Pete Rose -- excerpts from his interview session before the All-Century Team celebration in Atlanta
On what his plaque should read if he's ever let into the Hall of Fame: Well, first of all, it would be as long as this table here....But if you want to remember me for one thing other than being suspended from baseball, remember that I won -- I played in more winning games than anybody in the history of sports.
On winning, and male chauvinistic enlightenment: Until you play a big league sport, you don't understand, there is a difference in winning and losing. You don't like to preach that to youngsters, but there is a difference. And don't tell me if any of you have youngsters, you don't feel better on your way home when your kid got a couple hits and won the game. You feel better, he feels better the wife feels better that's going to dry clean or wash the uniform. Everybody feels better.
On never having seen the evidence with his fingerprints on betting slips: I haven't seen them. Bring them to me and show them to me. I'm not here to talk about something that happened years ago. This is 1999, getting ready to go into the 21st Century. We're here for a festive situation tonight. Wouldn't it be nice if Bart could be here tonight? Wouldn't it be nice if Babe Ruth could be here tonight, Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio? You know, if I had my wish, they'd all be here.
On being reinstated in baseball: I would only like to be reinstated because I'm a baseball person. When I was his size [his 15-year old son], I was a baseball player. When I was 45 years old, I was a baseball player. I'm a teacher. I'm a lover of the game. You can't convince me that there's not several organizations in the Major Leagues today that I can't help turn around. That's why I want to be reinstated. And if you want to say that's me missing the game of baseball, I miss teaching the game of baseball. I mean I'll take an interest in Paul O'Neill tonight; I brought him up. Keith Lockhart, I brought him up. There's still a lot of my players out there playing in the Big Leagues and they're all fundamentally sound because we took time to teach them the right way to play the game of baseball. I don't think a lot of organizations are doing that today. I don't know if that's because of the size of the contracts they don't have money to put into Minor League organizations or the instructors, I don't know what that might be. Most of the people in this room are like me; they understand the game of baseball. When it's poorly played, the average fan doesn't understand that. I was kind of a purist when I played the game of baseball. I hate to see a guy walk off of second thinking there's a guy on first when it's a 3-2, walk or a guy not going to second when there's a wild pitch on strike three. That's just getting your players to be alert to the situation. I mean this is -- the two best teams in baseball are here tonight. It's no secret why they're here; because they're the two best teams and they're both fundamentally sound. I don't know if it's the managers; they're both great managers. The organizations; they're both great organizations. The coaches; they both got great coaching staffs, or if it's the personnel. Probably a little bit of everything. So I think there's too many organizations in baseball that they don't need a personnel change as much as they need an attitude change. And I think in 1984 when I went back to Cincinnati as player manager, that's the first thing I had to do, even though the Big Red Machine was there in the '70s. The team, in '83, in '84 and '82 was in last place. That filters right up in the stands. And when an attitude change is in any sports franchise, whether it's basketball, football, hockey or whatever, baseball, it's tough to turn it around. It's tough to turn an attitude around. That was my first goal when I went back in 1984. Obviously Cincinnati doesn't need that now. You can think of some teams that do, and I can. It's sad, see all these guys make all this money and appear that they don't care if they win or lose. I know they care, and I wish they would show us they care, and a lot of them do. I'm not really criticizing the players, because it's not always their fault. Sometimes us fans are at fault because if you don't let the players know you care, they'll continue to linger, doing the same things over and over again, whether bad, good or indifferent.
On whether a team would hire him if he was reinstated: I don't even think that's a valid question. No. Hey, there's many, many teams that give other guys second chances. Hey, man, just analyze why I played the game, the way I taught the game, the passion I have for the game. Would you give me a chance? You have to think about it. I'm glad you're not an owner of a baseball team. You wouldn't let me work for your paper? Only if the team wanted to win is the only reason they'd hire me.
