by RB Fallstrom, AP
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Jason Heyward was on base so much in 93-degree heat, the body finally gave in.
“I was cramping all over,” Heyward said after matching a career best with five hits as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the New York Mets 12-2 on Saturday night. “I haven’t been feeling well the last few days.”
Both Heyward and manager Mike Matheny said there was “zero” concern going forward. Heyward told trainers and Matheny he could have stayed in if the game was closer.
Randal Grichuk had two homers and six RBIs and John Lackey worked seven strong innings for St. Louis, benefiting from the cushion.
“I definitely pitched to the scoreboard a little bit,” Lackey said. “Trying to challenge guys, trying to throw strikes and trying to keep the momentum going, trying to get those guys back in the dugout to hit.”
Mets starter Bartolo Colon (9-8) trailed by four runs after just one-third of an inning and surrendered seven runs in 4 1/3 innings. The 42-year-old right-hander was roughed up by the Cardinals for the second time, giving up eight runs in 4 1/3 innings in a 9-0 loss May 20.
“That wasn’t the Bartolo Colon we’ve known,” manager Terry Collins said. “That guy has only walked nine guys all year, let alone the first guy of the game.”
Colon said through an interpreter that the Cardinals capitalized on his tendency to go after hitters.
“They were really aggressive and attacked my pitches,” Colon said. “They know I’m going to be aggressive in the zone and they took advantage of it.
Heyward has seven hits, including a triple and double, two RBIs and two steals in the first two games of the series. He was removed after singling in the eighth.
Grichuk was 3 for 3 with a two-run homer off Carlos Torres that capped a four-run fifth and a three-run shot off Alex Torres in the eighth.
Jhonny Peralta added three hits and an RBI. St. Louis improved to major league-bests of 58-33 overall and 33-11 at home.
The Cardinals scored four in the first, fifth and eighth.
Lackey (8-5) scattered 10 hits, one of them to .084-hitting Colon, but was hurt only by Michael Cuddyer’s eighth homer leading off the sixth. The 36-year-old right-hander is 4-1 with a 1.63 ERA his last seven starts, working seven or more innings in all but one of them.
Cuddyer had three hits and Ruben Tejada added an RBI double in the eighth for New York. Cuddyer has five career homers against Lackey, his most against any pitcher.
Colon got a visit from pitching coach Dan Warthen after facing just seven hitters and already down 3-0. He’s lost his last four decisions, posting a 6.18 ERA in that span, although he allowed two earned runs in 13 innings his last two starts prior to the break.
“This year they’ve been lucky, they’ve been good,” Colon said. “I was lucky enough last year to beat them twice and this year they beat me twice.”
The Mets have homered in six straight games, scoring 17 of their 19 runs via the long ball.
Mets: Cuddyer says he’ll probably have to deal with a left knee bone bruise the rest of the season.
Cardinals: LHP Jaime Garcia (groin) and RHP Jordan Walden (bicep) threw side sessions.
Mets: Jonathon Niese (5-8, 3.61) has won his last two starts and held left-handed hitters to one hit in 15 at-bats his last three. The Cardinals’ Mark Reynolds is 6 for 12 with two homers against Niese.
Cardinals: Rookie lefty Tim Cooney (0-0, 4.34) makes his fifth career start seeking his first decision.
IN THE HOUSE
WWE wrestler Randy Orton, in town for an event Sunday night, met with Cardinals players on the field during batting practice.
Heyward also had five hits Sept. 26, 2013, against the Phillies while with Atlanta. … Grichuk also had two homers June 20 at Philadelphia. … Matt Adams was the last Cardinals player to drive in six runs June 23, 2014, at Colorado.
NEWTON, Iowa (AP) — Mason Mitchell won the ARCA Racing Series event Friday night on his home track, passing Kyle Weatherman in a one-lap overtime sprint to the finish at Iowa Speedway.
Mitchell, from West Des Moines, took the lead on the inside in his own Mason Mitchell Motorsports Chevrolet and held on for first victory of the season and second in the stock-car series.
Minutes earlier in a two-lap green-white-checker attempt on the 0.875-mile track, Weatherman got a jump on the outside in his Cunningham Motorsports entry and appeared to be headed to victory until another caution forced the final one-lap shootout.
