CINCINNATI -- Children too young to remember him as a
player chanted his name, cameras lined the sidewalk in the whipping wind, and a handful of quiet spectators got a look at this city's newest, most famous assistant gym teacher.
Pete Rose, baseball icon and convicted felon, came back to his )) hometown yesterday afternoon not a free man, but halfway there.
Just a few hours after having been released from the Illinois prison camp in which he served a five-month sentence, Rose entered the Talbert House, a Cincinnati halfway house. That is where he will serve the final three months of his term, performing community service as an elementary school gym aide.
"Just want to see him," said 9-year-old Antonio Foggie, who said he never saw Rose play in person but skipped school to be there. "He's the greatest. Want to meet him and get his autograph."
It was a brief sighting, and Rose was not signing any autographs after his arrival in a car driven by Rackele Ruby, the wife of his friend and business partner Jeff Ruby, and accompanied by Rose's wife, Carol.
"I feel great," Rose said, walking past reporters surrounding the Rubys' blue Jaguar.
Looking slimmer and wearing sunglasses, a white cap displaying the number 4,192, his record number of hits on the way to 4,256 (Ty Cobb had 4,191), and a black gym suit, Rose went straight from the car into the Talbert House with his wife without further comment.
Rose, convicted of income tax evasion last year and banned from baseball for betting a year earlier, left the federal prison camp in Marion, Ill., at about 9:30 a.m. CST, met his wife, then flew from Marion to a small local airport in Cincinnati, where Rackele Ruby picked them up. They stopped for a brief time at her husband's restaurant, then drove to the halfway house.
"We want to just start all over, get everything behind us," Carol Rose said after spending five minutes with her husband in the Talbert House. "Get a new start."
At the halfway house, Rose will have a curfew, will have taccount for his whereabouts when he leaves the house, and will work from 9 to 5 every weekday at one of five inner-city elementary schools.
"Clean, neat, livable," Tom Berghausen, associate executive director of the house, said of the accommodations. "It's not ever going to be luxurious."
Stan Huntley, a resident of the halfway house, said the other 40 to 45 residents were excited to have Rose arrive. Many watched from upstairs windows.
"He'll probably be put in the same room I'm in," Huntley said. "About three of us are in there, and there's a lot of beds available there. It's going to be a pleasure."
When his Talbert House stay ends, Rose almost certainly will have some of his assigned 1,000 hours of community service left to perform. He will have to find a place to live in Cincinnati and work at the LeBlond Boys and Girls Club when the school year is over.
"I think it's great -- most of the children in this neighborhood can't afford to go to games, and here's Pete Rose living right here," said Denise Mackner, who lives two doors down from the house and said she enrolled her two sons at the club when she heard Rose was coming.
"Now the kids will get to see Pete Rose, see that he's human. My kids, they aren't baseball kids, but ever since they heard, it's been Pete Rose, Pete Rose, Pete Rose out of their mouths."
Rose has said that after completing his sentence, he will leave Cincinnati, the city in which he grew up, became famous and was sentenced to prison, and make his permanent home in Boca Raton, Fla.
"He's got to finish up what he has to do in here, which he wants to do and he wants to do what he can do to try to benefit the children," Carol Rose said. "And then I've got my family in Florida, and that's it. Our home is now in Florida."
But Cincinnati will always claim him.
Jerry Davidson, a local activist who dresses up as Uncle Sam, said Rose can do the community a lot of good, showing children how far a hero can fall.
"I think Pete will do good in this program," Davidson said. "I think he can do a lot for kids. I think he should explain how a man that's on top can go to the bottom, to the roots of hell and throw every damn thing away. He epitomizes the American dream.
"I'm out here today because I think the Cincinnati fans, the people who grew up in this town, ought to be out here welcoming him."