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Cincinnati Shows Rose Overwhelming Support on Opening Day

Times Staff Writer

The city was outfitted in red for the traditional parade and pageantry of opening day.

On a mild and gray Monday, the Cincinnati Reds participated in their 105th opener in the National League, their 103rd at home.

It was the 27th as a major league player and manager for Pete Rose, 47, who came out of Western Hills High here to fashion a career of such magnitude--a career spent almost entirely in a Red uniform--that both a street and pier now carry his name.

Rose played in his first Cincinnati opener at Crosley Field in 1963. Monday morning he stood by the batting cage at Riverfront Stadium and remembered how his rookie jitters soon yielded to a feeling of happiness.

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“I always thought the stage was the place to be,” he said. “You wait all winter for opening day. You bust your butt all summer to get in the playoffs. You play like hell in the playoffs to get in the World Series.

“Those are the challenges you want, and I’d rather do it here in Cincinnati than anywhere else.”

Opening day.

Similar to so many others, but also so different for Peter Edward Rose.

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This time the standing ovation during the pregame ceremony seemed to convey something other than appreciation for a remarkable career. This time the message was one of support, as expressed by the banners hanging from the upper deck.

“We’re Betting on You Pete,” read one, eventually removed by ushers.

A continuing investigation into Rose’s gambling activities and the uncertainty it has created about Rose’s future as the Reds’ manager separated this opener from any of his previous 26, any of the Reds’ previous 104.

“Couldn’t ask for a better day,” Rose said after the Reds’ 6-4 victory over the Dodgers, but you knew he could have.

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A judgment day would be better. An end to the allegations. A day that would settle the speculation that he may be suspended for a year or barred for life. A day that would put a stop to the questions that the always glib Rose answers with, “No comment,” on advice from counsel.

The crowd of 55,385 here Monday included three of his attorneys, sitting apart from one another. “To make it harder for you guys to find them,” Rose said to reporters before the game.

Is he worried?

“I can’t worry about things I have no control over,” he said of the investigation. “I know I’m going to the Hall of Fame. I can’t worry about how many votes I’m going to get.”

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Is he confident he will be cleared?

“Very confident.”

Did he ever bet on a baseball game?

“The time will come when I can answer that, but for now, no comment,” he said with a measure of sharpness.

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Annoyed?

“Not as long as we’re talking baseball,” he said. “But as you can see, I’m starting to get upset.

“I may go sit in a corner of the dugout, watch batting practice and not talk.

“It’s freedom of speech, or in my case, freedom of no speech.”

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Which isn’t Rose.

“There’s never been a question you guys have asked that I don’t have an answer for,” he agreed, prompting a semi-wise guy to ask for an explanation of Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Rose smiled and said: “Einstein is one guy I missed. Him and George Herman Ruth.”

But there is a new theory concerning Rose.

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It is being speculated now that the length of an inquiry said to have begun in September and the fact that Rose was allowed to open the season as the Reds’ manager indicate that all anyone has on him is guilt by association.

The investigation is expected to continue for two or three weeks, but Rose knows he can feed off the support of his home fans, who stood up after his pregame introduction and overrode a smattering of initial boos.

After the game, at a news conference that began with the team’s publicity director saying that only baseball questions would be accepted, Rose said Cincinnati fans have always treated him as a king, that it is never old hat, that he again had goose bumps standing near home plate.

“They appreciate effort and I’ve always given them that,” he said. “I wouldn’t have expected them to react badly. I’ve never done anything but try to give them my best and give them a winner. I know what I stand for and so do they.

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“I stand for baseball, Cincinnati Reds baseball. I always have and always will.”

It began when Rose’s father, the original Charlie Hustle, would take him out of school to attend Red openers. All it required to be excused from class--then as now--was a ticket.

“There’s no other opening day like Cincinnati’s,” Rose said. “Can’t be because it’s been going on so long.

“There’ll be a lot of tears shed by fathers who are here with their sons and remember coming with their own dads, like I do.”

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Now, for Rose, there is the threat that the association may be severed. He has told his players to keep their minds on their job, that he will deal with the investigation.

The Reds open with 19 straight games against Western Division rivals and believe a strong start is imperative if they are to shake the bridesmaid image of four consecutive second-place finishes.

Veteran Rick Mahler has joined an already strong rotation. Experienced role players Joel Youngblood, Manny Trillo and Ken Griffey have strengthened the utility corps.

“We now have a second great bench to go along with Johnny,” Rose said, adding that this is his best team and that, more important, the players now believe it as well.

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Maybe, center fielder Eric Davis seemed to imply, because Rose is communicating better than he has before.

“I feel real good about this team and this year,” Davis said. “I think our unity is really going to help us. The last three or four years, we never knew who was going to play or if we were going to platoon or what. It would take half the year to figure out our roles. This year we know from the start and that’s going to help.

“We’ve watched the Astros and the Giants and the Dodgers win, and we’re tired of watching.

“We want to be part of it.”

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So does Pete Rose, of course. And, for openers at least, he was.


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