#14 jersey also retired –
Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –
Nostalgia was the word of the past weekend for the Cincinnati Reds as the team remembered a past champion and honored one of its all-time legends. Before three sell-out crowds who braved the heat at Great American Ball Park from Friday through Sunday, what was billed as “Pete Rose Weekend” saw adulation poured upon Rose and some of his former teammates in a reunion 40 years after the 1976 World Series win.
In pregame ceremonies on Friday, June 24, some 20 members of the 1976 World Champion Reds were introduced to the crowd, bringing back many memories of what many think is the greatest team in the history of baseball. Seven members of “The Great Eight”-Concepcion, Geronimo, Foster, Perez, Bench, Griffey, and Rose lined up once more along the first base line, missing only teammate Joe Morgan, who was too ill to make the trip to Cincinnati.
Perhaps the greatest catcher in the history of the game in Bench took the microphone representing his teammates and the Most Valuable Player of the 1976 Series spoke of a team that he was fortunate to be a part of and talked of how Rose led by example with his hard-nosed play. The current version of the Reds donned 1976 replica uniforms for that night’s game with the San Diego Padres, stroking the reminiscing in the fans even further.
it’s pretty certain that Rose, baseball’s all-time hits leader with 4,256, will never be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown because of reasons that have been debated over and over but on Saturday afternoon, the “Hit King” may have gotten the next best thing. With many members of the Reds Hall of Fame surrounding him, Rose was formally inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame.
“This is as good as it’s going to get with me,” Rose told reporters. “This will be the ultimate thing to happen to me so far in my baseball career.”
In the induction ceremony, videos and greetings from former teammates, including Morgan and the now deceased Sparky Anderson, were shown on the JumboTron before an obviously emotional Rose stepped to the microphone and addressed the sellout crowd. Though he was allotted five minutes for his speech, he went well over that, remarking that he had “waited 30 years for the moment” and wasn’t quite ready for it to end.
The finale to the weekend came before the Sunday afternoon game when another honor was bestowed upon Rose, as he became the 11th Reds player to have his number retired as #14 will now hang in GABP with the other retired numbers of Reds greats.
“The record books are filled with Pete’s accomplishments but what is immeasurable is how we feel about Pete,” Reds owner Bob Castellini told the crowd as he introduced the Hit King. “It is one of the most exclusive honors a team can bestow and it is an honor truly befitting of Mr. Peter Edward Rose,” added long-time Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman.
Again, Rose spoke to the fans and thanked them for all of their support and talked of his day growing up on Cincinnati’s West Side and getting his start in Knothole baseball.
“You motivated me to play the way I did,” Rose told the fans. “I was diving for you. I was getting those hits for you.” No matter what has happened off the field, Cincinnati loves Pete Rose, but perhaps Rose summed up best how many feel about baseball in the Queen City.
“What I’ve been saying for many many many years, and I’ll continue to say Cincinnati is the baseball capital of the world.”