On Tuesday, the Reds Hall of Fame revealed plans for a vast new exhibit dedicated to Rose and his career that's tentatively scheduled to open on March 10 and run for 11 months.
"In the last 15 years or so, his issues have dominated the story," said Greg Rhodes, the Hall's executive director. "There's a whole generation of fans that don't know anything about Pete or his career other than that he bet on baseball.
"We're going back to celebrate him for being such a great player. We were so enthralled with the way he played. Nobody played quite like Pete. That's why we're remembering him with this exhibit."
Rose was unable to attend a scheduled Tuesday morning press conference at the Reds Hall of Fame because he was sick with the flu. Later, while talking to reporters on a conference call from Las Vegas, the 65-year-old could not hide his excitement about the new exhibit.
"A couple of words come to mind. Happy. Disbelief," Rose said. "Baseball has not allowed me to do much over the last 17 years, including going to the last day at Riverfront Stadium or Veterans Stadium. However, they let me go to the All-Century celebration, the most memorable moments celebration and they let me participate in the Hometown Heroes situation."
Rose is scheduled to visit his exhibit on March 13, three days after the opening.
"I think I'll probably camp out the night of the 12th," he said. "It'll be an exciting day for me. That's great for your family. I know those guys will do a great job. They already have. The place is beautiful to walk through."
In 1989, Rose agreed to a lifetime ban from the game issued by then Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti for betting on baseball. Rose remains ineligible for selection to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and an application for reinstatement has been given no response by current Commissioner Bud Selig.
The ban has prevented the Reds from formally honoring Rose, who is also not yet enshrined in the club's Hall of Fame. Rose's No. 14 has yet to be retired officially, but it has remained unused except for a few games in 1997, when his son, Pete Rose Jr., wore it in games.
Major League Baseball gave its approval for the Reds Hall of Fame to go forward and pay tribute to Rose.
"We're fully aware of it," MLB spokesman Patrick Courtney said. "It's honoring the team's history and it's not anything on the field."
Revered for being a native Cincinnatian and because of the all-out and competitive effort he demonstrated on the field, Rose was a 17-time All-Star and a cornerstone member of the "Big Red Machine." Affectionately known as "Charlie Hustle," he collected his 4,256 hits and was also the all-time leader in games played with 3,562 during a 24-season career that lasted from 1963-86. He enjoyed two tours with his hometown team -- first from 1963-78 and again from 1984-86 as a player-manager.
The Rose exhibit is expected to cover about 2,000 square feet. It will have many items of memorabilia, including his uniforms from the 1960's, 70's and 80's, game-used equipment, photos and a video documentary. Many of the displays will be housed in old lockers once used at the former Reds homes of Crosley Field and Riverfront Stadium.
Some of the items have been collected over the years by the Reds, and others have come from area collectors. Rose said that he would talk with Rhodes about including some of his own personal memorabilia.
A significant portion of the exhibit will be dedicated to Rose's pursuit of Ty Cobb and his all-time hits record. On Sept. 11, 1985, Rose surpassed Cobb as the "hit king," when he notched hit No. 4,192 off the Padres' Eric Show at Riverfront Stadium. The bat and ball from that moment will be on display, as will the swatch of AstroTurf where the ball landed.
Also on hand will be nearly every ball from the hits Rose collected during the season leading up to the record-breaker.
"It will be the biggest new exhibit we've done since we've opened [in 2004]," Rhodes said. "We've already had exhibits in the Hall of Fame that dealt with Pete, but this is expanding what's in there."
While praising Reds ownership and the Castellini family for their support, Rose expressed hope that any goodwill about him created by the exhibit will improve his chances of reinstatement and, subsequently, election to the Hall of Fame.
"If they're doing something for the fans and they mention my name, it's going to help me," Rose said. "All I can say is, hopefully this will be a great exhibit and a lot of people will come see it. I think that will probably give baseball another reason to consider reinstating me. I made some mistakes and I was wrong. But a lot of people feel I've paid for those mistakes. I've been suspended 17 years already. It's getting late."
Rose placed working in baseball again, namely as a big-league manager, as a higher priority than even enshrinement in Cooperstown.
"This may sound funny, but I think I'm the best ambassador baseball has," Rose said. "I'm constantly selling the game of baseball, talking positive about the game of baseball. It's hard to do in a lot of cases today with the situation with steroids and other things going on."
"I'm a baseball person. I haven't bet on baseball since 1987. When writers talk about that, [they say] let me back in, but don't let me on the field. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think that would be in the hands of one of 30 people. And the 30 people are guys that own baseball teams. If you want me to run your show, one thing I'll do is change the attitude around [the team], just like Jimmy Leyland [in Detroit] and just like Lou Piniella will do in Chicago. I'll change the attitude around for a team. I'll put more people in the seats, and you'll go up in the standings."