PHILADELPHIA — Pete Rose dismissed questions Sunday about his first appearance on the field in Philadelphia since the franchise scrapped 2017 plans to honour him because of a woman’s claim she had a sexual relationship with baseball’s hit king when she was a minor.
“It was 55 years ago, babe,” Rose told a female baseball writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Rose, though, had no trouble reminiscing about the 1980 World Series champion Phillies team — it was 42 years ago, Pete — that was honoured before Sunday's game.
The 81-year-old Rose received a standing ovation from Phillies fans — many not even born or too young to remember baseball's hit king in his prime — when he walked onto the Citizens Bank Park field for the first time since he received a lifetime ban from Major League Baseball in August 1989.
“They made me feel real good today,” Rose said of the cheers. “I don't want to say I expected it. I guess I did expect it from Philly fans. That's the way they are. They love their sports heroes.”
Rose's already stained reputation suffered another blow in 2017 when the Phillies called off a planned induction into the team's Wall of Fame because of the sexual misconduct accusations levied against him. Rose brusquely responded to the reporter's question before the game — and later apologized to her following Sunday's ceremony after initially saying, “ will you forgive me if I sign 1,000 baseballs for you?" — and was just as combative on the topic after the pre-game celebration.
“I'm going to tell you one more time: I'm here for the Philly fans, I'm here for my teammates, OK," Rose said. “I'm here for the Philly organization and who cares what happened 50 years ago.”
The woman, identified as Jane Doe in 2017, said Rose called her in 1973, when she was 14 or 15, and they began a sexual relationship in Cincinnati that lasted several years. She also alleged Rose met her in locations outside Ohio for sex.
Rose’s lawyer had said the woman’s claims were unverified.
Rose acknowledged in 2017 that he did have a relationship with the woman, but he said it started when she was 16. He also said they never had sex outside Ohio.
At the time, Rose was in his mid-30s and was married with two kids.
Rose was among many former great Phillies — including Hall of Famer Steve Carlton, and fellow World Series champions Bob Boone, Greg Luzinski and Larry Bowa — honoured for the 1980 team. Mike Schmidt sent a videotaped message and missed the alumni day festivities because he tested positive for COVID-19.
“We've been doing it for a while, coming back every year, and to mix Pete in, I thought, was very special,” Boone said. “When I go to (Cooperstown), I always thought he should be there. You can write anything there, but he was the greatest hitter in the league. Put his name up and put he did this, got punished for whatever.”
Last month, the Phillies defended the decision to invite Rose to participate in the ceremony.
“In planning the 1980 reunion, we consulted with Pete’s teammates about his inclusion,” the Phillies said in a statement. “Everyone wants Pete to be part of the festivities since there would be no trophy in 1980 without him. In addition, the club received permission from the Commissioner’s Office to invite Pete as a member of the championship team.”
The original 1980 anniversary celebration was postponed for two seasons because of the pandemic.
A 17-time All-Star, Rose got 826 of his 4,256 hits during his five years playing for the Phillies from 1979-83. There are no immediate plans for Rose to get inducted in Philadelphia's Wall of Fame.
“Anybody would like to be on the Wall of Fame,” Rose said. “I don't know who made that decision, but God bless them. They made it for a reason. I'm still here today for the biggest event in a long time here in Philadelphia. I'm sitting right here to talking to you guys. Everything evens out.”
Rose agreed to the lifetime ban after an investigation for MLB by lawyer John Dowd found that Rose placed numerous bets on the Cincinnati Reds to win from 1985-87 while playing for and managing the team.
Rose has asked MLB to end his lifetime ban.
“He also did some things wrong and got in trouble for it,” Boone said, “but there he is.”