He seems almost out of place. Pete Rose still sounds like the brash guy who became the all-time hits leader back in the mid-80s. Far less politically correct that most athletes–or even former athletes.
Does what he wants. Says what he wants. For a guy who spent time in the pokey and been in plenty of other trouble, he's not shy. Thanks to a legion of fans who still see him as the hit king, he probably does a lot better than most of us when the checks are cashed.
I really do believe his story about signing the "Sorry I bet" baseballs for some guys he knew in the memorabilia business. "Hey Pete…sign these balls and we'll stick 'em away for 10 or 20 years. They'll be worth a fortune!" It sounds like the kind of thing Rose would do. I have no idea how 30 of them wound up in Barry Halper's family. But out they came. And then, as always, Rose took a pounding from the media and some parts of the public.
The stories weren't always accurate. FoxSports.com and several other news outlets who should know better wrote that Robert Edward Auctions was "sellling" the balls for $1,000 each. Not true. But in today's world of instant news, once a major outlet reports it that way, so do several others who take it at face value without actually checking.
The critics said Rose was flaunting his banishment for a quick buck. And now that he's come out and said he'll sign that inscription for anyone willing to fork over $300, he can't defend himself from that charge. Pete has always been a hustler when it comes to his memorabilia. To him, it's not much about the memories. It's more about the money. There's no law against it I guess.
Yet I can't help but wonder "what if" when it comes to this guy. He had his detractors, some of them in the Reds' clubhouse, but there was nobody like Pete Rose twenty years ago. We sometimes forget how popular he really was. Even with a few rough edges, he was still a giant reason to love baseball. As much as has been revealed about his love of money, Rose probably would have played for nothing. If he hadn't gotten mixed up with some bookies and paid his taxes, he could have been possibly the most popular player of all-time. If he'd retired after a few years managing the Reds, he could have been a guy who'd make millions just being himself. Card shows, public appearances, endorsements, maybe the occasional broadcasting spot. Probably giving the current players a needle once in awhile. Just a baseball guy with a strong opinion who treated his fans well and came to Cooperstown every summer as one of the most popular Hall of Famers ever.
Instead, he sits in Las Vegas signing baseballs in the manner of a naughty schoolkid writing "I will not" 50 times on the blackboard and doesn't really seem to mind a bit as long as he's paid well. Sad.