Pete Rose can come home -- to the diamond, that is.
Although he continues to be banned by organized baseball for betting on games as manager of the Cincinnati Reds, the majors' all-time hit king will be the manager/third-base coach for the Atlantic League's Bridgeport Bluefish Monday night against the visiting Lancaster Barnstormers at Harbor Yard.
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The independent Atlantic League, which also includes the Long Island Ducks, is not under the auspices of Major League Baseball's commissioner's office, which imposed the lifetime ban on Aug. 24, 1989. Still, Rose's camp sought and received MLB's blessing.
"He's going to want to win," chuckled Ducks bench coach Bud Harrelson, who was involved in an infamous fight with Rose, now 73, at second base in Game 3 of the 1973 National League Championship Series between the Mets and Reds. "It's in his blood. He can't get baseball out of his mind and his life -- kind of like Bud Harrelson."
Harrelson, 70, said the bad blood between him and Rose has long since dissipated. The two were teammates on the 1978-79 Phillies.
As the men grew together, so did their children, Tim Harrelson and Pete Rose Jr., whom Bud managed for three years on the Ducks. Fights were old news . . . at least for the fathers.
"We were out on the field in Philadelphia for batting practice and the clubhouse kid came running out and said that Harrelson and Rose were fighting in the tunnel," Bud recalled. "They had a basketball and net and everything down from the home clubhouse and guys used to go down there all the time.
"When they came out to say they were fighting -- they were 10 years old, how much of a fight is that? -- I said, 'Well, who's winning?' And we just laughed about it. I talked to Pete Sr. and said, 'How about he comes home with Tim and we'll go bowling tomorrow.' "
Harrelson paused after reminiscing. "If I'm available," he said, "I might take a little trip and say hello to him."
At the very least, he plans to call Rose on Monday.
Harrelson expects Rose to be enthusiastic in his role as manager. Anything less would be uncharacteristic of the man he likened to a wind-up doll that never stops moving. He believes the home crowd and players will receive Rose well.
Bluefish infielder Sean Burroughs, whose father, Jeff, played 16 MLB seasons, is eager to pick Rose's brain and see how he interacts with the clubhouse. He's counting on "hustle" being a theme.
"He didn't get the nickname Charlie Hustle for nothing," Burroughs said. "He didn't get it for coming out and being lazy and not running things out. He was 110 percent. It's one of those things that everyone tries to emulate, to tell you the truth. He really respected baseball and was an ambassador for the sport."
Harrelson echoed the sentiments about Rose.
"Once you play this game, you never want to quit," he said. "He didn't think he'd ever get on a field or be invited anywhere. I think he's going to feel good about himself doing this."