Pete Rose, baseball’s all-time hits leader long banned by MLB for betting on games, returned to the field Sunday in Philadelphia as part of the Phillies’ celebration of their 1980 World Series win and quickly found himself at the epicenter of controversy.
“No, I’m not here to talk about that,” Rose said when Alex Coffey, a female baseball reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, asked him about it. “Sorry about that. It was 55 years ago, babe.”
Rose briefly told reporters (via the Associated Press): “I’m here for the Philly fans, I’m here for my teammates, I’m here for the Philly 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.”
In testimony in federal court in 2017, a woman alleged she had a sexual relationship with Rose that began when she was below the age of consent. The woman, identified as Jane Doe, said in a sworn statement in court filings that the relationship started in 1973 and continued for a few years.
“Sometime after that, Pete Rose and I began meeting at a house in Cincinnati,” the woman 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.”
From 2017: Woman says she had sexual relationship with Pete Rose as an underage teen
In court filings, Rose admitted to having sex with the woman but said he believed she was 16, the age of consent in Ohio, and that their relationship began “sometime in 1975,” when he was 34. The statute of limitations had expired, so he could not be charged with statutory rape.
The testimony emerged during Rose’s 2017 defamation lawsuit against attorney John Dowd, who led the MLB investigation that resulted in Rose’s lifetime ban for gambling on the Cincinnati Reds as a player and manager. The lawsuit was filed after a 2015 radio interview in which Dowd said Rose had committed statutory rape by routinely having sex with underage girls. Rose denied the accusation.
On Sunday, Rose was greeted warmly by Phillies fans when he walked onto the field at Citizens Bank Park before a 13-1 win over the Washington Nationals.
Rose “was made available after the ceremony,” Coffey tweeted. “Someone, maybe an agent, said he had something to say to me, but he didn’t seem to know he was expected to say anything. He asked if he’d offended me, and said, ‘will you forgive me if I sign 1,000 baseballs for you’ before saying, ‘sorry.’ ”