Now batting, Sunday in Clearwater, Pete Rose

Pete Rose and host J.T. Stewart [Photo from YouTube]
Pete Rose and host J.T. Stewart [Photo from YouTube]
Published Oct. 5, 2018|Updated Oct. 6, 2018

CLEARWATER — Pete Rose has stories.

From all along the path to an unlikely-to-be-broken record 4,256 hits to the mistakes that left him on the outs from the game he loves.

And a whole bunch in between, for example, chuckling over the memory of winning the 1961 Florida State League championship with the Tampa Tarpons (managed by Johnny Vander Meer) and getting the disappointing reward of a Zippo lighter.

"And not one of us smoked," Rose said. "We're looking for a $500 cash grant, or $250. And we all got a Zippo lighter. I wish I still had that damn thing, it's probably worth a lot of money. But that was kind of funny."

Rose, 77, is sharing some of those stories across Florida this weekend, including Clearwater's Capitol Theatre Sunday night, hosting what's billed as a "Broadway style theatrical event."

While there's a little pomp and circumstance (anthem, first pitch) and some cool historical videos, the best part of the night — "a baseball night" — for the fans, and for Rose, will be the tales he tells and questions he answers.

"I just enjoy talking about baseball,'' Rose said in an interview this week.

Rose spends most of his time these days in Las Vegas, watching a lot of games — "as much as anybody," though not particularly enjoying the homer-and-strikeout heavy style of play, and suspecting a change in the ball — while working 20 days a months, 4 ½ hours a day, in the casino malls signing autographs, shaking hands.

"Talking to people about the game of baseball, helping kids out, calling grandmas and grandpas," he said. "It's all about public relations. I've always been a fan-type guy, even when I had a restaurant in Boca. … I just enjoy people. I just enjoy being around people."

He does note, that he prefers the people talking about the good things, and the more interesting the better.

"Most people I'm around, since they're buying an autograph, they're being nice to me. They're not talking in a negative way, they're being positive," he said. "Just like the people that come to our event in in Clearwater. They'll be coming expecting to have a good time, and that's what we expect them to have. …

"If you like baseball and you like to laugh, you'll like our show. I have stories about Joe DiMaggio. I've got stories about Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt, Johnny Bench, (Dave) Concepcion. I have stories about Babe Ruth. I have so many stories, and I know how to deliver them."

But Rose, true to switch-hitting, said he doesn't ignore the bad either.

"We're just there to make people laugh and have fun, but if they have serious questions we can answer them, too," he said. "There's not too many questions I haven't been asked over my career in the world of baseball. If you want to ask a controversial question, I'm not going to bark at you. I have nothing to hide. I made mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes."

Most prominent, of course, was betting on games as a player and manager, resulting in an August 1989 lifetime ban from which he has tried several times, most recently in December 2015, to be reinstated from, and thus to be eligible for the Hall of Fame.

"I've been suspended 28 years now," he said. "For everybody in his or her sport, the best thing that can happen to you is to go to the Hall of Fame. And I'm never going to complain to you or anybody else about the Hall of Fame, because I'm the one that made the mistakes, I'm the reason that I'm not there. If I'm given that second chance, I won't need a third.

"However, I'm from Cincinnati. The Reds play on Pete Rose Way, I made their Hall of Fame, I got my number retired there and I got a statue a couple years ago. Don't forget, I was born three miles from the ballpark in Cincinnati. So that means a lot to me.

"I know what I did on the field; I didn't do anything to alter any baseball statistics or anything. I was wrong. Betting on my team, I was wrong. No question about it. Some things you can't change in life. You just hope someone someday will think you deserve a second chance. I believe all my friends and family and most of my fans understand that I understand I screwed up, and I'm remorseful about that. But you can only say you're sorry so many times, and everybody is not going to hear you. You live with that, and that's the way it is."

Rose has lived through a lot.

Coming back to the Tampa Bay area stirs lots of memories, given the 25-plus year he spent spring training with the Reds and Phillies, ticking off a long list of favorite spots, day and night.

"Tampa was always fun for me," he said.

He'll have plenty of stories. Just listen.

Contact Marc Topkin at Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

If you go
4,192: An evening with Pete Rose live
7 p.m. Sunday, Capitol Theatre, Clearwater
Tickets: $150, $140, with VIP meet-and-greet and autographed baseball; $39.50, $29.50, $20.