INDIANAPOLIS – Pete Rose would still rather get three hits than watch the Indianapolis 500.
Rose, baseball's all-time hits leader, was in Indy today to see the Greatest Spectacle in Racing for the first time, attending on the invitation of a long-time friend Dick Jordan of the United States Auto Club.
“There are two deals I can think of, being a sports fan like I am, that you never get to participate in because you're a baseball player,” Rose said. "One is here and one is in Louisville. I was in baseball 29 years, and you don't get too many Memorial Days off. Usually it's a doubleheader.”
Rose said he has been to two Kentucky Derbys in Louisville.
“This is my first Indianapolis 500 and I'm from Cincinnati,” he said. “I live 90 miles from here. I could have walked and got here. …I watched it on TV. I'd rather be out getting three hits than watching the Indianapolis 500 today, but today I'm watching the Indianapolis 500 because I'm not going to get three hits.”
Rose talked to the media for about 10 minutes prior to the race Sunday, addressing his past a bit, but also talking about some current players. He lives in Las Vegas and says he watches multiple baseball games daily, and continues to root for his old team, the Cincinnati Reds.
The inevitable question about whether he thinks he'll ever be in the Baseball Hall of Fame came up. Rose was banned from baseball because of betting on baseball as a manager. He cannot be on the Hall of Fame ballot unless the ban is revoked.
“If you had your wishes, you'd rather be in Cooperstown,” Rose said. “But all good things are worth waiting for, no matter how long it takes.”
Other topics Rose addressed:
His style of play: “There are a lot of players who play like Pete Rose. You guys don't want to talk about that. You want to talk about drugs and other stuff. There are a lot of good players. …(Bryce) Harper, he's 19 and he plays hard. (Dustin) Pedroia, (Joey) Votto, (Derek) Jeter. There are a lot of guys who play hard. Just because you don't run to first on a base on balls don't mean you don't play hard.”
On the Dodgers' Matt Kemp: “He's one of the top five players in baseball. …He's pretty good.”
Comparing Kemp to players from Rose's era: “When I talk about guys I played with, I played with 11 Hall of Famers. I played against Mays, Aaron and Clemente and Musial. It's hard for me to compare a guy who has played three or four years to those guys. Let him do it for 10 or 12 years and then I'll compare him.”
On Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander: “I'm glad he's in Detroit and I'm in Cincinnati and I don't have to face that guy. If everybody was like him, the batting champion would hit .260. He's got good stuff. Him and (Jared) Weaver and (Clayton) Kershaw.
“It's the same thing as facing Marichal, Koufax, Drysdale, Seaver and Carlton. He's the best pitcher in baseball.”
On pitchers Rose faced: “Marichal was the best pitcher ever faced, but I got a lot of hits off him. I couldn't hit Koufax. I got 77 hits off Phil Niekro and 34 off his brother, Joe. Think about that. I got a 40th of my hits off the Niekro family. If she'd had five boys, I'd have got 5,000 hits.”