I know your walls are already fully covered with the likes of this, but there’s also this, and don’t forget about this, this, or, especially, this.


I knew I’d have to clump several covers together to wrap up all the blood and entrails by Opening Day, and one player presented the opportunity. Although at one point a fifteen-year gap stretched between one cover and another, Pete Rose was on the front of Sports Illustrated no less than sixteen times. Of these, he appeared four times as a Philly. (But he still can’t touch the athlete who appeared the most– Michael Jordan with 50.)

The definition of cover boy stretches a bit, since once Rose is partially obscured by a Met and twice he’s rendered as part of group art. But he’s there.

He’s always there.

May 27, 1968. Rose’s career is five years old at this point. Despite scoring 101 runs in his Rookie of the Year effort, this was the first time he appeared on the cover of SI. Brash kid indeed.

September 8, 1969. It’s fairly easy to judge the status of time by the status of his hair, and this short cut is a dead giveaway that Western Civilization has not yet begun its unremitting slide into the ruinous 1970’s.

The gentleman in the Cubs uniform, if you don’t recognize him, is Mr. Ernie Banks.

September 7, 1970. I almost missed this one, since it’s not tagged with Rose’s name, for obvious reasons. It’s a bizarre picture, and I’m glad I caught it, because it’s also a psychic one.

Bud Harrelson shows up because the Mets, one season past their 1969 “Miracle” season, were in a pennant race with the Pirates and the Cubs. He’s basically window dressing here, but as Rose looks pissed off that another human being would dare come between him and the base, it’s an act of accurate photojournalism.

He didn’t forget it, either. This photo was a harbinger. Three years later, Rose and Harrelson would come to blows at second base in Game 3 of the NLCS.

April 8, 1974. I was struck by the overall lack of action photos of Rose on the cover during the rise and supremacy of the Big Red Machine. That job seemed to have been allocated to Johnny Bench.

December 22, 1975: The peak of the empire. For a guy known as Charlie Hustle, SI sure had him stand still a lot.

August 7, 1978: Rose’s 44 game hitting streak earns him another cover story. He was aiming for Joe DiMaggio’s record of 56 consecutive games, 1941. (DiMaggio’s record still stands.)

May 28, 1979. He was a Philly by then, but he was still Rose. It counts.

August 27, 1979. I have no idea what was going on here but since it involves Pete’s hair in its natural state of mobility, I’m in.

July 19, 1982–with his old pal Yaz. The Machine was well and truly coughed out by this point.

March 14, 1983. Did you know this? You might have known that these three all spent some time in Philadelphia, but were you aware it was at the same time? Imagine that clubhouse.

August 27, 1984: Manager-player Pete. Within a year, Rose would break 4,192 (which, curiously, did not merit a cover of its own.) And a year after that, now on the bench, his betting on baseball would begin.

May 9, 1988: I know what you’re thinking, and this isn’t what you’re thinking. This cover refers to the April 30 shoving incident between Rose and umpire Dave Pallone.

April 3, 1989: The end began when he placed his first bet, but now we knew about it.

It was a rough season. March-September lasted at least 40 years, and the Reds finished 4th, 17 games out of first place.

July 3, 1989. If you hate yourself and others, this cover is next to the Marge one in your living room.

Pete Rose would not appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated again for fifteen years.

January 12, 2004. “I didn’t think I’d get caught.”

Rose’s ouster in August 1989 isn’t explicitly covered by the covers, but by that time the entire nation was exhausted by Baseball Watergate. He wouldn’t fully come clean until this moment.

This cover is fascinating from an artistic point of view. Compare it to the last time Rose appeared. The conceit is the same– words and a photo of his face– but this time he’s facing the viewer, looking us in the eye instead of averting his gaze.

But we’re not done.

September 27, 2004. Pete’s appearance here is tiny, but it is mighty clever. In a Sistine Chapel of Sports mural to celebrate the 50th anniversary of SI, Rose is shown with Shoeless Joe Jackson and Bart Giamatti in a representation of Fall and Expulsion From the Garden. (Also crammed in here, but with happier fates: Johnny Bench, Sparky Anderson, and Joe Morgan.)

March 10, 2014. Yep, still suspended and now rolling with Mike Tyson and Hulk Hogan.

Thus endeth the tragedy of Peter Edward Rose, Sr– for the moment.

34 Responses

  1. Mark Moore

    A meteoric fall that hasn’t stopped. I remember his statement after the original ban … he was looking forward to his baby girl’s first birthday because that’s when he could apply for reinstatement. I defended him for a long time, but I’m well past that. Yes, the pure baseball accomplishments are impressive, but he’s such a flaming hot mess (almost entirely of his own design).

    Thanks for this walk down memory lane, as painful as it might be at times. It’s history and we can still remember and learn from it.

    Opening day looms in the not-too-distant future … 😀

  2. LDS

    Pete was a great ballplayer and a terrific competitor. Alas he was not the best human being and sadly, that’s true of many, many professional athletes, as well as far too many of our neighbors.

    • Oldtimer

      I think it may be true of SOME professional athletes but not necessarily many, many of them.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I wonder if this was part of the reason Joey Votto was so closed off for so long. He learned from this example.

