Reds Hall of Fame exhibit excites Rose

Reds Hall of Fame exhibit excites Rose

CINCINNATI -- Pete Rose says he hasn't forgotten much about his playing career, but his first visit to the newly opened exhibit honoring his playing career at the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum did revive some memories for baseball's all-time hits leader.

Rose attended a press conference Tuesday in the Reds Hall of Fame Theatre prior to an exclusive grand opening event for the exhibit, which opens to the public Saturday.

Fans paid as much as $250 to attend a special reception with Rose prior to a sneak peek at the exhibit.

"All of these artifacts remind me of a story," said Rose. "I don't forget too much when it comes to the game of baseball. I remember the players that played for me, the players I played with and the players I played against. I was a student of the game."

Many of Rose's former teammates, including Tommy Helms, Leo Cardenas, Dave Parker and Jim O'Toole were on hand.

"Whoever gave him the nickname 'Charlie Hustle' was right," said Cardenas, who was the Reds starting shortstop during Rose's rookie year. "He could play every position. He was always focused on the game. He has a lot of fans in Cincinnati. He's a homeboy here."

Prior to Tuesday's press conference, the centerpiece of the Rose exhibit, the bat used by Rose on Sept. 11, 1985, for career hit No. 4,192 to eclipse Ty Cobb's all-time mark, was unveiled. Also on display will be the baseball from that historic hit and the piece of AstroTurf upon which the milestone hit landed at Riverfront Stadium.

The 2,000-square foot exhibit will also feature the uniform Rose wore when he collected career hit No. 3,000, the batting glove he wore that night, Rose's 1975 and 1976 World Series championship rings and a display housing 20 bats (most of them game-used) that trace Rose's entire 1963-86 playing career. Most of Rose's career accomplishments, including his 44-game hitting streak in 1978, are highlighted.

The exhibit encompasses much of the museum's space, including the front lobby, where visitors are greeted by a quote from Sparky Anderson, Rose's Hall of Fame manager from the Big Red Machine years.

"He is Cincinnati," Anderson said of Rose. "He's the Reds."

For Rose, breaking Cobb's record ranks slightly ahead of the back-to-back Reds World Series titles on his list of favorite memories.

"I got a nine-minute standing ovation," said Rose of his record-setting hit. "It took me seven minutes before I broke down [emotionally]. I looked up in the stands and thought about all of the people responsible for me being there."

The exhibit will showcase items from Rose's 24-year playing career including seasons played in both Crosley Field and Riverfront Stadium. Rose's managerial career and subsequent banishment from baseball will not be addressed in the exhibit.

"We chose not to focus on that," said Greg Rhodes, executive director of the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum. "Aside from [it] being very controversial, we thought the exhibit should showcase his playing career. Many people who never got a chance to see Rose play know him only from what's occurred the past 20 years. This is a chance to show them why he meant so much to Reds fans and this city. It was a no-brainer."

The exhibit is expected to remain open until spring 2008. Despite Rose's banishment from baseball, Rhodes said the Commissioner's Office has approved Rose's participation in various events associated with the exhibit.

"I'd like to thank baseball for giving the Reds permission to do this," said Rose. "Everything should be for the fans. I'm the one who [messed] up, not them. I'm going to continue to sell the game of baseball. So long as I've got more hits than anyone, I'm going to be synonymous with the game of baseball."

Rose, who was born and raised in Cincinnati, is proud to be honored in his hometown at the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum. While being inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown remains his ultimate goal, Rose said Tuesday that possibility is no longer foremost in his mind.

"If it ever happened, I'd be the happiest guy in the world," he said. "I never worry about things that are out of my control. I can't control that. I had control of four or five at-bats when I played baseball. I don't go to bed at night worrying about going to the Hall of Fame, but we'd have the biggest reception Cooperstown's ever seen."

Jeff Wallner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.