CINCINNATI — More satisfying than hit No. 4,192? In some ways, it is for Pete Rose, who needed more time to get into the Cincinnati Reds’ Hall of Fame than it took to set baseball’s hits record.
Rose is being inducted into his hometown team’s hall and having his No. 14 officially retired this weekend, 27 years after he was banned from baseball for betting on the Reds. His ban makes him ineligible for baseball’s Hall of Fame, but the team is honoring him with the permission of Commissioner Rob Manfred.
The Reds already honor him in displays at their hall and at various places in Great American Ball Park. Now, he’ll be included fully in the team’s gallery of greatest players.
“This will be the ultimate thing to happen to me so far in my baseball career,” Rose said on Friday. “I tell people you should put it on your bucket list to go to the Reds’ Hall of Fame, and I’m happy to be in there. It seems like everybody I played with is in there, so they might as well put me in there, too.”
The Reds have turned the Rose honors into a weekend gala. They reunited members of their 1976 Big Red Machine championship team on the field Friday night before a game against the San Diego Padres, the same team Rose got his record-setting hit against on Sept. 11, 1985. Rose was the last player introduced but didn’t speak to the crowd.
He was formally added to the team’s Hall of Fame on Saturday and will have his number retired on Sunday. His son, Pete Jr., is the only one who has worn No. 14 since Rose played.
Last December, Manfred turned down Rose’s application for reinstatement to Major League Baseball, saying the hits king still hasn’t reconfigured his life as he was told to do in 1989. Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench said he lobbied for Rose, who finished with 4,256 career hits, to be added to the team’s Hall of Fame.
“It’s a long time coming,” Bench said. “Hopefully, it will motivate him maybe more, in better ways, and we can get this all behind us, after how many years? Too many.”
The Big Red Machine won World Series titles in 1975-76 with Rose, Bench, Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, Hall of Famer Tony Perez, Ken Griffey, George Foster, Davey Concepcion, Cesar Geronimo, and Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson. Rose declines to call it the greatest team ever because the Yankees and Dodgers had some great teams.
“But I will go to my grave saying the Big Red Machine was the most entertaining team ever,” Rose said. “We had white stars, we had black stars, we had Latino stars, we had a Hall of Fame manager, we had speed, we had defense, we had home run leaders, we had batting champions, we had daring baserunners.”
Bench said he still gets stopped by many baseball fans who want to talk about that team.
“For us, it’s magical,” Bench said. “I go everywhere in this country, and people come up to me and can name our lineup. They say, ‘I was a Cubs fan, I was a Dodgers fan, I was a Giants fan. Man, we loved you guys. We hated you, but we respected you.’ To this day, they know our lineup. That proves the excitement we brought to the game.
“People want something to hold on to. We listen to the oldies. We’re kind of the oldies.”