Pete Rose has a vision. Someday, his career hits record will be tied, and he will respond with one final turn at bat. He will roll a single up the middle and crawl to first base for No. 4,257, reclaiming his title as Hit King.
Rose related this fanciful dream on the phone the other day, at the end of a lively conversation. The problem with the story, obviously, is that he is 73 years old and has been barred from baseball since 1989. But there has to be a better ending out there, somehow.
Life is good for Rose. He has been in the news lately, managing the independent Bridgeport Bluefish, in Connecticut, for a game last month — “They took some extra bases, made some headfirst slides, and we won, 2-0,” he said — and announcing his role as a spokesman for SportsBeep, a fantasy sports app. It is legal, he pointed out.
“Which is important to me — I will no longer do anything illegal in my life,” Rose said.
If this new association bothers anyone or hinders his chances of being reinstated, Rose said, he cannot worry about it. He has to make a living, and he has found a way. His website sells autographed merchandise — $500 buys a signed copy of the document that barred him for gambling on his team — and he signs for fans at a mall in Las Vegas about 20 days a month. He takes photos and talks constantly about the game.
“I’m probably in the salary bracket of a .240 or .250 hitter today,” Rose said, laughing. “It’s enough to put food on the table and have fun and enjoy life and help my kids and grandkids out.”& amp; amp; amp; amp; lt; /p>
Rose hit .303 across 24 sharp-edged seasons, through 1986, when he was the player-manager of the Cincinnati Reds. His gambling transgressions, he said, began the next season, and his lies culminated in an investigation that dominated the game 25 summers ago.
The easiest parts of those days, Rose said, were the games he was managing. Before and after, he said, the cameras never let up. It strained his relationship with former teammate Johnny Bench, whose induction to the Hall of Fame in the summer of 1989 was overshadowed by the investigation.
“I was dead wrong in everything I did,” Rose said, adding later: “I should have fessed up when I was called into the office. But with my age at the time and two young kids, and all of a sudden I was going to lose my job, and I’ve been playing baseball since I was 9 years old — how are my kids going to survive?”
The particulars of the case have been rehashed endlessly: how Rose expected to appeal in a year, but the commissioner, A. Bartlett Giamatti, died of a heart attack eight days after barring him; how it took Rose more than a decade to acknowledge that he had bet on the Reds to win; how Bud Selig, the commissioner since 1992, has essentially ignored his case.
Rose made his public admission in a book published in 2004 but stressed that he confessed to Selig more than a year before that. In any case, Selig is in no hurry to act before he retires in January. A spokesman said the case was under review.
Rose said he was not looking ahead to Selig’s successor, who, in theory, could give him more consideration. He said he had not given up on Selig and would be overjoyed if he lifted the ban. But by declining to act for all these years, Selig has essentially delivered his verdict. The status quo holds, although Selig said last week that Rose might have a role in next year’s All-Star Game in Cincinnati.
The rules have always been clear, of course: Betting on one’s own team results in a lifetime ban, and Rose agreed to it. If a commissioner bent on that rule, even a bit, it would open new territory that perhaps is best left unexplored.
But it is hard to imagine that grave harm would result if Rose were allowed to help out for a few weeks in spring training.
“All I would do is try to get closer to the players, the young players, and help them to develop,” Rose said. “I like young players because I like their enthusiasm.”
Rose has found a kind of peace, even without a plaque in Cooperstown, or another job in baseball. His records for games, at-bats and hits — and his favorite category, games won — secure an indelible legacy, no matter how it all ends.
“I’m a firm believer that baseball is a better sport if I’m in it,” Rose said.
And you wonder if we will ever find out.