Rose’s ban remained in place under Bud Selig’s reign as commissioner from 1992 until he retired in late January.
Rose is ineligible for the Hall of Fame ballot as long as he is on baseball’s banned list. Manfred stated in March that he is open to reevaluate Rose’s place in the game.
During his annual briefing with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, Manfred said there has not been any change with the Rose situation.
“I frankly was surprised how much material there was to be reviewed,” Manfred said. “We’re taking a fresh look at all of that. I remain committed to the idea that Mr. Rose deserves an opportunity to tell me in whatever format he feels most comfortable, whatever he wants me to know about the issues.
“I’m sure there will be an in-person meeting. I want to schedule that meeting in a point in time that I have a good grasp of all of the facts in the material.”
When asked if Rose had been placed on “double secret probation,” Manfred noted that there is no double secret probation in the baseball rulebook.
There is, however, a rule against betting on baseball. Although Rose accepted his initial ban, he was adamant for many years that he never bet on baseball.
After maintaining that lie for nearly 15 years, though, Rose ultimately admitted in his autobiography in 2004 that he bet on baseball as manager of the Reds.
A recent Outside the Lines report uncovered a notebook that purports to show that Rose also bet on baseball during his playing career.
Although Manfred has promised to meet with Rose, he’s not willing to give a timetable for a potential decision.
“First of all, I’m not going to speculate about a timetable because part of it is related to what Mr. Rose and his representatives want to do,” Manfred said. “I’ve been clear with them that I’m prepared to discuss that timetable, No. 1. No. 2, in terms of my own thinking, timing is going to be driven by how quickly we can get the work that I want to get done before I meet with Mr. Rose.”
There’s no doubt how the folks felt Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park, which sits on Pete Rose Way.
The crowd actually grew louder as each member of the Reds’ Franchise Four was introduced, reaching a crescendo when Rose slowly walked out of the American League dugout.
“It was crazy,” Larkin said. “It was nice and loud. When Pete went out there the decibels went up a whole bunch. We expected that. Johnny (Bench) was saying he was glad Pete went last.”
Rose was asked about the ban Tuesday, but he preferred to focus on the love he received from his hometown fans before he was whisked away in a cart.
“It was wonderful,” Rose said. “It was great. The only bad thing about being out there (is that) I didn’t get no at-bats. I wish I could have got a couple at-bats. But the fans were wonderful.”