CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati native Pete Rose stands virtually alone as the city's sports icon. Major League Baseball's all-time hits leader, Rose is unlikely to gain entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown any time soon because of his lifetime ban for betting on the game.
But later this year, Rose's achievements in baseball finally will be acknowledged by his hometown and longtime team. On Tuesday, the organization announced that Rose will be inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame the weekend of June 24-26. Reds CEO Bob Castellini also revealed that Rose's uniform No. 14 will be formally retired and that a statue will be built in his honor in the near future.
"This is an honor where you can't believe how you feel," Rose said. "Growing up here, I've always been a Reds fan, always had respect for all the Reds players that I've rooted for when I was a kid. Most all the guys that are in the Hall of Fame that are living today, either played with me or against me, and a lot of them played for me."
Rose, who will turn 75 on April 14, was selected as the sole inductee for the class of 2016 by the Reds Hall of Fame Board of Directors. To make that happen, the board had to change its bylaws, which previously had mirrored the museum in Cooperstown, which declares ineligible for induction any player banned by Major League Baseball.
"He is the most prolific hitter ever," Reds Hall Fame executive director Rick Walls said. "His records, accomplishments stand for themselves. With the support of Bob Castellini and the Reds, the board of directors unanimously voted on this decision."
Known as baseball's "Hit King," with 4,256 career hits from 1963-86 for the Reds, Phillies and Expos, Rose was placed on the permanently ineligible list for violating Major League Baseball's rule against betting on baseball on Aug. 23, 1989. Subsequently, the Board of Directors of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum declared that all players on that list would also be ineligible for election.
On Dec. 14, 2015, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred denied Rose's bid to be reinstated, saying that he had not been presented with any evidence that Rose had reconfigured his life or accepted the wrongdoing of his gambling actions.
However, Manfred did note that the Reds could celebrate Rose's career feats provided that the club seeks his approval in advance.
"This is historic," Castellini said. "This is one of the greatest days in the history of this franchise. Not a day has gone by since taking ownership of this franchise [in 2006] have we lost sight of Pete Rose. His hustle, his style of play and passion for the game are simply unforgettable, not only to our fans in the stands, but to any player privileged to wear the same uniform as the Big Red Machine.
"Commissioner Manfred and Major League Baseball understand the importance of Pete Rose to our city, to our team, and we thank the Commissioner and MLB for their support of the Reds' induction of Pete Rose into our Hall of Fame."
Nineteen of Rose's 24 seasons were played in Cincinnati, where he achieved numerous feats. He was the 1963 National League Rookie of the Year, the 1973 NL Most Valuable Player and a 13-time All-Star for the Reds. He batted .303/.375/.409 over his two stints for the team.
Rose was a celebrated member of the Big Red Machine and the World Series-winning clubs of 1975-76. In 1978, he notched the third-longest hitting streak in Major League history at 44 games.
Following his time in Philadelphia and Montreal, Rose was traded back to the Reds in 1984 and served as player-manager. On Sept. 11, 1985, his single off the Padres' Eric Show gave Rose career hit No. 4,192, breaking Ty Cobb's all-time career hits record.
Rose managed until 1989, when allegations of gambling on baseball surfaced and forced his exile from the game. While banned, he has attended several Reds games in recent years as a ticketholder. MLB has allowed Rose to participate in selected on-field acknowledgments for the team in recent years. That included the 2015 All-Star Game at Great American Ball Park, when Rose was named one of the club's "Franchise Four" living legends.
Throughout a Tuesday news conference at Great American Ball Park, Rose appeared happy and relaxed, cracking jokes or one-liners for laughs. He also recognized the teammates and club that helped him be a great player.
"I was thinking the other day about what a garden spot I had in the lineup for the Big Red Machine," Rose said. "I led off and the next three guys up all have statues [now] outside the ballpark. I don't think anybody else has been in that situation. No wonder I scored all those runs."
Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez are the other three Big Red Machine members with statues. A date was not set for Rose's.
"Regardless of what anybody thinks, my name is kind of synonymous with the Reds, Rose said. "It's kind of synonymous with baseball."