Several weeks ago, evidence surfaced that indicated Pete Rose bet on baseball even as a player with the Cincinnati Reds. For some people, this was the final nail in Rose’s Hall of Fame coffin.
For others, not so much.
“I don’t think it was much new,” Reds legend and Hall of Famer Johnny Bench told Damon Amendolara, who was filling in as host of CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “It’s almost like, ‘Oh, okay.’ Everybody kind of knew that anyway, so it wasn’t much of a change. Whether it affects the commissioner or anybody else, I don’t know. I haven’t seen much of a fall-out. I think everything right now is depending on what the commissioner does. You have to remember there are 11 guys on the suspended list, so how do you choose which one you actually address first? Or second or third or fourth? It’s what it has been for many years.”
Bench and Rose won two World Series titles together in 1975 and 1976 as members of “The Big Red Machine,” one of the best teams in baseball history and the last National League team to win back-to-back World Series championships.
While some people may dislike – if not despise – Rose, Bench is just the opposite. He loved Rose as a player, and he loves him now as a friend.
“Oh, it never changes,” Bench said of the relationship. “He was part of our team, part of our history, part of everything. He’s a funny guy. We were business partners together on the car business. So we’ve been friends for a long time. Yeah, you can be disappointed in somebody, but it doesn’t change what we do. We still have a deep appreciation for what we did and how we did it and how we did it together and how each of us had contributed to winning two world championships. That’s a pretty good place to be in.”
Rose – a 17-time All-Star, a three-time World Series champion, a former MVP, a Rookie of the Year and baseball’s all-time hit king – had a reputation for being gruff with opposing players. But not with Bench. And not with any member of The Big Red Machine.
“Not to us, not to us,” Bench said. “Everything was great. He was somebody we could rely on (to take care of all the media stuff). When the reporters came in, they could go to Pete for all the quotes, so we didn’t have to deal with it. (Joe) Morgan and I used to sit there and look at each other and smile at each other saying, ‘Hey, we don’t have to deal with these guys. Pete will give them a story.’ He was much better at giving them stories because he saw the whole game and did everything and was involved in it. So we never had a problem with any of that. There was really no egos. We knew exactly who we were, how we did it, why we did it and we really were the best of friends – all of us throughout that clubhouse. And we tried to maintain that.”