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Pete Rose on making Hall of Fame: 'Don't wait till I'm dead'
Updated 10/22/2010 11:35 PM ET
The 4,192 documentary about Cincinnati icon Pete Rose premieres Friday at the Esquire Theatre in Clifton, Ohio and will be there as long as customers keep coming out. The full title is 4,192: The Crowning of the Hit King, and it deals with the making of Rose as a ballplayer and his accomplishments on the field. There is lots of old baseball footage and photos, and the documentary ends with Rose breaking Ty Cobb?s all-time hits record in 1985.

The Cincinnati native spent 35 minutes on the phone Wednesday afternoon with Cincinnati Enquirer reporter John Erardi. Rose talked about the film, his hopes for making the Baseball Hall of Fame someday and what life's been like since he was feted at Great American Ball Park last Sept. 11 on the 25th anniversary of his record-breaking hit.

PHOTO GALLERY: A look at the history of Pete Rose's career

Q. So, what's your favorite part of the film?

A. I don't have a favorite part, really. All the guys who're in it did a great job —Mike Schmidt, Tony Perez, Marty Brennaman, all of 'em. It's not just a baseball story. It's a story about a kid going after something. It's a human interest story, a story about a kid who loved his father. I'd say that's my favorite thing about the movie. The filmmakers captured that. You know me, I'm not a sentimental guy, but I was very close with my father. He pushed me pretty hard, but I don't think I needed much pushing.

Q. What surprised you most about your dad or anything he might've said to you or about you?

A. He on film talking about how if I stayed healthy, I could make the Hall of Fame. Hearing his voice again shook me up. And remember, now, he said that early in my career. He died in 1970, and I'd come up in 1963.

Q. There are people who think you might get into the Hall despite your banishment for gambling, but that it's going to be after you're gone — posthumously. What do you think of that possibility?

A. Well, if I'm going to make it, I'd like it to be while I'm alive. But I also know it's out of my hands. I think I've finally done what (the late baseball commissioner) Bart Giamatti said I needed to do and that is reconfigure my life. At the time, I didn't know what he meant. I know now. It wasn't just watching out who I was hanging around with, and stopping the illegal gambling. It was to look in the mirror, take responsibility for my actions, be a man. It took me a long time. I've got a hard head.

Q. You can't thank anybody when you're dead.

A. I would hope that I'd get a second chance. Don't wait till I'm dead. The Hall of Fame is for family and friends. I'd like to get up there in front of them.

Q. Yes, what would it be like to get up there in front of those living Hall of Famers and make that speech?

A. It would be an honor. I've played against most of them, even going way back to (Stan) Musial, up through (Henry) Aaron and (Willie) Mays. The best past part would be just to thank them for understanding. And I'd apologize for the embarrassment I'd caused them. And I'd talk baseball.

Q. That night six weeks ago at the roast when you broke down in front of your two sons and your former teammates on the Big Red Machine, I didn't see that coming. I had asked you right before that if you wished Bud Selig would have let you address the fans at Great American Ball Park earlier that evening when 4,192 was being celebrated and you said no, that you didn't think you could've handled it. I didn't know what you meant. But later I found out. You didn't want to break down in front of 40,000 people or however many it was.

A. That's probably right. It could've been four or four hundred or 40,000. I knew I was going to speak from the heart. I'd been working up to it. I had already apologized (on the phone) to Johnny (Bench), to Joe (Morgan) to Davey (Concepcion), because I knew they weren't going to be able to be there the night (of the roast). I didn't know I was going to break down. You don't plan on something like that.

Q. Somebody asked me if you were really sincere that night with your apology, and I said, "Well, he's already got Cobb. If he was acting, he's got Brando, too."

A. (Laughing). Yeah, when you're looking at your teammates, and you know you've let them down all those years and you've disrespected them and the game all those years and you're trying to make it right, it's emotional. I was speaking from the heart. You can't plan for how that's going to go. All you can do is get up there and do it.

Q. You feel pretty good about the way things are going now?

A. Yes, I feel really good about it. I didn't do it (apologize) for any other reason than trying to make right. It didn't have anything to do with the Hall of Fame or reinstatement or any of that. There's nothing new with any of that. It's old news. All of that's out of my hands. I was just trying to make things right with my family, the fans and my teammates.

