COLUMN: Remove Pete Rose's statue outside Great American Ball Park

Rose accused of sex with underage girl in 1970s

Greg Noble is a Web Editor at WCPO, former sports editor for the Cincinnati Enquirer and has decades of experience covering Cincinnati news. This column represents his opinion. 

CINCINNATI -- Back in the early 1970s, the Fountain Square Sculpture Fund commissioned a sculpture to honor the Cincinnati Bar Association. The sculpture, called “Law and Society,” turned out to be a massive block of gray limestone lying across a plain silver stainless steel arch.

It was ugly, pure and simple, and that was the best thing people said about it.

It didn’t do honor to the lawyers or our legal system. It didn’t do honor to our city. It disappeared in a hurry -- suddenly, secretly, as if stolen in the middle of the night.

We should have been so lucky.

But instead of carting it off to a warehouse or dumping it in the river, the city moved that statue out of sight to Sawyer Point, under the shadows of the Big Mac Bridge, where only a few people ever walk by and probably give it no notice.

That might be a good place for the Reds to move the Pete Rose statue sitting outside Great American Ball Park.

While they’re at it, the city should take down the Pete Rose Way signs, too.

Charlie Hustle, it turns out, admits having a sexual relationship with a teenager in the 1970s. The woman claims she was not yet 16 when Rose started having sex with her, according to federal court documents. If proven true, that might have qualified as statutory rape since 16 is the legal age for consent in Ohio.

Rose admitted the sexual relationship started in 1975, the year he turned 34, according to court documents. Rose would have been married 11 years at that point, with two children. But Rose claims the girl was 16 at the time, and they never had sex outside Ohio. If so, Rose could argue that he hadn’t committed a crime.

There's more. Court documents include accusations that Rose had sex with other minors. Those come from John Dowd, the high-powered attorney who led baseball’s investigation into Rose’s gambling in 1989. The Dowd Report got Rose kicked out of baseball forever.

Even if we never find out if the girl was 15 or 16, or if it was one girl or more, Rose’s admission that he had a sexual relationship with one teen should qualify him for the Hall of Shame and not for a statue in the place of honor it has held since its unveiling in June at the entrance to GABP.

Same goes for Pete Rose Way. City council should vote to change the name. The subject came up in 1989 after Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti banned Rose, but as long as Rose denied he bet on the Reds, nothing changed. There was some agreement that council not name streets after living people anymore so they wouldn’t regret it later.

That’s on us -- council, media and fans.

Rose couldn’t be prosecuted now in any case because the statute of limitations has run out. But there’s no statute of limitations on our outrage, and it’s well past time for Cincinnati to stop looking the other way when it comes to Rose’s transgressions.

Many of the legions of Pete Rose fans could forgive the hometown baseball hero for betting on the game and his own team. They could forgive him for lying and protesting his innocence for 15 years until he saw an opportunity to make money off it by finally admitting it in a 2004 book, “My Prison Without Bars.”

Funny, that title, since Rose did go to prison for five months in 1990 for not reporting some of his income from card shows and memorabilia sales. But fans forgave him for that, too.

When there were allegations of womanizing, fans would say that was just Pete being Pete, as long as his partners were consenting adults.

He fathered a child out of wedlock in 1979. Remember Terri Rubio? She was his spring training girlfriend and drove around in a canary yellow Triumph that Rose bought her -- apparently a signal that he didn’t care who knew about it. When their daughter was 10 months old, Rubio sued him, saying he stopped paying child support. Later, Rose settled out of court.

There always was a lot not to like about Pete Rose. But he never lost his charm in the way he played the game and talked about baseball and reminded us of the Reds’ greatest days -- the Big Red Machine, back-to-back World Series titles, the night he hit 4192, a record 4,256 hits.

As Rose aged into his 70s, he actually became a sympathetic figure.

“Drop the ban. Let him into the Hall of Fame. He has suffered enough,” some of us said.

Baseball has refused to do that, but it took down the figurative “Not Welcome” sign to allow the Reds to honor his baseball success at the 2015 All-Star Game here and induct him into the Reds Hall of Fame -- with a statue -- in 2017.

We could always look the other way because Rose was Cincinnati’s hero.

But not anymore.

How do fans look the other way now when they walk past Rose’s statue? How does a father or mother explain Rose’s sexual relationship with a teenage girl to their young kids when they ask who the player sliding head-first is?

Granted, it would be a shame to remove sculptor Tom Tsuchiya’s marvelous Rose statue, but it would be a far greater shame not to.

So remove it, Reds.

Put the statue inside your Hall of Fame and keep his number retired if you want -- if you think he’s still deserving. You can be like the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which still displays O.J. Simpson’s bust. The University of Southern California still has a copy of Simpson’s Heisman Trophy on campus, and fans can see his retired jersey in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where the Trojans play home games.

The New York Times had it right when the paper criticized city council for naming Second Street after Rose when he broke the hit record in 1985 and not naming it for a true hero like Dr. Albert Sabin. All Sabin, a University of Cincinnati researcher, did was save the world from polio by developing an oral vaccine.

The headline was “On Cincinnati Streets, It’s Rose 1, Sabin 0."

There's still time to change that. 

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