“This is unbelievable,” Mitchell said. “This was the whole reason we came to this race. These guys worked too hard to come home second. I didn’t care how much damage this car had, I wanted that checkered flag.”
Mitchell, the defending series champion, also won last year at Chicagoland Speedway.
The 17-year-old Weatherman, from Wentzville, Missouri, finished second. He raced to his first series victory in May on the road course in Millville, New Jersey.
Tom Hessert was third, and Austin Cindric fourth – both driving for Cunningham Motorsports.
“It was a fun race,” Weatherman said. “Congratulations to him. They obviously knew Cunningham Motorsports was here. It’s unfortunate one of us didn’t take the trophy home.”
Matt Tifft was fifth, followed by Austin Wayne Self, Blake Jones, points leader Grant Enfinger, Todd Gilliland and David Levine.
There were nine extra laps in the race scheduled for 150 laps. There were nine cautions for 56 laps.
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Mets manager Terry Collins was ejected in the top of the seventh Friday night against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Collins sprinted from the dugout after getting tossed by plate umpire Chad Fairchild with Lucas Duda at the plate leading off the seventh with the Cardinals up 2-1. He argued his case nose-to-nose with Fairchild before leaving.
by RB Fallstrom, AP
(St. Louis) (AP) – Bruised and battle-tested, the St. Louis Cardinals watched their division lead dwindle to 2 1/2 games entering the All-Star break.
They still have the best record and stingiest staff in the major leagues – and hopes of some reinforcements.
The Cardinals anticipate getting Matt Holliday back from the 15-day disabled list, too, just in time for their return series against the New York Mets at home beginning Friday.
“I think guys don’t buy into the fact that we can’t do something,” said manager Mike Matheny, who has presided over a strong body of work by an ensemble featuring multiple rookies and other temporary fixes. “There’s going to be times during the season you’re going to lose significant pieces.”
The Cardinals are 56-33 despite injuries to ace Adam Wainwright, Matt Adams, Jon Jay, Jordan Walden, Marco Gonzales and Holliday, out since early June with a quadriceps injury.
Through great times, when the NL Central lead was nine games, and lean days, Matheny has been steadfast in ignoring the won-loss record and demanding daily commitment.
“It comes down to `What am I going to do right now? Am I going to be able to do my part, do my piece?'” he said. “It doesn’t matter who is here or not here.”
Things to watch for the rest of the way with the Cardinals:
The stingiest pitching staff in the majors is by far the biggest reason the Cardinals, who have been to the NL Championship Series or better a franchise-best four straight seasons, have a good shot to keep that run going. They have a 2.71 ERA, best at the break in the majors since the 1981 Astros posted a 2.81 ERA, according to STATS. They landed three pitchers on the All-Star team: 10-game winners Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha, plus closer Trevor Rosenthal.
Wacha, Lance Lynn, Martinez, John Lackey and Jaime Garcia have a collective 2.84 ERA, the best pre-break showing by the franchise since 1968 when Bob Gibson set a major-league record with a 1.12 ERA.
Holliday’s return to the No. 3 slot could be a key for a lineup that’s underachieved much of the time scoring three or fewer runs nearly half of the time. He’s a proven run-producer, one of three active players with 1,000 career RBIs and a .300 batting average.
All-Stars Jhonny Peralta and Yadier Molina have been two-way standouts at shortstop and catcher, but the Cardinals could use more production from Matt Carpenter, Jason Heyward and the streaky Mark Reynolds. Carpenter is back at leadoff after struggling batting second, which figures to help, and Heyward has picked it up after a slow start.
Matheny’s strategy seems to be keeping the pressure off the bats.
“Our pitching sets the tone,” he said. Guys have been doing a nice job of keeping us in games all the way through, the bullpen has done a nice job of finishing it up. Finding a way to win has almost been like a theme for our club.”
FILL THE BLANKS
Randal Grichuk, once billed as an add-on in the swap of David Freese to the Angels for Peter Bourjos, has thrived with regular duty in left field in Holliday’s absence with seven homers and 26 RBIs in 191 at-bats. The ball jumps off his bat. Reynolds and a handful of rookies have made Adams’ likely season-ending quad injury in May less of a blow. Kevin Siegrist and Miguel Socolovich have stepped up in place of Walden in the set-up role.