On why he couldn't make the earlier All-Century Team press conference: Let me explain the whole situation. I was in Atlantic City. Like I said, there were 14 other players there. We signed to do this card show, it's called a 3,000 Hit Show. Obviously you can't have a 3,000 Hit Show if I'm not there. (Laughter.) Right? And we signed six months ago to do this, and my day was Sunday along with Dave Winfield. Stan Musial signed next to me this morning. The only difference was he signed yesterday so he could take a jet out at 10 o'clock. I had to wait until 1 o'clock. I didn't pick Atlantic City for the event. I didn't get in until late last night and signed today, I left right after I signed. So if it had been in Detroit, you wouldn't have said anything. Don't forget, there was 14 other players there. And they were all Hall of Famers. If they weren't Hall of Famers, they're all going to the Hall of Fame. I was sitting right in between -- I mean my eyes are hurting from sitting in between Boggs and Gwynn today, with all those Silver bats. One has eight, the other has five. You throw mine together, there's 16 batting titles sitting there. That's a lot of history in the game of baseball. If you're going to criticize me for being in Atlantic City, criticize Steve Histler, that's the guy who had the show.
On attending big league games: I've been to games in Cincinnati. Let me tell you something, and I was telling the security guys on the way over, you know, I could take my son to Dodger Stadium every night if he wanted to go to the game. But it's not worth it to me to -- I drive so many people crazy. I mean when I go to the game, they're paranoid about me being at the game. When I went to see my son play in Cincinnati, you pull up, you get out of the park here, can he park here, can he go into this entrance, can he sit here, can he buy a hot dog, a Diet Coke. They're all scared they're going to lose their jobs. I feel sorry for them. They're petrified, actually shaking. I don't want to put anybody through that. You know, when I was a player, I got along with the people who are the ushers, were the ushers, the ticket-takers, the guards down there at the parking lot. And it drives you crazy, to think you're scaring these people. When I went to see my son start for the Reds on Labor Day a couple years ago, I sat next to Marge, and that's the first time in my life I ever bought four tickets to a baseball game. I had -- they made me, I had to buy the tickets. I had to buy the tickets the next night to sit up in her box. I was always on the pass list. My son couldn't leave me passes. I mean Charles Manson gets a hearing every year, doesn't he? (Laughter.)
This kid thinks his dad's a monster. [referring to his younger son next to him]
On saying he's sorry: Let me explain something to you. I mean I don't know if you watched my resume or know anything about my MO, but I have -- I don't know how many radio shows I've done in the last ten years, how many TV shows I've done in the last ten years, how many news media I talked to. Everybody is not going to hear me say, "I'm sorry." Do you honestly think I wish this -- I'm glad this happened? I mean do you really think that? I mean, I would do anything in my power to change what has happened to me in the last ten years. I would. But I can't change what has happened. You know how I feel. You know I'm sorry. I mean, I guess maybe when I got the hit to break Cobb's record, I shouldn't have cried at first base because no one thinks I'm sorry unless I cry. I got feelings like everybody else has feelings, obviously. If anybody in this group doesn't think I'm sorry for what happened, and I must tell you this, that I'm sitting here looking at a lot of friends out there. I can't think of anybody I'm looking at that I hurt. Unless I turn this way. [towards his son]
On his sense of himself as an ambassador for baseball: You may think I'm crazy, but I think today I'm the best ambassador baseball has. I mean I'll be talking about baseball tomorrow in Florida, Wednesday in Chicago, Saturday back in Florida, Sunday in Los Angeles, because my name is kind of synonymous with the game of baseball. And I don't bad-mouth the game. I mean the players are great. The owners are great. The fans are great. Let's have a show. Let's have a good show. I'm one of those players that when I played, I cared about the fans when they got up and left. I thought that there should be an ass on every seat on every night. And it's amazing to me how some teams do it right. We're right in one ballpark that does it right [Atlanta]. Cleveland does it right. Baltimore does it right. Arizona does it right. Colorado does it right. You know Texas does it right. There's a lot of teams that do it right and there's a lot of teams that do it wrong. I don't want to hear all this stuff that you got to be a big market to compete. You don't have to be a big market to compete. I was on the Big Red Machine. When was Cincinnati a big market? You have a million people in that town, but they went to the ballpark every night because we gave them a reason to come back. I'm in the restaurant business. You got bad food, they won't come back. You got to get them in, keep them in. You got to keep them in. You got to get them to put your deal in part of their day. That's what fans are all about. Hell, we didn't have fans, what would be the sense of any of us being here tonight?
