COOPERSTOWN–Pete Rose may be banned from the Baseball Hall of Fame, but he is not banned from the community that houses the Baseball Hall of Fame and over induction weekend Rose commanded just about as much attention as any Hall of Famer who came to pay respects to new inductees Barry Larkin and the late Ron Santo.
Odds are that Rose signed more autographs than any other baseball figure throughout the weekend, if only because he set up shop at one store, Safe At Home on Main Street, and appeared three days running. Most other willing Hall of Famers signed once, or twice, max. Probably no Hall of Famer signed more autographs in his life than the late Bob Feller. Feller maintained his active penmanship act into his 90s.
Well, Rose–remarkably enough–is 71 and so he’s got a couple of decades to go and I’m willing to bet that he will catch up to that legend’s prolific signing habits. If you check out Rose’s web site you will see his schedule includes day after day of autograph appearances each month in Las Vegas. Although any autograph total estimate is unofficial, Rose proved earlier in his life that he has the patience to chase down legends of the game when he broke Ty Cobb’s all-time Major League hits record and set a new one with 4,256 safeties.
That was before Rose was banned for life from the game for betting on baseball in 1989, the large black smudge on his record that prevents his name from appearing on the Hall of Fame ballot. Rose was resilient on the field during his 24-year career with the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies during which he not only set the hits record, but also records for most games played and most at-bats while hitting .303. Nicknamed “Charlie Hustle” for the energetic way he played the game, Rose was a sure-first Hall of Famer until he ran his own train off the tracks with a colossal blunder.
Some may say it takes moxie for Rose to show up in Cooperstown, but he always had that trait in abundance. And while some fans believe he is deserving of the open-ended lifetime punishment, many, many others are in sympathy and would like to see him reinstated. They supported Rose with shouts of encouragement on the street and with fistfuls of dollars to spend on signed Rose memorabilia.
During a few lulls in the autograph action Rose talked about Larkin and how the young player lobbied for playing time by saying that he was going to be the Reds shortstop for the next 15 years.
“He was wrong,” Rose said. “He was the shortstop for the next 18 years.”
The strangest aspect of Rose’s appearance was his constantly being trailed by television cameras. He is going to get married again to a 30-ish Playboy model named Kiana Kim whose own personal statistics appear impressive as well. Everywhere they went in the small upstate New York town, representatives of the TLC Network followed filming for a reality show.
Unlike the 45 Hall of Famers invited to sit on the stage for the actual induction ceremony Sunday, Rose was most visible downtown. Like it or not, Major League baseball had to put up with Rose and not merely his physical presence. Rose, as it so happens, was Larkin’s first manager with the Reds during his 19-year career and Larkin expressed his gratitude during his induction speech.
Rose gave Larkin his first playing time at short when he could have used other players.
“I just want to thank Pete for that opportunity,” Larkin said. “Thank you, Pete Rose. I love you man.”
From the roars that emanated from the Reds-clad fans that made up a significant portion of the 18,000 in attendance for the induction at the mention of his name, it seems quite clear that Cincinnati fans still love Rose, too.