PHILADELPHIA — Baseball’s all-time hit king took a swing at his critics Sunday before a ceremony honoring the 1980 Philadelphia Phillies World Series champions.
Pete Rose deflected a question about an allegation that he had sex with a woman when she was a minor, ESPN reported. Rose, 81, was appearing on the field in Philadelphia for the first time since he was banned by Major League Baseball in 1989 for betting on games.
“No, I’m not here to talk about that,” Rose said when asked by Alex Coffey, a female reporter with The Philadelphia Inquirer. “Sorry about that. It was 55 years ago, babe.”
Rose, 81, was banned by Major League Baseball in August 1989. He agreed to a lifetime ban after an investigation for MLB by lawyer John Dowd determined that Rose placed numerous bets on the Cincinnati Reds to win from 1985 to 1987 while he was the team’s player-manager.
The Phillies scrapped plans in 2017 to honor Rose on the team’s into the team’s Wall of Fame because of the allegations, according to ESPN. Rose denied that he committed statutory rape, calling the allegations “entirely false in every respect,” the Inquirer reported.
On Sunday, Rose received a standing ovation from Phillies fans, many of whom were not even born or too young to remember the player nicknamed Charlie Hustle.
“They made me feel real good today,” Rose told reporters. “I don’t want to say I expected it. I guess I did expect it from Philly fans. That’s the way they are. They love their sports heroes.”
When an Associated Press reporter asked Rose about his comments to Coffey, he brushed it aside.
“I’m going to tell you one more time. I’m here for the Philly fans. I’m here for my teammates. I’m here for the Phillies organization,” Rose said. “And who cares what happened 50 years ago? You weren’t even born. So you shouldn’t be talking about it, because you weren’t born. If you don’t know a damn thing about it, don’t talk about it.”
The woman, identified as Jane Doe in 2017, said Rose called her in 1973 when she was 14 or 15, and they began a sexual relationship in Cincinnati that lasted several years, according to the AP.
Rose’s lawyer has said the woman’s claims were unverified.
Rose admitted in 2017 that he did have a relationship with the woman, but he said it started when she was 16, according to ESPN.
According to the Inquirer, a representative for Rose approached after the ceremony and apologized on behalf of the former player. Rose claimed that the newspaper was trying to “attack” him and then joked, “will you forgive me if I sign 1,000 baseballs for you?”
At the end of the conversation, Rose said “sorry,” according to the newspaper.
Rose joined former Phillies greats for the ceremony honoring the 1980 team, including Hall of Famer Steve Carlton, Bob Boone, Greg Luzinski and Larry Bowa. Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt skipped the reunion because he tested positive for COVID-19, but sent a videotaped message, ESPN reported.
The 1963 National League Rookie of the Year and the league’s MVP 10 years later, Rose collected 4,256 hits during his career. He spent 19 of his 24 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds but played in Philadelphia from 1979 to 1983. He collected 826 of his career hits in Philadelphia and batted .291, according to Baseball-Reference.com. He helped the Phillies defeat the Kansas City Royals in the 1980 World Series.
Rose has made appearances for ceremonies in his hometown of Cincinnati since being banned, according to the AP. His last application for MLB reinstatement was rejected by Commissioner Rob Manfred in 2015.
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