Former Philadelphia Phillies player Pete Rose has come under fire for his reaction to a question about statutory rape claims against him.
The all-time hits leader in Major League Baseball appeared on the field in Philadelphia on Sunday for the first time since he was banned for life from the sport in 1989.
Mr Rose, 81, was being celebrated alongside the rest of the team who win the World Series in 1980. He received a standing ovation at Citizens Bank Park, according to CNN.
The Philadelphia Phillies had planned to celebrate Mr Rose back in 2017 but backtracked after a woman came forward and claimed that he had sex with her when she was under the age of 16.
Alex Coffey of the Philadelphia Inquirer asked Mr Rose about the claims and if his being at the arena sent a bad message to women.
“No, I’m not here to talk about that,” Mr Rose said. “Sorry about that. It was 55 years ago, babe.”
When another reporter also asked about the allegations made in 2017, he said, “I’m going to tell you one more time. I’m here for the Philly fans. I’m here for my teammates, okay. I’m here for the Philly organization and who cares what happened 50 years ago? You weren’t even born. So, you shouldn’t be talking about it, because you weren’t born. If you don’t know a damn thing about it, don’t talk about it”.
The allegations concerning the assault were included in a defamation lawsuit from Mr Rose against the lawyer who reviewed his background for Major League Baseball concerning him betting on the sport in the 1980s.
The suit against lawyer John Dowd was filed in 2017 for the claim that Mr Rose had sex with girls who were underage.
Legal filings reveal that Mr Rose acknowledged having had sex with the girl, but that he claimed to have done so in 1975, when she was 16 years old, at a time when he was playing for the Cincinnati Reds. After an agreement was reached, the lawsuit was dismissed. The age of consent in the state of Ohio is 16.
A lawyer for Mr Rose has argued that the woman’s allegations are unverified, according to CNN.
“Rose was made available after the ceremony. Someone, maybe an agent, said he had something to say to me, but he didn’t seem to know he was expected to say anything,” Ms Coffey wrote in The Inquirer. “He asked if he’d offended me, and said ‘will you forgive me if I sign 1,000 baseballs for you’ before saying ‘sorry.’”
“In planning the 1980 reunion, we consulted with Pete’s teammates about his inclusion,” the Philadelphia Phillies said in a statement in July. “Everyone wants Pete to be part of the festivities since there would be no trophy in 1980 without him. In addition, the club received permission from the Commissioner’s Office to invite Pete as a member of the championship team.”
Mr Rose was banned in 1989 after betting on Cincinnati Reds games when he was a player and a manager on the team and he has been made ineligible to enter the baseball hall of fame. He didn’t admit to the betting allegations until 2004.
He later told ESPN Radio that he bet that his team would win every game.