Pete Rose

Born: 04/14/1941 (Cincinatti, Ohio)
Alma Mater: Western Hills High School
Years Active: 24 Years
Teams: Cincinatti Reds (1963-78, 1984-86), Philadelpha Phillies (1979-83), Montreal Expos (1984)
Position(s): Outfielder, First Baseman, Third Baseman   Height: 5'11"   Weight: 192 lbs   Bats: Switch   Throws: Right
World Series: 1975, 1976, 1980
All-Star: 17x All-Star (1965, 1967-71, 1973-82, 1985)   Olympic Medals: N/A
MVPs: 1973 NL MVP, 1975 World Series MVP   Other Awards: NL Rookie of the Year (1963), 2x Gold Glove (1969, 1970), Silver Slugger (1981)
Hall of Fame Class: N/A

There are few athletes with a more complicated legacy than Pete Rose.

Rose is baseball’s Hit King, the man with more hits than any player in major league history, breaking the record held by Hall of Famer Ty Cobb.

Rose is “Charlie Hustle,” a player who ran to first base after drawing a walk, sprinted on and off the field between innings, launched himself Superman-like into headfirst slides, ran over catchers and played until he was 125 days past his 45th birthday, displaying an underdog’s competitiveness, intensity, aggressiveness and love for the game unmatched by few players before or since.

“Hitting and speed are not his greatest assets,” said Johnny Vander Meer, the former Cincinnati Red pitcher of double no-hit fame who managed Rose in the lower minors. “I’ve seen a lot of players who had all the tools to be great, but they weren’t aggressive. Rose is aggressive every minute of every day. He’s aggressive when he’s batting, running or playing the infield.”

The switch-hitting Rose played for 24 seasons, finishing his career with more hits (4,256), games played (3,562), times at bat (14,053), singles (3,215) and seasons with 200 or more hits (10) than anyone who ever played Major League Baseball.

He knew there were players better than him, but in his mind no one could outplay him. 

 “If you have a guy equal in ability to me, I’m gonna beat him, because I’ll try harder,” he once explained. “That guy ain’t got no chance.’

Fans loved Pete Rose, especially in his native Cincinnati, where the son of a legendary semi pro athlete named Harry Rose—known as “Big Pete”–made his debut as a cocky 22-year-old in 1963, won the National League’s Rookie of the Year Award, and played the first 16 seasons of his career. He returned to Cincinnati for the final three seasons in which he served as player-manager, then prolonged his stay with an additional three seasons as manager.

He was catalyst to the famed “Big Red Machine,” winners of back-to-back World Series in 1975 and 1976, then won another World Series in 1980 with the Philadelphia Phillies, where he played five seasons before moving on in 1984 to Montreal, where he played 95 games before returning to Cincinnati.

He was a 17-time All-Star, a three-time batting champion, the National League MVP in 1973, the World Series MVP in 1975, and two-time Gold Glover who played six different positions—first, second and third and all three outfield spots.

“At a time when plutocratic athletes were just beginning to distance themselves from the paying customers and the working press, Pete Rose was there for everyone, signing autographs, delivering extemporaneous speeches, tirelessly submitting to interviews,’’ wrote Ron Fimrite of Sports Illustrated. “He was as genuinely popular a player as the modern game has known.’’

In the 11th inning of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series against the Boston Red Sox, often regarded as one of the greatest games ever played, Rose turned to Boston catcher Carlton Fisk, a future Hall of Famer, and said, “Wow, this is some kind of game, isn’t it? We’ll be telling our grandkids about the game.”

The media adored the blunt-talking Rose as well. Famed baseball analyst and essayist Bill James once wrote “more glowing, ecstatic prose was written about Pete Rose than about Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, John Elway, Mark McGwire and Twinkie Teletubby combined.”

But Pete Rose also is the same man who is serving a permanent ban from baseball, the game he loves, a punishment imposed in 1989 by commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti because Rose broke one of the sport’s most inviolable rules, Rule 21 (d), which states, in part: Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.

He also cheated on his income taxes, which led to his serving five months in a federal prison.

Rose’s ban prohibits him from being employed in any capacity by a major league team. In 1990, the baseball Hall of Fame decided that anyone permanently ineligible by MLB would also be denied election to Cooperstown.

Pete Rose bet on baseball. He bet on his Cincinnati Reds, placing bets with bookies on Reds games as often as five times a week while managing the team in 1987. For 13 years, he denied that he had bet on the game, before admitting his guilt to commissioner Bud Selig in 2002, then publicly acknowledging the same in 2004. His years of denials—there is evidence that MLB was aware of Rose’s gambling activities as early as the late ‘60s–almost certainly undermined any chance of reinstatement. To date, neither Selig nor his successor, Rob Manfred, have shown any inclination to reinstate Rose. 

Rose still has his supporters. When the All-Century team was introduced before Game 2 of the 1999 World Series, Rose received a standing ovation when he was introduced. In 2017, the Reds placed a statue of Rose outside of Great American Ball Park.

Rose has on multiple occasions applied for reinstatement, most recently in 2020. With MLB recently entering into cross-promotion with casinos and other betting entities, some have said that the time has come for baseball to offer Rose forgiveness. 

“I would say that nothing is going to change,” influential Fox Sports commentator Ken Rosenthal said. “This question is fair. … Especially if you’re a Pete Rose fan and you see all of the gambling elements that are being introduced into the game … you might wonder – hey, whoa – Pete Rose, hello, where is he?

“The difference is – and the reason Rose’s ban will not be lifted – is because he bet on baseball. And as a player, you cannot do that. It’s an integrity-of-the-game issue. In fact, it’s the premier integrity-of-the-game issue. If there is a question about the validity of the competition, then you’re gonna have all kinds of problems. And you’re talking about a sport that would be ultimately descending into professional wrestling … something that is scripted or whatever. You’re gonna have all these questions that were raised. Baseball doesn’t want that. Baseball shouldn’t want that.’’