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Rose humbled by statue unveiled at Great American Ballpark

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CINCINNATI -- (AP) Pete Rose tugged on the edge of the tarp and slowly unveiled a bigger-than-life sculpture of one of his headfirst slides, revealing it from the airborne cleats to the ground-scraping elbows. The Reds’ banished hits king was finally in bronze.

On a sizzling afternoon, thousands of fans packed the entrance to Great American Ball Park for the latest tribute to their favorite baseball son. The Cincinnati native became the eighth Reds star honored with a sculpture outside the ballpark.

“It’s just an honor to be on the same block with these guys,” said Rose, who is banned from Cooperstown because he bet on baseball. “This has to be the ultimate goal for any player of his or her sport.”

With Major League Baseball’s permission, the Reds have been catching up on honoring their most famous — and most controversial — player in the past few years. Last June, they inducted him into the team’s Hall of Fame and retired his No. 14 in front of capacity crowds.

With the Reds still in a rebuilding phase on the field, the weekend honoring Rose with a sculpture became their biggest promotion.

They drew 36,613 fans for their game Friday night against the Dodgers that kicked off the weekend festivities, their largest crowd since opening day. The Reds lost 3-1, extending their losing streak to seven games.

It was 90 degrees on Saturday — several fans fainted in the tightly packed crowd — for the unveiling before the second game of the series. The game drew the Reds’ first capacity crowd since opening day.

The 76-year-old hits leader is banned from baseball’s Hall of Fame. Commissioner Rob Manfred has denied Rose’s latest petition for reinstatement, but hasn’t ruled out making him eligible for Cooperstown someday.

Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and Joe Morgan were among those attending the festivities on Saturday. Morgan missed last year’s gathering because of long-standing health issues. Morgan walked with the help of two metal canes on Saturday.

Bench, Morgan and Perez already had sculptures outside the ballpark.

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