Pete Rose manages team, 1st time in 25 years
By PAT EATON-ROBB
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) -- Pete Rose stood behind the batting cage Monday, joking as former major leaguer Joe Mather hit ball after ball to center field during batting practice for the Bridgeport Bluefish.
"I asked him, `What are you working on, a sacrifice fly?'" Rose said.
Charlie Hustle's jersey was too big and he was wearing slacks as he exchanged lineup cards with opposing manager Butch Hobson at home plate. But Rose was back in his element, managing a baseball team, if just for one day.
The 73-year-old whose 4,256 hits are the most in major league history served as guest skipper for the Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League during their 2-0 win over the Lancaster (Pennsylvania) Barnstormers. He also coached first base for the team for the first five innings.
The game at the 5,300-seat stadium was his first managing job since 1989, when as the skipper of the Cincinnati Reds he agreed to a lifetime ban from Major League Baseball for betting on baseball. He later admitted that he bet on Reds games while running the team.
Rose could take this one-game job because the Bluefish are not affiliated with any major league team. He said the appearance wasn't about bringing attention to the ban or getting reinstated.
He said he was trying to show he could be a good ambassador for the game.
"If I'm ever reinstated, I won't need a third chance," he said. "Believe me."
The Bluefish players asked for autographs took pictures and listened to Rose's stories of his glory days. Many, like Rose, also are hoping for one more shot at the big time.
"He's here, so I'm definitely going to ask him about stuff," said 40-year-old Luis Lopez, who has spent 20 years playing baseball, but just two at the major league level. "I'm going to pick his brain about everything, especially hitting, because eventually I want to coach."
Rose said he would never consider managing an independent league team full-time. It just doesn't pay enough. He makes a lot more money these days making personal appearances around the country and signing autographs for cash on the Las Vegas strip.
About 50 fans paid $250 each to get into a "meet and greet" with Rose before this game and others paid $150 to have lunch with him. He did sign some free autographs as he took the field.
About 4,500 fans paid to see the game. George Libretti, 46 of Beacon Falls, brought his 10-year-old nephew, Robert Rosko, so the boy could one day say that he saw the greatest hitter who ever lived. Libretti said he supported Rose's ban 25 years ago, but believes the time has come to put him in the Hall of Fame.
"He's done his time," he said. "It's time."
Rose said he's learned to live with his ban. He was asked during his pregame news conference if he had any advice for Los Angeles Clipper's owner Donald Sterling on how to deal with his.
"All I can say about Donald Sterling is, my fiancee is a lot better looking than his girlfriend," Rose joked before getting serious for just a moment.
"A lifetime ban," he said, "is a long time."
CINCINNATI, OH - FEBRUARY 6: Former Major League Baseball player Pete Rose attends the men's basketball game between the Connecticut Huskies and Cincinnati Bearcats at Fifth Third Arena on February 6, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati won 63-58. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 01: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Baseball legend Pete Rose attends his autograph session on August 1, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Rose answers the Asahi Shimbun reporter, says he 'respects' Ichiro Suzuki but does not 'acknowledges' Ichiro Suzuki's 4,000 career hits, insists 1,278 of them were hit in Japan. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Pete Rose appears on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 27: Baseball legend Pete Rose attends the 2012 Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 27, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joey Foley/Getty Images)
CENTURY CITY, CA - AUGUST 03: Former baseball player Pete Rose arrives at the 11th Annual Harold Pump Foundation Gala - Arrivals at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on August 3, 2011 in Century City, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/WireImage)
CINCINNATI - SEPTEMBER 11: Pete Rose hugs Tommy Helms during the ceremony celebrating the 25th anniversary of his breaking the career hit record of 4,192 on September 11, 2010 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. Helms was the first base coach on the record breaking night of September 11, 1985. Rose was honored before the start of the game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI - SEPTEMBER 11: A fan holds up a sign during the ceremony celebrating the 25th anniversary of Pete Rose breaking the career hit record of 4,192 on September 11, 2010 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. Rose was honored before the start of the game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
MALIBU, CA - JULY 10: Verne Troyer and Pete Rose at the Steve Garvey Celebrity Softball Game for ALS Research at Pepperdine University's Eddy D. Field Stadium on July 10, 2010 in Malibu, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic)
INDIANAPOLIS - FEBRUARY 10: Baseball legend Pete Rose attends the Cleveland Cavaliers vs Indiana Pacers game at Conseco Fieldhouse on February 10, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joey Foley/FilmMagic)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 3333 -- Pictured: (l-r) Baseball great Pete Rose during an interview with host Jay Leno on March 26, 2007 (Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)