Excerpt: 'My Prison Without Bars'

Yes, sir, it was a pretty special night. I was doing just fine throughout the first several minutes of all the hoopla. But after they left me alone, I began to feel strange. I had no glove, no base, no ball, and no bat. It was the only time I was ever on a baseball field and didn't know what to do! Then while hugging Tommy Helms, I started to choke up. Helms gestured for my son, Pete Rose Jr., and while hugging Petey, I just lost it. I remembered all the men who helped me reach that milestone in my career, but during the 9th minute of the standing ovation, I looked up in the sky and saw the face of the only man I ever idolized — my dad, Harry Francis Rose.

In 1947, when I was 6 years old, my dad, or "Big Pete" as he was called, was the fiercest damned competitor the Feldhaus Football League had ever seen. On the night of the big game, I trekked along the banks of the Ohio River to get to the field, but like I said, I don't remember seeing a "mélange." I was the team waterboy and assistant equipment manager — jobs I loved because they kept me on the field, close to the action. I hated sitting in the stands with my mother and my two older sisters, Caryl and Jackie, because even back then I had no interest in the idle gossip of women. In fact, the only time I ever went into the bleachers was to "pass the hat" for donations to help pay for the stadium lights and referees. Dad only got paid about 15 or 20 dollars for the entire semipro season. So everybody else had to chip in to help pay for the extras. But after the Great Depression, there was never much in the hat because nobody really had any money. I would usually get to the field 2 hours before kickoff to set up the water buckets and help my uncle, Buddy Bloebaum, chalk the field. Buddy was a real flamboyant man who wore a fur coat and fedora hat.

He also had a secret identity, which I will talk about in detail later.

Before chalking the field, I'd run routes, catch passes from Uncle Buddy, and imagine myself breaking long runs and delivering bone-jarring tackles just like my dad. But in my mind, I wasn't playing between the railroad and the riverbank. I was playing at Soldier Field in Chicago before a sold-out screaming crowd. Even back then, I had big ideas about my future in sports, ideas fueled by my dad's encouragement.

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