CINCINNATI – Pete Rose had a chance to meet Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred before Tuesday night's All-Star Game and Manfred had a chance to hear from Rose's biggest supporters.
Rose recounted the meeting in the Franchise Four green room for long-time Cincinnati baseball writer John Erardi, who has been covering All-Star events for WCPO.com.
"I've never talked so much about a guy I've never met," Manfred said, according to Rose, and they both had a laugh.
Moments later, Rose stepped onto the Great American Ball Park grass in a red blazer and received a thunderous ovation from the All-Star Game crowd thick with throaty Rose fans.
For the second straight night, the All-Star Game gave Cincinnati a showcase to claim the title of Best Baseball City in America and bask in the glow of its heroes.
While Reds fans were still celebrating Todd Frazier's Home Run Derby win, they got to cheer four of their all-time greats.
Rose, the city's favorite son, joined Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Barry Larkin as the Reds' Franchise Four in a pre-game ceremony that must have given them and everyone in Reds' Country goose bumps. After the other team's Franchise Fours were revealed on the video board, Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman introduced the four Reds in alphabetical order and they walked out of the dugout one by one. Morgan limped out using a cane.
Rose, 74, was last. Fans started chanting, "Pete! Pete!" when they saw him reach the top step.
Later, Bench came back to earn another ovation as one of baseball's four Greatest Living Players along with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Sandy Koufax, After fans showered them applause, Bench crouched behind home plate to catch the ceremonial first pitch from Koufax.
It was the biggest celebration of Reds on a national stage since Rose, Bench, Morgan and Tom Seaver were honored as members of the All-Century team at the World Series in Atlanta in 1999.
"The only bad thing about being out there: I didn't get no at-bats," Rose told reporters afterward. "I wish I had gotten a couple of at-bats.
"The fans were wonderful," Rose said. "I've been going through this love affair for 30 years. The fans are great."
See all of Tuesday's honorees below.
The other Reds honorees seemed happy to take a backseat to Rose.
"It was nice and loud, but when Pete went out there, the decibels went up a whole bunch, and we expected that," Larkin said. "Johnny was saying he was glad Pete went last. It was fantastic."
"It was great to see those guys get the ovation that they got," Frazier said. "And Pete Rose, I was telling guys, be ready, you might not be able to hear yourself clap. It was pretty nice.
"If you want to get into an argument with somebody from Cincinnati, tell them that you don't love Pete Rose. It's like saying something about your dad."
Noting how much the Queen City treasures its baseball birthright as home of the oldest professional team, MLB historian John Thorn said Baseball couldn't have picked a better place to unveil the Franchise Fours.
"None of the 30 Major League franchises, not even the Yankees, embraces its distant past the way Cincinnati does," Thorn told MLB.com. "Cincinnati's raison d'etre is to provide a direct link to the most famous club in the land in 1869, and to try to live up to that heritage."
Banned from baseball for 26 years for gambling on the Reds, Rose had to get permission from Manfred to appear on the field. Manfred says he is weighing Rose's petition for reinstatement as the 74-year-old Hit King tries to get off the permanently ineligible list and on the Hall of Fame ballot.
Bench, Morgan and Rose - together with Hall of Famer Tony Perez - led the Big Red Machine to World Series championships in 1975 and '76. The Reds lost World Series in 1970 to the Orioles and 1972 to the A's.
Rose, Cincinnati's prodigal son, got the biggest ovation from the hometown crowd, who saluted him for his Charlie Hustle style and his record 4,256 hits. Rose had not felt the warm applause of Reds fans at GABP since the Great Eight and Morgan statue celebration in 2013. While playing for the Reds, Rose (1963-78) was a three-time batting champ and NL MVP in 1973 and was player-manager from 1984 to 1989. Including his years with the Phillies and Excos, he was a 19-time All-Star at five different positions.
Bench, almost universally regarded as the game's greatest catcher, won two NL MVP awards and 10 Gold Gloves and was a 14-time All-Star in 17 seasons – all with the Reds (1967-83). He was unrivaled for his ability to throw out base runners and block the plate. He also was famous for dramatic home runs, like the series-saving blast over Roberto Clemente's head in the deciding game against the Pirates in 1972, a ninth-inning homer to sweep the Phillies in Game 3 of the 1976 NLCS and two homers in Yankee Stadium to close out a four-game sweep in the '76 World Series.
Morgan (1972-79) was NL MVP in the Reds' championship seasons. The second baseman was the catalyst for the offense, combining power, speed and hitting for average, and a five-team Gold Glover as well. He was a 10-time All-Star.
Larkin, who played all of his 19 seasons (1986-2004) with his hometown team, was a star shortstop on the Reds wire-to-wire champions in 1990 and NL MVP in 1995 when the Reds lost to the Braves in the NLCS. He was a 12-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glover.
Three other former Reds stars, Seaver, Frank Robinson and Ken Griffey Jr., were selected to the Mets', Orioles' and Mariners' Franchise Fours, respectively.
Each team's Franchise Four winners were picked from a list of eight nominees chosen by Thorn and representatives from the Elias Sports Bureau, MLB.com, MLB Network and the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Fans also voted in three additional categories: Greatest Living Player, Greatest Negro Leagues Player and the sport's Greatest Pioneers.
Greatest Living Players
Greatest Negro Leagues Players
Cool Papa Bell
Ken Griffey Jr.
Cal Ripken Jr.