Cincinnati Reds retire Pete Rose’s No. 14

All that was left as Sunday afternoon turned into Sunday evening was for Pete Rose to finally don the red jacket signifying membership in the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame.

That was scheduled to take place Sunday night during the Hall of Fame gala at the Duke Energy Convention Center in downtown Cincinnati, the last event of a memorable star-studded weekend that started with Friday’s reunion of Cincinnati’s 1976 World Series champions and continued on Saturday with Rose’s on-field induction into the Hall of Fame.

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The Reds found yet another way on Sunday to honor the hometown hero and Major League Baseball’s all-time career hits leader. Before the final game of their four-game series against the San Diego Padres – an afterthought to all of the pre-game activities – they made Rose the 11th player or manager in franchise history to have his uniform number retired. Nobody will wear No. 14 again.

“It’s the rarest of honors reserved for the rarest of players and managers,” franchise president and chief executive officer Bob Castellini said. “It’s a constant reminder of the standards set by these greats.”

The other numbers retired by the Reds, in order of retirement: 1, manager Fred Hutchinson, 1965; 5, Johnny Bench, 1984; 20, Frank Robinson, 1998; 8, Joe Morgan, 1998; 18, Ted Kluszewski, 1998; 24, Tony Perez, 2000; 10, Sparky Anderson, 2005; 13, Dave Concepcion, 2007; 11, Barry Larkin, 2012.

The No. 42 also is retired all over Major League Baseball in honor of Jackie Robinson.

After Lexington, Ky., singing sensation Marlana VanHoose sang the National Anthem, public address announcer Joe Zerhusen introduced the notables who would participate in the ceremonies from a red deck perched near second base. They included Castellini, master-of-ceremonies and Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman, Pete Rose Jr. – the actual last player to wear No. 14 – and Bench, Perez, Concepcion and Larkin.

They entered the field along a red carpet laid out next to a sign painted in red characters bordered in white on the dirt in front of the Reds dugout: “14 Forever.”

A video briefly explained the history of retired numbers and profiled each of the Reds’ honorees. Two gifts, a glass sculpture depicting Rose acknowledging the cheers after setting the career hits record and a painting by renowned artist Bart Forbes of Rose sliding headfirst were unveiled before Castellini made the number retirement official.

He pointed out that Rose’s records are well-quantified.

“What is immeasurable is how we feel about Pete,” Castellini said. “He gave his all in every game with the bravado of a champion. He left everything on the field. It’s only right that his number never leaves the field.”

Rose stepping to the microphone sparked a 47-second standing ovation, followed by a six-minute unscripted speech.

“When they were showing all those hits, Johnny leaned over to me and said, ‘Where the hell are all the home runs?’” Rose cracked.

He then started describing his connection to all of the retired numbers. Kluszewski, who played first base for the Reds in the 1940s and 1950s and was their batting coach in the 1970s, was “the greatest batting coach in the history of batting.” About Concepcion, whose 19 seasons with the Reds are a franchise record, Rose said, “I probably took two years off his career, because when I played third base, he had to cover so much ground.”

Rose also repeated to Castellini a request he’d mentioned at earlier events.

“I want to have a clause in my contract that when Pete Rose III makes the team, can he please wear No. 14?”

Nothing like keeping it in the family.

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