  3. Daytonnati

    Hamlet, Captain Ahab, Pete Rose – potential heroes unable to overcome their “tragic flaw”, the character trait that ultimately destroys them.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      For the first time, I noticed that the gambling pretty much started when he retired from the field.

      He couldn’t handle not being out there.

      • Jim t

        Mary Beth , Pete was into gambling for quite awhile. I am someone who came from a family that bet frequently. If you wanted to get a glimpse of Pete in the early years you only had to be at river downs.
        He also used bookmakers who operated downtown. What I can’t tell you is if he bet on baseball. But as someone who grew up around sick gamblers my suspicion is yes.they were always looking for that edge.

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        Oh gambling in general, certainly– I mean gambling on baseball. The thing I used to wonder for years was… why? He could bet on anything happening on the planet. Why couldn’t he just leave baseball alone?!

        Then this SI story revealed the theory that he bet on baseball because he needed to make up for losses he was incurring with other sports. I do believe he tried to avoid it, but, as he said… who wouldn’t let him get away with it?

      • Oldtimer

        My neighbor growing up was a bookie (as side hustle). Rose was a steady bettor in the 1960s.

      • Jim t

        Oldtimer. Like you I’m a bit older then most posting. In the 60’s all one had to do was travel to Newport and you could bet on most anything in the back room of most bars. The west side were Pete grew up was full of bookmakers and a short ride a cross the L&N bridge were there was even more. Newport was Vegas before Vegas.

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        Fellow West Sider… why couldn’t he just slide into one of the 8 million bingos within a 2-block radius?!

      • Optimist

        Oldtimer – as I heard it, there was a drugstore across the street from WHHS where the bookies were available, and you-know-who was one among many or the familiar customers.

      • Oldtimer

        All I had to do was walk next door. But yes, Newport was Vegas back then.

      • doofus

        My grandfather told me a story along time ago that he met Pete’s father in a gambling “joint” on the KY riverfront. It seems that placing bets was a family tradition.

    • Daytonnati

      I remember boycotting the Reds after Daddy Wags let Pete walk. I only returned to the ballpark when the Phillies, and later, Expos visited. I was there when Pete was an Expo with 3,999 hits – a businessman special. I seem to remember the Reds pitching around him all four at bats, much to the consternation of a really nice afternoon crowd. Ironically, I was sitting in a Skyline in Blue Ash, when it was announced that Vern Rapp was canned and that Pete Rose was returning as player/manager. At the time, it was almost too good to be true. I was there his first night back, against the Cubs. Crowd was insane. First at bat, Pete singles and stretches it to 3rd with a head-first slide on the misplay. It could not have been scripted any better.


      Alas, we did not know then, what we know now. I know the younger readers on the site see Pete one way, and I don’t have any problem with that. Pete deserves his fate. He has no one to blame except himself. As mentioned above, he was a tragically flawed human being, but one heck of a ballplayer.

      • greenmtred

        It’s certainly true that nobody else is to blame, but what is known about the nature of addictions is a complicating factor.

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        Only good things happen at a Businessman Special! That’s an awesome memory. Extra points for involving the Expos.

      • Oldtimer

        I loved the stock market quotes on the scoreboard at Riverfront in those days. I wonder if that was useful to anyone in attendance.

  4. Greg G

    I believe the 1983 Phillies were known as the “Wheeze Kids”, but they did make the World Series that year before losing to the Orioles in five games. That series was also notable when the Phillies manager benched Rose for Tony Perez in game 3, and Rose complained rather loudly and openly about it. 🙁

    • doofus

      And, the “Phillies” for the speed scandal that ran through the clubhouse during those years.

    • Melvin

      I believe they then tried Rose in RF and Perez at 1B to try and get them all in the lineup. Didn’t work too well. Morgan had a pretty good series as I recall though. I remember his famous quote, “I may not be as good as I once was every day but for one series I’m as good as I ever was”. 🙂

  5. doofus

    Thanks Mary Beth for a stroll down memory lane!

  6. Melvin

    Rose was/is just one of the nastiest, most untrustworthy people you’ll ever want to meet. He’s also one of the dumbest. Even after his lifetime ban he STILL could be back in baseball if it weren’t for his stupidity and pride. They are never going to let him in the Hall Of Fame until after he is dead for the simple reason he continues just to “rub their nose in it”. I don’t know how much of his gambling is a sickness. I do know it kind of makes me sick the way Baseball and sports in general are so hypocritical about betting/gambling since his ban. They are so polite and caring in saying at the end of an advertisement that if you have a gambling problem “here’s how you can get help”. Just ridiculous. It’s all about the money. He makes it hard but I still try to remember him mostly as being part of the greatest team that ever played….The Big Red Machine. I refuse to let his actions take away from my knowledge and memory of how he played and contributed to that. As bad as a person he is I’m still very confident in telling a young player, “That’s how you’re supposed to play baseball”. He was able to do one good thing that people could admire and look up to. To deny that would be hypocritical on my part I’m just not going to let him do that to me either. Pet Rose was one of the greatest players to ever play baseball. Period.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      That last part is what I get most angry about– that the fans who supported him so fiercely now must find a way to separate out their memories from what he’s done.

      • Melvin

        Yeah. Just not going to let his stupidity mess up my memories of the good things in baseball specifically the Big Red Machine. 🙂