Pete Rose says he now gets it

Updated: October 19, 2010, 6:03 PM ET
Associated Press

CINCINNATI -- Pete Rose says he finally gets what former baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti meant when he talked about reconfiguring his life.

So, he's 'fessing up.

Baseball's hits king told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday that it's taken him a long time to realize what Giamatti wanted when he gave Rose a lifetime ban for betting on baseball in 1989. Giamatti urged him to "reconfigure" his life.

"I'm kind of a hardheaded guy. That's probably the reason I got all those damn hits," Rose said. "It took me years to figure out what he was saying was to step forward and 'fess up and take responsibility for what you did. In the last several years, I finally get it. I understand."

I understand what it takes to get to the Hall of Fame. I also understand how I screwed it up.

-- Pete Rose

In recent months, Rose has tried to patch up relationships with former Big Red Machine teammates and apologize for how his gambling scandal affected them. He also got back on a baseball field -- Major League Baseball gave the Cincinnati Reds permission to celebrate the 25th anniversary of record-setting hit No. 4,192 on Sept. 11.

"Just a magic moment for someone who's retired from the game," Rose said.

It became a chance for him to make amends.

Rose, who turns 70 on April 14, said he reached out to Hall of Famers Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan this year and apologized. The investigation of Rose's gambling took some of the attention away from Bench's induction into the Hall of Fame in 1989.

"I expressed how sorry I was to those guys, if I caused any embarrassment over the years," Rose said. "Especially Johnny. He was inducted in '89, the year of the investigation. Him and I are on the same page. I can call him a good friend. I'm happy to be able to do that."

After the Reds honored him on the field Sept. 11, Rose went to a nearby casino to get roasted by former teammates, players and friends. At the end of the evening, Rose apologized to them, too, breaking down at one point.

"That was the first time I had a microphone in my hand, and I had guys I wanted to apologize to in the room," Rose said. "It was hard, but I did it because that's what I wanted to do. I just felt it was the right time for me to do what I did."

Hall of Famer Tony Perez told the AP afterward that Rose's contrition and his emotion were touching and convincing.

"He's a different guy now," said Perez, who was at the roast. "He's changed. I believe it."

Rose hoped that he would be reinstated after he acknowledged in his second autobiography, "Pete Rose: My Prison Without Bars," that he bet on Reds games while he was player-manager in the 1980s. There was a backlash over the 2004 book, and Rose remains banned from baseball and its Hall of Fame.

"I understand the Hall of Fame," Rose said. "I understand what it takes to get to the Hall of Fame. I also understand how I screwed it up."

Commissioner Bud Selig has given no indication that he's leaning toward reinstating Rose, who accepts whatever happens.

"I'm perfectly happy inside right now -- understand what I'm saying?" he said. "I think anybody that knows me knows that I'm very sorry. I understand the mistakes I made. There's some people that will never give you a second opportunity. That's fine. I can understand they feel that way."

Rose's career is the subject of a documentary. "4192 -- The Crowning of the Hit King" will be previewed on Friday in Cincinnati. Rose reminisces about getting his career going with his hometown team.

He gets prolonged standing ovations from fans when he attends games at Great American Ball Park, sitting in seats behind home plate. He went on the field there for the first time as part of the Sept. 11 festivities, walking to first base and stepping on it 25 years to the day after his record-setting single at old Riverfront Stadium.

"I don't think I'm going to make 50," Rose said, laughing. "It's going to be hard. I might wheel myself out there. I don't know if I'd be able to step on the base hard, but I'd probably die trying."


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press