Rose celebrated in Cincy, contrite afterwards
Hits king honored in on-field ceremony, apologizes at later event
CINCINNATI -- Pete Rose returned to the field as a Cincinnati Red on Saturday night -- if only for one night -- surrounded by former teammates, players he managed and fans who showered him with appreciation 25 years after he broke Ty Cobb's all-time hits record.
Major League Baseball allowed the Reds to honor "The Hit King" in a ceremony prior to their game against the Pirates at Great American Ball Park. While Rose has attended games at the stadium next door to where Riverfront Stadium -- the site of historic hit No. 4,192 -- once stood, this was the first time since his banishment from the game in 1989 for betting on baseball that he has officially been part of a Reds on-field celebration.
Rose finished his career with 4,256 hits over a 24-year career playing with the Reds, Phillies and Expos.
Rose spoke for close to 10 minutes via video clips prepared for the ceremony before making his entrance through center field on a golf cart. He was given a standing ovation from the sea of red filling the stadium. Along his path around the warning track toward right field and on to first base, he raised his right arm and index finger and waved to the crowd.
When he got out of the cart, he walked over to first base and emphatically stomped on the bag, much to the delight of the crowd.
Former teammates Tommy Helms, Tony Perez and Cesar Geronimo, as well as Tom Browning and Eric Davis -- players he both played with and managed while he was a player/manager for the Reds from 1984-86 -- were seated outside the Reds' dugout during the ceremony. They joined Rose, as did Rose's sons, Pete Jr. and Tyler, and grandson Pete Rose III in congratulatory hugs and pictures.
Reds CEO Bob Castellini presented Rose with a trophy commemorating his accomplishment.
Rose, who did not do interviews at the game, was contrite later Saturday night while speaking at a local casino, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. He apologized to several former teammates, the newspaper reported, including a number who were present. The event featured speeches by Rose, Perez, Geronimo, Browning, Ken Griffey Sr. and George Foster.
"I disrespected the game of baseball," Rose said at the later event. "When you do that, you disrespect your teammates, the game and your family."
The Enquirer reported the Rose became emotional while speaking at the event, which was attended by roughly 500 people.
"I guarantee everybody in this room, I will never disrespect you again," Rose said.
"I want my legacy to be [that of] somebody who came forward. If anybody has a problem here today, come forward. Don't hide it. ... You can run, but you can't hide. If I can help a young kid to know what I went through, maybe I can prevent them from going through the same thing."
At least one current Reds player said that this was a good day for all of baseball.
"I'm happy to be a part of this, to be here and to watch this," said second baseman Brandon Phillips. "I've talked to Pete Rose and he's a great guy. He knows baseball and he knows hitting. He's a good guy. He speaks the truth and that's one thing I really love about him; he's an honest and straight-up person."
While it will take more than a testimonial from Phillips for Rose to be reinstated, Phillips thinks Saturday night was a good start.
"Honestly, I think that baseball really needs to see this," Phillips said. "That record will never be broken. He has a lot of hits. He has more hits than people have at-bats. For baseball to allow him to be able to do that, after everything that has happened in the past, shows that this can be baby steps until it's time for him to go to the Hall of Fame."
Kevin Goheen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.