Q. What was it like apologizing to Bench?

A. It was emotional. Johnny has the ability to say things that make you feel good, but also letting you know what he thinks of what you did, all at the same time. He said, "I appreciate your phone call, even though it's late.' He's right. It was late, real late. I'd taken away from him, when he'd been elected to the Hall of Fame and I was under investigation (by Baseball for gambling). Of everybody, he has the right to be the maddest. And I apologized to him the most, because I know that.

Q. You and (Reds owner) Bob Castellini looked like you were having a good time down there on the field when you were being honored for 4,192. What was that all about?

A. I've always liked Bob. He's a Cincinnati guy, loves the Big Red Machine, wants the Reds to win. I'm the same. I wouldn't have been there (on the field) if it wasn't for Bob asking Bud (Selig, the commissioner). I appreciate them letting me on the field. It was fun for me. It didn't seem like 25 years had passed. It was a fast 25. (But) that meant a lot to me. I was very, very happy being there, and Bob was happy to have me there.

Q. He wants to win a World Championship. You won three of them, two here and one in Philly. I've got to tell you, I was in Philly for the divisional series with the Reds two weeks ago, and I've never seen fans that crazy about their baseball team. Have you?

A. Well, I haven't been in their new ballpark. But Mike Schmidt told me he's never seen anything like it anywhere and he said that includes Yankee Stadium. But I think it's all about winning. You can have it in Cincinnati again if the Reds get on a run like the Phillies have been on in the playoffs several years in row; they got to the World Series, won one. When I was there in the '80s, they didn't make the stadium (Veterans) shake like they do now. They've turned it into a happening. Schmidt says it's like the people don't want to leave after a win.

Q. But they did practically burn the city down when you won it all there in '80.

A. Well, ya' gotta remember now they'd had a team since (1883). That'd be like if the Cubs finally won it all again. The thing I remember about it afterward is just people coming up and shaking your hand and saying, "Thanks." It had been awhile.

Q. Did you watch (Game 1 of the NLDS when) Roy Halladay no-hit the Reds?

A. Yes. And I tell ya' when a guys throwing 85% first-pitch strikes, you've got to go up there hacking.

Q. If you were the Reds, would you trade some of that young starting pitching for some outfield pop or a shortstop?

A. I'll tell you what I told Mr. Castellini one time. 'Once you get to the point where you think you've got a lot of pitching, go out and get some more.' That's what wins. You never have too much pitching. You look at these playoffs. All the great pitchers are there: Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Halladay, Oswalt, Lincecum. You've gotta have pitching. The Yankee fans will tell you that. It's why they're struggling.

Q. As a baseball fan, you concerned that Monday Night Football out-drew a baseball playoff game?

A. Not really. There are a lot of playoff games. It wasn't like it was a Game 5 (of a divisional series) or Game 7 (of a championship series). If it (a regular season NFL game) out-draws a World Series game, yeah, then I'd be a little bit concerned.

Q. Selig's been talking about adding another round of a playoff series, you know, letting more teams into the postseason. That's a long, long season, with 162 games in the regular season. Would you favor going back to 154 games like they used to play?

A. I'd trust the commissioner to do the right thing. He knows what he's doing; he cares about the game. He created a lot of interest with the wild card. How about that last day when there were three teams (San Francisco, San Diego and Atlanta) going for two spots? That's great for baseball, great for fans. Creates a lot of interest.

Q. So, what did you think of the Reds this year?

A. They had a great year. But you're just not going to (get to the World Series) if you make four errors in a game and walk guys like that. It was uncharacteristic, Brandon Phillips making two errors, Scott Rolen making a couple of mental errors. That'll kill ya' in a short series…But yeah, I like them. They've got a good infield, and I like that outfield. I like (Jay) Bruce and (Drew) Stubbs — I like their defense and I think Stubbs is the fastest guy in the league — and (Jonny) Gomes plays really hard out there. Good young starting pitching, a lot of guys in the bullpen. I like 'em.

Posted 10/22/2010 9:37 AM ET
Updated 10/22/2010 11:35 PM ET
Former Cincinnati Reds great Pete Rose stands on first base as he acknowledges the crowd during ceremonies celebrating the 25th anniversary of Rose breaking Ty Cobb's hit record.
By Al Behrman, AP
Former Cincinnati Reds great Pete Rose stands on first base as he acknowledges the crowd during ceremonies celebrating the 25th anniversary of Rose breaking Ty Cobb's hit record.