Garcia’s contribution is a luxury coming off career-threatening thoracic outlet surgery for nerve issues that cost him much of the previous two seasons. In seven starts, he’s 3-3 with a 1.69 ERA, and he could return from a groin injury this weekend. Wacha shows no signs of the stress reaction to his pitching shoulder that cost him most of the second half of last season.
The success story begins at Busch Stadium, where they’re 31-11 for a major league-best .738 winning percentage, spurred by capacity crowds most games and a 2.31 staff ERA. Before the break, they won 11 of 14 home series.
by David Brandt, AP
HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — Missouri has been one of the Southeastern Conference’s best teams over the past two seasons, winning back-to-back Eastern Division titles and 23 total games.
But somehow, the Tigers often remain an afterthought in the conference they’ve called home for three years.
Veteran coach Gary Pinkel said Wednesday that he isn’t particularly concerned with how the rest of the league views his program. Players say they’ve become almost used to being underestimated.
“We are going to be ready,” quarterback Maty Mauk said. “It’s not even a respect thing anymore. … We are going to be disrespected. We are going to be on the bottom of everybody’s polls, and it’s something we can’t control. So we aren’t even going to worry about it.”
Missouri returns 12 starters from last year’s team that won the East then lost to Alabama in the league title game. Mauk has a 14-4 record as a starter and will have an experienced offensive line in front of him. Senior Russell Hansbrough is also back after running for 1,084 yards last season.
Mauk and the Tigers specialized in winning ugly last year, ranking in the middle to bottom of the SEC in several offensive categories. Mauk threw for 2,648 yards, 25 touchdowns and 13 interceptions but completed a mediocre 53 percent of his pass attempts. He also ran for 373 yards and two TDs.
Pinkel said he needs his quarterback to be more consistent if the Tigers are going to have a shot at a third division title. Missouri ranked 11th out of 14 SEC teams last season in passing efficiency and 13th in total offense.
“Last year, I had my ups and downs,” Mauk said. “We won, but sometimes it was sloppy, and I don’t want it to be sloppy. The main thing is that I don’t want to just talk about it; I want to go out there and do it. I have to improve on accuracy.”
The Tigers will also have to find a way to replace defensive stars Markus Golden and Shane Ray, who are now in the NFL after combining for a remarkable 42 1/2 tackles for a loss last season.
Missouri expects to lean more on the secondary for production, especially veteran cornerbacks Aarion Penton and Kenya Dennis.
“We have a lot more experience than we usually have back there,” Dennis said. “We have chemistry. We’ve played together a lot. We’ve seen a lot of reps together in practice. I feel like that’s something the defensive line can look to and lean on.”
by Dave Skretta, AP Sports
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — On a crisp, cool night last October, John Schuerholz walked through the gates of Kauffman Stadium. Every seat was full, bunting hung proudly from the railings. There was a buzz.
It was all so familiar.
“That’s what we used to have all the time,” he told The Associated Press, reflecting on the Royals’ improbable run to the World Series. “To see that back, and the banners over the plaza and all over the town, it was heartwarming. It really was.”
Kansas City had once again become a baseball town.
And if anybody thought that it was a fluke, a lucky run to a memorable autumn climax, the Royals have done enough to prove them wrong: Seven players chosen to this week’s All-Star Game, a big lead in the AL Central, some of the best young talent in the game in their clubhouse.
“I’m happy for the organization,” said Schuerholz, who was part of the initial front office when the franchise began in the late 1960s, then built another dynasty with the Atlanta Braves, where he still serves as the team’s president.
“They deserve what they have,” he said, “but it took a lot of work to get there.”
That work fell on the shoulders of Dayton Moore, one of Schuerholz’s top lieutenants in Atlanta. He turned down other general manager openings, but the job in Kansas City resonated with Moore, who grew up in Wichita and rooted for the Royals as a kid.
Over most of a decade, he tirelessly rebuilt their farm system. He poured money into scouting and player development. He established academies in the Caribbean and pushed boundaries of the status quo in search of players – retreads, hot prospects and virtual unknowns.
None of that has changed with their recent success, either.
