Pete Rose and fiancee Kiana Kim. ( Donald Miralle / Bongarts…)
The day after the rejection of several players into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Pete Rose -- not surprisingly -- had plenty to say.
Rose, the major league's all-time leader in hits who has been banned from baseball and the Hall of Fame for betting on games, said he was not surprised that the Baseball Writers' Assn. of America declined to select a player for baseball's highest honor. The snubs were being attributed to the game's steroid era.
"I knew last week that it was going to happen," said Rose about the snubbing of several top players, including Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. "They're all friends of mine." He said he felt particularly bad for Clemens, Mike Piazza and Houston Astros catcher-second baseman Craig Biggio. "There were just a whole lot of perceptions" about Clemens, said Rose, adding that Clemens was really hurt by those suspicions.
Rose was holding court at Sherman Oaks' Sisely restaurants. But although the Hall of Fame controversy was a hot topic as he addressed a group of reporters, his main agenda was to promote his new position as a reality show star.
TLC's "Pete Rose: Hit & Mrs.," which debuts Jan. 14, plays up the sport legend's engagement to former Playboy model Kiana Kim. The show has several titillating aspects: Rose, 71, is about 40 years older than Kim (she describes herself as "30-ish, and he maintains he doesn’t know her exact age). The buxom Kim had her breasts enlarged years ago, and Rose is not exactly enthusiastic about her wishes to get a breast reduction.
The couple live part-time in Kim's Valencia home with her two children from a previous marriage, Cassie, 14, and Ashton, 11. Rose, who has been married two previous times, spends much of his time away from the family in Las Vegas at The Art of Music store at Mandelay Bay, where he signs autographs and poses with visitors.
The six-part docu-series show has many familiar reality-show elements: Some members of their respective families are not on board with the proposed marriage and the age difference (Rose has four grown children). Kim's kids are experiencing the usual problems of adolescence. A wedding date is still up in the air.
And although Kim goes through with the breast reduction, Rose pointed out, "she's still bigger than most girls."
Mainly, Rose said he hopes the series clears up what he calls misconceptions about his persona.
"You will see a different perspective of what people think I am," he said. "I'm not going around knocking people over -- I'm very fan-friendly." He smiled: "I only knocked people over if they're blocking second base or trying to make a double play."
He added that he wanted viewers to see beyond the perceptions that he's just a old man "with a girlfriend that's got big boobs. We want to show that we're just ordinary, true people and that we really do get along. We laugh. We're just trying to raise a family just like everybody else."
But of course, a key part of the opening episodes revolves around Rose's ban from baseball, and how he delicately gives Kim's kids details about what he calls "his big mistake." The family makes a trip to Coopertown to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and he escorts them to the entrance, but refuses to go inside.
"I'll go in when I'm invited," he tells them, and walks away, alone.
Kim said Rose is still very hurt by his ban, but he said, "I never think about it. I don't worry about things that are out of my control. I'll get my just due someday. That's the American way."
Rose and his representatives have reached out to Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig about reinstating Rose. But he said he doesn't feel the reality show will influence Selig one way or the other.
"He's got a lot more on his plate than a reality show, and whether I'm in baseball or not," he said.
But Rose maintained that the show is positive and takes an upbeat attitude toward the sport he said he still loves.
"I'm not here to badmouth anybody," he said before pausing to make a humorous reference to New York Yankee Derek Jeter, who is seeking to break Rose's hits record.
"Except maybe Jeter, if he breaks my record," he quipped.
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