Pete Rose returned to Philadelphia on Sunday as part of a celebration of the 1980 Phillies World Series team. He deflected a question about whether his presence sends a negative message to women, given allegations that surfaced in 2017 that he had a sexual relationship with an underage female in the 1970s.
“No, I’m not here to talk about that,” Rose said when asked by a female reporter for The Inquirer. “Sorry about that. It was 55 years ago, babe.”
Rose, 81, was banned by Major League Baseball in 1989 for betting on baseball during his playing and managing career. In 2017, testimony came out in federal court alleging that he had a relationship with a girl in Cincinnati — referred to as Jane Doe. She was below the age of consent at the time the relationship started. In a sworn statement submitted by the woman in court filings, which were obtained by ESPN, she said her relationship with Rose started in 1973 and continued for a couple of years.
“Sometime after that, Pete Rose and I began meeting at a house in Cincinnati,” the woman’s statement said. “It was at that house where, before my 16th birthday, Pete Rose began a sexual relationship with me. This sexual relationship lasted for several years. Pete Rose also met me in locations outside of Ohio where we had sex.”
Rose said in court filings that he had sex with her but believed she was 16 at the time. He added that their relationship “began sometime in 1975.” Rose was 34 years old in 1975 and married with two children. Because the statute of limitations has passed, Rose could not be charged with statutory rape.
The testimony was part of a defamation lawsuit Rose brought against lawyer John Dowd in 2017. Dowd led MLB’s 1989 investigation that led to Rose being banned from baseball, but the defamation lawsuit centered on an interview Dowd gave in July of 2015 on WCHE-AM (1520) in West Chester.
Rose was made available after the on-field ceremony on Sunday. When asked by the Associated Press about his comments to The Inquirer, he said: “I’m going to tell you one more time. I’m here for the Philly fans. I’m here for my teammates. I’m here for the Phillies organization. And who cares what happened 50 years ago? You weren’t even born. So you shouldn’t be talking about it because you weren’t born. If you don’t know a damn thing about it, don’t talk about it.”
A representative of Rose’s approached The Inquirer after the ceremony, insisting that Rose had something additional to say. The representative began apologizing on behalf of Rose, adding that he wasn’t trying to offend anyone. Rose claimed The Inquirer was trying to “attack” him before joking, “Will you forgive me if I sign 1,000 baseballs for you?” At the end of the conversation, Rose said, “sorry.”
“The Association for Women in Sports Media applauds Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Alex Coffey and other media members for asking about the Phillies’ decision to honor Pete Rose despite previous claims he had sexual relationships with underage girls,” AWSM said in a statement. “There is no statute of limitations for accountability. Pete Rose is right about one thing he said today — it’s been 55 years since the reported inappropriate relationships, and times have changed. It’s no longer acceptable to call a reporter ‘babe.’”
Former Phillies catcher Bob Boone, who was a teammate of Rose’s on the 1980 World Series-winning team, was the only other member of that team made available after the ceremony. When asked whether the testimony that came out about Rose in 2017 was a consideration in his teammates’ insistence on inviting him back, Boone said, “I have no idea.”
“My opinion was, I think he should be in the Hall of Fame,” Boone said. “This is the best hitter we’ve ever had. And he did some things wrong. But I always thought he should be in the Hall of Fame. And if I’m taking my kids there to see him, I want to see Pete Rose and talk about how great he was. If you want to put something on the board that says he did these things wrong, but I always felt he has to be in there. He’s not in there, but I’m telling you, he’s the greatest hitter ever to play.”
Rose, baseball’s all-time hits leader with 4,256, was introduced before the game on Sunday to a mix of cheers, boos, and a few “Pete” chants.
The Phillies were planning to induct Rose into their Wall of Fame in 2017 but abruptly canceled their plans to do so after Jane Doe’s testimony came out. The Phillies said they decided to invite Rose to Citizens Bank Park this year after consulting Rose’s 1980 teammates, who wanted him included in the ceremony. They received approval from the commissioner’s office to include Rose.
When asked what had changed since they decided not to induct Rose into the Wall of Fame, a Phillies spokesperson said the 1980 celebration was more about a team than an individual.
“In stark contrast to the Wall of Fame award, which honors an individual player, this weekend is a team celebration and reunion,” the spokesperson said. “Pete was a leader of the team and an essential member of it. We agree with his teammates about the critical role Pete played in 1980. In fact, had Pete not been invited, there would be a comparable outcry from many fans who believe Pete belongs in baseball’s Hall of Fame.”
When asked what the Phillies would say to people who are uncomfortable with his presence at the ballpark, given his relationship with an allegedly underage girl in 1973, the spokesperson said:
“We are not condoning, forgiving, or forgetting Pete’s behavior. We understand some people will criticize our decision to include Pete. We understand the basis of that criticism because it is precisely that basis that caused us to immediately rescind recognizing Pete on the Phillies Wall of Fame when the allegations were disclosed publicly only six days before Pete’s scheduled induction. The Wall of Fame is a singularly personal honor, and for the Phillies, his past off-field behavior undermines his baseball achievements which would otherwise give rise to that award.”
The Phillies spokesperson said there are no plans, for now, to add Rose into their Wall of Fame, but said that does not mean they will “never” do so. The spokesperson added that they would consider bringing Rose back to Citizens Bank Park again, if there was another celebration of a team Rose was part of, and if MLB gave its approval. Rose also played for the Phillies’ 1983 National League champions.
In a podcast with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark that aired on Thursday, Rose was asked about the circumstances of being invited back to Citizens Bank Park.
“Three or four years ago [five years], I was supposed to go into the Phillies Wall of Fame, and the Phillies canceled that, and I’m happy that whoever gave the OK gave the OK,” Rose said. “I’m not going to hurt anybody. I made some mistakes in my life, as most people do. I’ve always loved the Philadelphia fans.”