On his agreement to a lifetime suspension: Maybe I screwed up, but there's one thing about the document that, you know, I hear writers occasionally say, "Well, he signed it, permanently suspended, lifetime suspension." Well, in my mind, I didn't. Because if any of us were at the press conference, I think some of you were at my press conference, his little sister [points to his son] was born two days before that, and the last thing I said at that press conference is, "I can't wait for my little girl to be a year old so I can apply for reinstatement." There's a clause that says I can apply after one year. So when I saw that clause, I didn't look at it as a lifetime suspension. And maybe I'm reading it wrong, but that's the way I read the agreement.
On the reception he expects from the crowd at the All-Century Celebration before Game 2: I would think Atlanta fans, being great fans and Atlanta being the number-one team that I played against as far as my record, I had my highest average against the Atlanta Braves, but I must tell you, it wasn't Maddux and Glavine and Smoltz and those guys. I can remember we could come in here, seven hits in three games, you had a bad series. (Laughter.) You have to remember, Phil Niekro pitched here. I got 77 hits off of him. I got 30-some off of his brother, why couldn't his mother have quintuplets, I would have had -- (Laughter.) It reminds me of when I broke Cobb's record. You don't know how you're going to feel. Because you don't know what the response of the people is going to be. I mean what happens if 50,000 people boo tonight? What happens if 50,000 of them clap? I mean, I know it won't be the same as when I broke the record because the whole program of all the players is only 15 minutes and I got a 9-minute standing ovation in Cincinnati. Until you go through that, you really can't describe it.
On breaking Ty Cobb's record for most hits, lifetime: At first base, September 11th, 1985, was like a Hall of Fame induction. Because, let me explain. This is experience talking. I would think that when you go to a Hall of Fame induction, and I never went to one, and the people start clapping for you when you're introduced, it's okay for the first minute or so. Then it's okay for the second minute or so. In my case, it was okay six or seven minutes, then they come out, they took the base, the players left the field, Marge gave me a Corvette, she drove that off. I don't know why the hell she gave me a Corvette in the first inning in a ballpark. And then what do you do? You start thinking about why you're there and who's responsible for you being there. And in my case, my father was gone; my high school coach was gone; my Uncle Buddy, who signed me to a professional coach, was gone; Phil Segui who gave me a chance with the Reds was gone. All the people who were instrumental in me becoming the player that I was are gone. And that's what brings the tears to your eyes. And what people didn't realize in Cincinnati that night, I don't know if they have since then, but that they really saw three generations of Pete Rose within nine minutes. They saw me get the hit, they saw me caress my son when he came out, and they saw me acknowledge my father after the eight or nine minutes. I was scared to look up, because I know him and Cobb are getting ready to get into a fight. So I had to just go on to the next thing. You know, that was the only time in my baseball life that I was on a field and didn't know what to do.
More on being reinstated, and an analysis of his gambling habits: I have a 10-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old son and he's got a size eleven shoe, hands down to his knees, he's going to eat a lot in the next ten years. That's another thing; that everybody always criticized me going to casinos. I mean, hey, I see the signs in the ballparks and casinos pay for appearances. And if I was in baseball, I wouldn't go to a casino. I wouldn't need to. I wouldn't have to. I wouldn't need the money. You know, most of the money I make is appearances and restaurants. And I would like to -- I'm not sitting here bad-mouthing casinos because people have been very good to me. And I do a lot of casino appearances and never go to the casino, because if you know anything about me and you probably don't, I'm not a casino-type gambler. I like horse racing. I love horse racing. I was into horse racing. I'm going to start talking about gambling. I don't understand craps, I'm not a blackjack player, I'm not going to sit there and do that wheel and I'm sure as hell not going to pull a slot machine. [Laughter] Because you got to be 70 years old before you do that. I'm right around the corner, but I'm not there yet.
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