Sports Vault: 20 years ago, Pete Rose Jr. got a shot with the Reds -- but it wasn't meant to be

One start, 11 games total, then back to the minors

CINCINNATI -- Pete Rose Jr. says it feels like yesterday -- well, except for the fact that he's walking around on a new left knee.

It was actually 20 years ago when Pete Jr., the eldest son of Pete, spent a month in the big leagues with the Reds.

Pete Rose Jr.

"Twenty years," Rose said. "It flies by."

Rose earned the promotion with a breakout year for Double-A Chattanooga. He hit .301 with 25 home runs and 99 RBI. Rose had been a middling minor-leaguer before that big year.

Rose was drafted in the 12th round by Baltimore in 1998, out of Oak Hills High School. He had modest success in the low minors.

The Orioles traded him to the Chicago White Sox in 1991. Then Cleveland made him a Rule 5 pick in 1994. But the Indians released him rather than keep him on the big league roster. He re-signed with the White Sox, and they released him after he hit .243 with three home runs and 44 RBI in 108 games in '96.

Rose signed with the Reds as a minor league free agent in the winter of '96. Then came the big year for Chattanooga. He got the call to the big leagues when rosters expanded on Sept. 1.

Reds owner Marge Schott, left, greets Pete Rose before his son's Reds debut in 1997.

"As a player, it means everything," he said. "That's what your goal is. It meant more to me because I grew up here. I remember getting the call. I went to the ballpark the same way me and my dad did. I came in the same way, walked out the same way, watched the game the same way.

"It's crazy that it's 20 years. But it's something I'll never forget. It was awesome."

 

The Reds in 1997 were finishing up a rough year. Jack McKeon had taken over for Ray Knight as manager in July.

Karolyn Rose, left, talks with fans before her son Pete Rose Jr.'s major-league debut.

Rose clearly had the numbers to warrant it. But if his name were Pete Smith, the call would not likely have come. Jim Bowden, the general manager at the time, was not above making moves for publicity's sake. The next year, he called up Stephen Larkin so the Reds could start an infield of Barry and Stephen Larkin with Bret and Aaron Boone.

McKeon, however, was not so fond of the Rose move. But McKeon started Rose at third base on the day of the call-up.

Pete Rose Jr. swings for his first major-league hit in 1997.

Rose went 1-for-3 with a walk. He thought that would lead to more playing time.

"I had a good start," he said. "I thought I'd play the next day. I ended up sitting, and I went into a pinch-hitting role. I remember (hitting coach Ken Griffey Sr.) pulling me aside and saying, 'Keep your head up.'"

That start on Sept. 1 was the only one Rose got.

McKeon had been skeptical about Rose's defense from the start. When Rose took over at third base in the fifth inning of a blowout on Sept. 6 and made two errors, his fate was sealed.

His last nine appearances were as pinch-hit. He went 0-for-9.

Pete Rose cheers his son Pete Rose Jr.'s first major-league hit.

The Reds brought him back in 1998 as a minor league agent. He hit .254 with four home runs and 25 RBI in 71 games for Chattanooga. He ended the year in independent ball.

Pete Rose Sr. and Pete Rose Jr. address the media after the younger's Reds debut.

Rose would get a couple more shots in the minors. He played until 2009, 21 years in all. His left knee had to be replaced in 2012.

Rose played for 24 different minor-league teams, from Winnipeg to Guasave of the Mexican League. He played 1,933 minor-league games in all.

But 11 games in the majors, for his hometown Reds, his fathers' team, stand out.

Rose is still in the game. He manages the Wichita Wingnuts, an independent team.

"I'm trying to get a way to manage in the big leagues some day," he said. "You've just got to keep at it."

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