Pete Rose head first slide was captured in bronz by Tom Tsuchiya and sits about 100 yards from the spot Rose’s record setting 4,192nd hit landed in 1985.
The Reds were given permission to immortalize Rose by inducting him into the team Hall of Fame, retiring his number 14 and now the statue.
“I’m on the same block with these guys,” Rose said pointing to Bench and Perez. (Morgan was in attendance but couldn’t make it to the stage, struggling with illness). They were the best at what they did. I’m in the same garden with them. It’s goose bumpy.”
“I though getting into the Reds’ Hall of Fame was big. I thought retiring my number was big. This has to be the ultimate for any player, in any sport,” Rose said.
Johnny Bench, who is in the National Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, agreed.
“Joe asked me when I was the first statue, ‘How can you say this is greatest thing that ever happened to you?’ We’re immortalized. We are out there for the fans everyday,” Bench said. We’re at the baseball Hall of Fame and the Reds’ Hall of Fame, but everybody that comes to this town and walks by or everyone that comes to a game, thinks about us.”
Since retirement the four remain fans of the team. It is easier for Rose because he was born and raised five miles from the site of the statue.
“We remain Reds’ fans. We’re not trying to live in the past,” Rose said. “We appreciate that fans still think about us. We’re not trying to sell the Big Red Machine or what we did in the past. That’s all history. Our hearts are always here. I said after the 1975 World Series, and I wasn’t trying to step on anybody’s toes, but I have to think it meant more to me because I was born here.I know it meant a heck of a lot to them but I was born here. Still, Tony works for the Miami Marlins and Johnny works all over the country but everywhere they go they are Tony Perez of the Cincinnati Reds or Johnny Bench of the Cincinnati Reds. We all played for other teams except for Johnny but we are always thought of as Cincinnati Reds.”
Rose is ineligible for the Hall of Fame but he feels duly honored
“These guys are true Hall of Famers,” Rose said.. “The Cooperstown Hall of Fame is the ultimate goal of every player but being in the Reds’ Hall of Fame is enough for me. Then they top it off by retiring my number. Now they top it with a statue outside the ballpark. And the ballpark is on Pete Rose Way. There’s a corner Pete Rose and Johnny Bench. That’s a hell of a street.”
The statue in itself took some engineering. It shows Rose in a head first slide for which he was famous.
“I think you have to agree, I was known for being aggressive. Sliding head first is part of being aggressive,” Rose said. “I had so many guys knocking me from first to third.or second to home. How many times did I hit singles and stretch it into a double? I started sliding head first when I was nine years old. I felt it was the fastest way to get to a bag. How many times have you seen a guy slide feet first and the ball squirts away from the fielder? When you slide head first, you pick up the ball with your peripheral vision. You pick the ball up and you can get up and go to the next base.”