Friday, January 23, 2004

Fans embrace Rose in 2nd book signing

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Pete Rose's two-day, Cincinnati book-signing tour concluded Thursday afternoon at Media Play in Western Hills, where he autographed about 2,000 copies of My Prison Without Bars in three hours, said store manager Dave McCann.

As Rose was getting up to leave at about 2:20 p.m., a woman asked to take his photo.

"Sure," said Rose, standing straight. "You went to Western Hills High School, didn't ya?"

The woman nodded. It was then that Rose noticed her purple sweat shirt.

"Not Elder, right?" he said, grinning, and cracking up the 50 or so customers and Media Play staff hanging around to applaud the native son and the memory of his play.

From start (applause and shouts for Rose upon his arrival at 11 a.m.) to finish, it was a lovefest inside the store that is a mile and a half from West High, where Rose played ball in the late 1950s.

McCann oversaw two lines of patrons: one on the left side with a total of 1,100 books, guaranteed a signature, and one on the right with 900 overflow books, guaranteed nothing.

Rose signed them all, and even wedged in an occasional personalization.

"Perfect," said Mary Francis Marino, pointing proudly to the "Danny" intended for her brother in California, where Rose now lives.

Patrons standing in line watched video flashbacks - playing on dozens of overhead TV sets - of Rose's debut with the Reds in 1963 (National League Rookie of the Year), 1968 (first of three batting titles), 1970 (winning run in All-Star Game), 1975 (World Series MVP) and 1978 (44-game hitting streak).

Fans found themselves longing for those days, when the Reds had a guy who knew how to play the game and the talent and zest to match it.

"He was the best," said Ken Ruberg, sporting a Rose-14 jacket and a fifth-place finisher last spring in the Pete Rose-look-alike contest at Findlay Market.

One video - in which Rose is interviewed in the offseason between 1978 and 1979 before he went to Philadelphia as a free agent - was particularly poignant.

Nowadays, it's difficult to watch a tape of Rose in the 1980s - even of the night of Hit No. 4,192 in 1985 (the earliest known year that Rose was betting on baseball, says investigator John Dowd) - without wondering if Rose was betting on baseball then.

That's one thing Rose still hasn't come clean on. He has made conflicting statements.

"That's what my friend Bill said when I dropped off a book to him with Pete's signature in it," Ruberg said. "Bill was close to Pete. Bill had Pete over for Christmas parties at the Cloverleaf Inn on North Bend Road. Bill was glad to get the book, but I could tell all is not forgiven.

"And won't be, until Pete comes clean on exactly when he started betting on baseball, and apologizes for it."

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