CINCINNATI — Pete Rose doesn’t view his impending induction into the Reds Hall of Fame as a consolation prize from his continued banishment from Cooperstown.
“This is fine. I’m happy,” Rose said. “I’m not going to say this is the second-best thing, because it’s not. Maybe it would be if I wasn’t from Cincinnati. But I’m from Cincinnati. This is the first big thing.”
But, as the press conference of the big announcement went on, it became clear that this is as far as Commissioner Rob Manfred has allowed the Reds to go with Rose, at least at this point. His role will be purely ceremonial. Rose will inducted the weekend of June 24. No. 14 will be retired as well. The 1976 World Champions will be honored.
But Rose is not allowed to be employed in baseball operations. He is allowed to come to the ballpark without permission, but he is not allowed to have contact with the players.
Rose still longs to do that.
“I don’t want to say I’d walk through hell in a gasoline suit to instruct players . . .” Rose said. “But it’s all about making players better. When you make players become better, you make the team become better. When you make the team become better, you make the city better."
Rose has been a semi-regular at Reds games, but he is confined to the seats.
“I haven’t to been allowed to frequent the batting cage, which I’d like to do,” Rose said. “Walk through the clubhouse. I’ve never seen the clubhouse. Another thing I do every time I come to the game -- I buy Diamond Seats. There’s not a pass list for me.”
That will change.
“You might see Pete up in the owner's box without a ticket,” owner Bob Castellini said.
But the players and clubhouse remain off limits. Rose doesn’t expect that to change, but, again, he would love to be part of it.
“I doubt it,” he said. “When I managed, I saw 37 players get their first hit. I love young players. The young players give you enthusiasm. You need veteran players, too. You need them both.
“I’m a teacher. I’m a baseball teacher. I was fortunate growing up, because of my dad, to learn how to play the game the right way. There’s too many guys — I’m not talking about the Reds, I’m talking baseball in general — there’s too many guys who don’t know how in the hell to play the game. We deserve that as fans.
“I love to teach. I love to make younger players better. When I tell a player something — I’ve always believed this — anybody can tell a player how to do something. But if you tell them and you did it, they’ll listen.”
Rose is a fan of Castellini and thinks he’ll turn things around.
“No one likes to win more than this guy,” Rose said. “Leadership comes from the top. I would have loved to play for him.”
Rose has Castellini’s ear, or more correctly, the ear of Suzie Castellini, the owner’s wife.
“I love to go to the owner’s box and talk with his lovely wife,” Rose said. “We talk about how we’re going to make the team better and this and that. She’s on top of that. I sit outside where we can enjoy the air and talk about the Reds."
The Reds are in the early stages of a rebuild, and Rose would love to pass along his ideas on how that should go. “I’m not on the payroll — I should be,” Rose joked.
Rose worries that losing will become a habit with the Reds. That has a mental effect on the club that can be lasting.
“I tell the boss (Castellini) that all the time: We’ve got to get that attitude back,” Rose said. “I remember when I came back here in ’84. The Reds lost 100 games in ’83. They were in last place when I came back. We had to change the attitude. If we change the attitude on the field, we change the attitude in the stands. As a player, you can feel the attitude — positive or negative.
“This is a positive town. This is the baseball capital of the world.”
There will be a statue of Rose erected at some point.
What does Rose want the statue to be?
“I sure as hell don’t want it to be me standing at Turfway in the $2 window,” he said. “I can say that now. There ain’t nobody looking over my shoulder.”
Rose finally decided upon on a headfirst slide statue, but the Turfway remark was a thinly veiled shot at Manfred.
All this came about in the aftermath of Manfred’s rejection of Rose’s appeal of his lifetime ban. That move came in December. But the Reds had been working for some time on what was announced Tuesday. The Reds Hall of Fame had to amend its bylaws to put Rose in. The board of directors changed the rule that banned players on the ineligible list from being the Reds’ Hall of Fame.
“Why now?” Castellini was asked.
“Why not?” he said.
“Pete was told in the immediate future that he was probably not going to be looked at in terms of Cooperstown,” Castellini said. “We wanted to make sure we picked up that vacuum. The commissioner gave us permission to do that. Now is the time.”
Rose had good things to say about Manfred as well.
“I’d also like to thank the commissioner for giving me that opportunity,” Rose said. “I, regardless of what you may have read, I got along with the commissioner. He’s a great guy. He didn’t rule the way I wanted to rule. But that’s life. For him to go out of his way to do this, pat him on the back.”
Rose has not ruled out Cooperstown.
“Baseball don’t own Cooperstown,” Rose said. “Cooperstown is owned by the Clark family. If somehow they ever changed the rule to get me on the ballot (for the writers to vote) . . . I haven’t given up on Cooperstown. I’m not the type to give up on anything.”
For now, Cooperstown and contact with players is off limits. The Hall of Fame, the number being retired and the statue are obviously a big deal.
“The situation I was in, I never thought this would be possible,” Rose said.
But Rose would like to be more apart of the future of the franchise than the history. Maybe Tuesday’s announcement shows anything is possible.
John Fay is freelance sports columnist. This column represents his opinion.