At 1980 Phillies reunion, Pete Rose stays in character – Delco Times

PHILADELPHIA — He was defiant, proud and confident. He was happy and open and pissed off. He was on a Philadelphia baseball field for the first time since 1989, and he was home.

He was Pete Rose, the brand name at Sunday’s 1980 Phillies championship team meeting at Citizens Bank Park, and he wasn’t ready to give a thumbs up, not on anything, not on his ability to hit a baseball, not on some unacceptable behavior 50 years ago.

That’s what happens every time Pete Rose is in a ballpark. He runs over things and tries to win, swings, connects and sometimes gets into trouble. But he never backs down and never questions his abilities.

“I was at a banquet the other day,” said the record holder for most career hits. “A guy asked me, ‘What do you think you would hit if you played today?’ I thought for a moment and said, “Well, .199, maybe .200, .201.” He said, ‘Wow, do you really think the pitchers are that good today?’ I said no. But I’m 81 years old.

He’s 81 but looks 80, making him one of the oldest attendees at grad weekend, which made sense since he didn’t join the Phillies until 1979, so that he was 38 years old. But few doubted there would have been 1980 champions to reunite if Rose hadn’t jumped to the veteran stage as a free agent and generated 826 hits in five years, a significant part of his record 4 256. He was so important near the top of the lineup, in Mike Schmidt’s head, in the locker room and in foul territory, where he caught a ball that came out of the pogo of Bob Boone’s receiver’s glove during the ninth inning of the deciding Game 6 of the 1980 series.

Although realistically a fan would have to be at least 50 to clearly remember the Phillies’ first world championship team, and while the massive crowd percentage on Sunday was less than half that age, Rose was the only one presented to receive a standing ovation. There were also chants of “Pete, Pete, Pete”, which were repeated as the ceremony was about to end. There were a few boos, but not many.

Since there likely won’t be another 1980 reunion soon, opportunities for Phillies fans to salute a franchise hero in this way will be rare. They seemed to know, although he is certain that Rose not only expects to be there for the next one but that, if asked, he will step into the No. 14 uniform that day, convinced that he will was about 4-for-5.

“It was awesome,” Rose said of her reception. “Philadelphia fans are great. I loved playing in front of the Phillies fans. It was nice to see all my teammates again. A lot of memories. I haven’t seen these guys for a long time.

The reason is a little less than a secret. Rose has been banned from baseball since 1989 after admitting betting on games he managed for the Cincinnati Reds. Baseball consented to peek the other way for the occasional opportunity to shoot a bow, and the Phillies intended to rivet a plaque with his name and biography to their wall of fame in 2017. But that was scuttled when it leaked that Rose had an admitted relationship with a 16-year-old girl. Rose did not deny the allegations, but said 16 was the age of consent in Ohio at that time. The Phillies, however, held their ground, keeping Rose off their wall, if not always out of one of those powder blue jerseys he rocked on Sunday.

“The Phillies know what’s right,” Rose said. “I love the Phillies organization, going back to Bill Giles and Ruly Carpenter. That’s what brought me here. Everyone loves being on a wall of fame. OK? So I don’t know who made that decision. But, God bless them, they did it for a reason. I’m still here today.

There he was, along with a substantial number of his 1980 teammates and other former Phillies at the end of the annual remember-a-thon weekend. Indeed, they were all together for a group portrait long before the game next door – can you catch up? – a 20 foot high right field billboard for a particular “sportsman”. At a time when it’s acceptable for teams to tank seasons for a better draft position or offload good players at a trade deadline and accept losing, it’s cruelly ridiculous to uphold a lifetime ban of an individual betting on the victory of his team.

The Phillies, however, were ready in 2017 to look beyond that. As for the allegations involving underage women, that was a deciding factor.

“I’ll tell you one more time,” Rose said. “I’m here for the Phillies organization. And who cares what happened 50 years ago? Facing the interrogator, he said, “You shouldn’t talk about it because you weren’t born. If you don’t know anything about it, don’t talk about it.

Yet that is what sports fans do. They discuss the past. That’s why one of the most valuable Phillies of all time was honored on Sunday. That’s why he was interrogated. And that’s why, out of character, Pete Rose left the plot a little messy.

Contact Jack McCaffery at [email protected]

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