MLB.com Columnist

Alyson Footer

Rose immortalized in Crosley Terrace statue

Hit king's iconic headfirst slide depicted in bronze outside Great American Ball Park

Rose immortalized in Crosley Terrace statue

CINCINNATI -- For all the attention that has been heaped on Pete Rose in the past year -- at his Reds Hall of Fame induction and number retirement ceremonies last season, and the unveiling and dedication of his new bronze statue on Saturday -- the all-time hit king never wavers from his insistence to bring his former teammates into every conversation.

Rose still has plenty of bravado and bluster -- and as he will attest, he's displayed plenty of it over the past five-plus decades -- but rarely is there a moment when he is reflecting on his career that he doesn't somehow relate it to how his Big Red Machine mates contributed.

That was true even when he was talking about his signature headfirst slide that is now immortalized with a bronze statue on Crosley Terrace, outside of Great American Ball Park.

Bench on Pete Rose's statue

"I was known for being aggressive, and part of being aggressive was sliding headfirst," Rose said. He then followed that up with a deflection to his teammates, for doing their part at the plate that enabled him to move so fiercely around the bases.

"I was so lucky," Rose said. "I had so many guys knocking me from first to third or second to home."

Rose was joined on stage Saturday by the very teammates whose Hall of Fame careers meshed well with his own dominant era that spanned more than two decades. Catcher Johnny Bench, second baseman Joe Morgan and first baseman Tony Perez, all immortalized in Cooperstown, all of whom preceded Rose with their own statues on the Terrace, sat around him to honor the Reds' newest honoree.

Pete Rose on his statue

They were joined by club CEO Bob Castellini, announcer and emcee Marty Brennaman and a host of Reds Hall of Famers: Doug Flynn, Dave Concepcion, George Foster, Ken Griffey Sr. and Jack Billingham.

The statue, created by nationally renowned artist Tom Tsuchiya, shows Rose airborne, with his extended forearms on the ground, his hair flipping in the wind, sliding into the base.

It's a sight familiar to any fan who paid even a sliver of attention to the Reds in the 1970s and '80s.

"We still see the slide into third," Bench said. "We still see the slide in the [1970] All-Star Game. How many times did you see him turn a single into a double? We all see it and understand and recognize that's the epitome of Pete. How are you going to have a line-drive statue? This is what Pete is and what we always remember."

Morgan's presence was emotional. Health issues prevented him from attending the ceremonies for Rose in 2016, when the Reds retired his No. 14, and Morgan hasn't been in the public eye much in the past couple of years.

Morgan received the loudest and longest ovation during introductions at the unveiling ceremony, a salute he tearfully acknowledged as he expressed appreciation to the hundreds of fans who packed the Terrace.

Soon, it was Rose's turn to speak. Peering out to the hundreds of fellow Cincinnatians in the crowd, Rose expressed his gratitude to be so beloved in the city where he grew up and became a star.

"You motivated me," Rose said. "I was born in the same city you were, I was raised on the water you were raised on. I understand the tradition of Cincinnati baseball. You motivated me to play hard. You motivated me to get base hits. And I just happened to have a bunch of teammates who felt the same way about the game as I did."

Rose expressed similar sentiments later, during an on-field pregame ceremony, where a smaller version of the statue was revealed to the fans who packed the ballpark to honor the hit king.

"You think of the guys that made the big leagues for Cincinnati -- Billy Doran, Ronnie Oester, Dave Parker, Buddy Bell," Rose began, rattling off former Reds from the Queen City. "What do they all have in common? They bust their [rear] when they play the game of baseball.

"That's the way we were taught to play the game of baseball. I appreciate you people coming to the ballpark during the 20 years I spent here and let me know about that every night. We were trying to entertain you."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.