Pete Rose’s return to being on field for the Philadelphia Phillies for the first time since his lifetime ban in 1989 had already come with some controversy, and the 81-year-old did not do himself any favors when approached by a reporter on Sunday.
Rose, who had previously been uninvited by the Phillies in 2017 due to allegations he had a sexual relationship with a minor in the 1970s, was asked about how his presence may be viewed negatively by women.
Rose dismissed the question, asked by Alex Coffey of The Athletic, telling her “it was 55 years ago, babe.”
Rose later apologized to Coffey, after offering to sign her 1,000 baseballs, but continued to dismiss questions about his questionable past.
Rose was accused of the relationship in a lawsuit in 2017, the same year the Phillies had intended on inducting him into their Wall of Fame before ultimately rescinding the invite.
Rose has acknowledged that he indeed had a relationship with the woman while a member of the Cincinnati Reds, but says that it started when she was 16 — the legal age of consent in the state of Ohio. Rose was 34 years old at the time of the alleged relationship but did not face criminal charges because the allegations surfaced past Ohio’s statute of limitations.
While the Phillies rescinded their invite in 2017, the team released a statement last month explaining that Rose would be invited to Sunday’s Alumni Weekend after consulting with his teammates about his inclusion in the festivities and receiving permission from the Commissioner’s Office.
Rose’s ban from baseball stems from gambling on games while manager of the Reds in the 1980s. He applied for reinstatement in 2015 but was denied by commissioner Rob Manfred.