A cell phone rang in the middle of Pete Rose’s speech at the Duke Mansion in Myers Park on Wednesday morning. The 73-year-old baseball legend stopped what he was saying and looked in the direction of the culprit.
“Answer, it might be Bud Selig,” Rose said smiling, referring to the MLB commissioner. “Don’t worry; it’ll be a collect call.”
The former Cincinnati Reds star spoke to a group of about 130 people at the inaugural Myers Park Breakfast Club , a group that focuses on networking individuals and businesses throughout the Charlotte community. His speech centered on funny anecdotes from his baseball career, which ended with a lifetime suspension for gambling on games in which he was a manager. He also discussed the possibility of getting reinstated to MLB, an issue on which Selig, who will retire in 2015, has refused to budge on so far.
“I’m not in baseball because of me,” Rose said. “If Selig gives me another chance, I’ll be the happiest guy in the world.”
Rose, who had a .303 batting average in 24 years of professional baseball, has ties to the Charlotte area. His son, Pete Rose Jr., is a minor-league manager for the Kannapolis Intimidators, who are currently on All-Star break. When Pete Sr. played minor league baseball, his roommate was from Gastonia and they would frequently play in the area.
“When the opportunity (to speak in Charlotte) came up, we were excited about it because we knew Pete’s son was the manager just up the road in Kannapolis,” said Mike Maguire, Rose’s agent. “There was a chance that we were going to be able to catch a ballgame and see his son.”
Rose made comments about current events in sports. He called former Reds owner Marge Schott, who was ousted from the MLB in 1996 after making favorable comments about German dictator Adolf Hitler, the female version of Donald Sterling, who lost his professional basketball team after a recording was released of him making racist remarks. He remembered the life of Don Zimmer, who died two weeks ago after a baseball career that spanned 65 years.
“The only person who knew more than me about the game of baseball than me was Don,” Rose said.
He also addressed baseball’s steroids era, when players were believed to have used performance-enhancing drugs, but said he would steer clear of bold statements until his record of 4,256 hits is broken.
“That’s a question for Hank Aaron and Roger Maris,” Rose said, referring to the home- run records that were broken by Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire. “My record hasn’t been affected by performance-enhancing drugs. When it is, I’ll have something to say.”
Rose spent that last 30 minutes of the event posing for pictures and signing autographs on everything from baseballs to print-offs of old baseball articles to an Andy Warhol print of himself.
Cincinnati native Tony Egitto, a director at a staffing agency in uptown Charlotte, said he was happy to see Rose in person.
“It was amazing,” Egitto said. “Growing up in Cincinnati, he is a living legend. To be able to come here and meet him and hear him speak was an added bonus. He’s Cincinnati’s favorite son. If you’re asking me to say something bad about Pete Rose, I simply can’t do it.”
Shoff: 704-358-5928; Twitter: @curryshoff
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