Pete Rose is a man of obvious talents and vices.
His talents include hitting baseballs—which he did better than anyone, ever—signing autographs for a small fee, and remaining beloved in Cincinnati despite some of those obvious vices.
Gambling on baseball, lying about the gambling, starring in reality television shows—the Hit King has a history littered with questionable decisions, “betting on the game” being the foremost bugaboo in regard to his ultimate legacy. It’s also why Rose remains locked out of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, with MLB Commissioner and fellow curmudgeon Bud Selig holding firm in his stance to punish Rose for his transgressions against America’s pastime.
In fact, I’ve never lived in a world where Pete Rose wasn’t banned from the game of baseball. I was born on the morning of August 24, 1989, the same day Rose was banished from any official involvement with the professional sport for life. But that truth—whether or not you agree with it—isn’t what this post is about. Rather, it’s a career-spanning examination of what is arguably Rose’s most criminal and egregious offense: starring in really, really bad commercials.
With a new baseball season just underway, the Reds’ local television broadcasts on Fox Sports Ohio have featured oft-repeated spots for Muenchens Furniture, including some spokesman (and spokeswoman) work from the recently married Pete Rose and his former-Playboy-Bunny wife, Kiana Kim. Even the unbridled enthusiasm the couple displays for these gorgeous and incredibly low-price Paula Deen kitchen tables and Tempur-pedic beds couldn’t prevent the commercials from being painfully lame.
But alas, these are not uncharted waters for someone who sprayed 4,256 base knocks across this great land. The man who currently dreams of reaching 5,000 hits and nailing three-team parlays while nestled in the supreme comfort of a Tempur-pedic mattress was once on the verge of having his baseball career derailed by a young girl and her audible appreciation of Nestlé Crunch bars.
And prior that, Rose was interrupting his plate appearances to literally sing the praise of Aqua Velva after-shave. A man wants to feel like a man!
For all the incredible, record-breaking feats he accomplished on the diamond, Pete Rose’s career will always be defined by his sins against baseball. Some of them he lied about for years. Some of them he committed on television.