The frugal franchise could not afford to keep staff ace James Shields when he hit free agency, so they allowed him to sign in San Diego. Moore then signed Edinson Volquez, Chris Young and Kris Medlen to serve as replacements. None of them made headlines nationally – the signings were met with a collective, `Meh’ – but they have far exceeded expectations.
Volquez has been the most dependable starter in the Kansas City rotation. Young has been perhaps the best. And Medlen is coming off his second Tommy John surgery but could give Kansas City a big second-half boost if he is even a fraction of the pitcher he once was.
That’s just the starting rotation, too.
Designated hitter Billy Butler became too expensive, so Moore signed Kendrys Morales, who has out-played Butler in every way. Paulo Orlando may not be well known, but he has helped Kansas City weather injuries and suspensions – including the latest, a potentially season-ending groin injury to star outfielder Alex Gordon.
“I’m not really smart. I’m not. But I’m a believer in players,” Moore explained. “We knew those guys are winners. I can’t predict what their numbers will be, but everyone we bring in, we expect them to help us win.”
Therein lies perhaps the biggest change in Kansas City: Winning is expected.
No longer do fans turn up to waste away a lazy summer evening. No longer do they count the days until Arrowhead Stadium comes alive across the parking lot with the start of the NFL season.
“I’ll say I never dreamt of this. You just do everything you can each and every day to improve your organization,” Moore said. “But then again, in our business, accomplishments have no bearing on future success.”
That is why Moore hardly reveled in last year’s success. Even during the World Series, he was tied up most days in meetings, breaking down his roster and potential acquisitions.
In that respect, Moore is a lot like his manager.
“It doesn’t really matter what we’ve done,” said Ned Yost, who served as the AL’s All-Star manager. “You’ve just got to keep your head down and keep plodding along.”
Many thought the Royals would regress this season, that such a young team devoid of big-name, big-money talent would fold. But so far, they are still in the hunt, their eye on defending their AL pennant.
If they can do it, you can bet Schuerholz will be pleased.
“There’s a lot of people in this world that think they’re baseball experts, whether they’ve worked a day in it or not,” he said. “What they’ve done in Kansas City is prove many wrong.”
by Dave Skretta, AP Sports
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs spoke with representatives for Justin Houston about an extension before last season. When they were unable to reach a pact, the defensive star made a big gamble by playing out the final year of his rookie contract.
The Chiefs rewarded their standout pass rusher handsomely on Wednesday. The team and Houston agreed to a six-year, $101 million contract just hours before the deadline for a long-term deal, the culmination of long negotiation that made the All-Pro the highest-paid linebacker in NFL history.
“I just had to make sure I took care of what I needed on the field,” said Houston, who left the negotiations in the hands of his agent, Joel Segal.
“Once you get paid,” Houston added, “it’s not like you won the lottery. You still have work to do. You can still get better each and every day, so that’s my goal.”
But in some ways, Houston did win the lottery. His massive new deal includes $52.5 million guaranteed, a person familiar with the terms told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because terms were not disclosed by the team.
That makes Houston’s contract the richest in franchise history, too. The only defensive player to sign a larger deal is defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who agreed to a six-year, $114 million pact with the Miami Dolphins earlier this year.
“In situations like this, you have to have a degree of patience,” Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said. “What’s good is it kicks off a very positive attitude for training camp.”
The big deal is the payoff for a big season: Houston broke Derrick Thomas’s franchise record with 22 sacks. He had four alone in a dynamic season-ending game against San Diego, leaving him a half-sack short of the NFL’s single-season record set by the Giants’ Michael Strahan.
Those gaudy totals sent Houston to his third consecutive Pro Bowl and earned him first-team All-Pro honors for the first time in his four-year career.
Still, the sides continued to make slow progress when the Chiefs were forced to use the franchise tag on Houston. If he signed the tender, he would have played this season on a one-year deal worth about $13.1 million, and they would have been in the same predicament next season.
So with the deadline approaching on a long-term deal, negotiations finally picked up. Segal met with the Chiefs on Tuesday, and Houston soon got a phone call to fly to Kansas City.
“I knew they weren’t going to fly me out here for nothing,” he said.
Perhaps the most remarkable part of the negotiations? How quiet they were. There were no leaks and no posturing, despite the high stakes.
“You just have to be consistent day in and day out, and kind of peck away, and make sure communication is ongoing,” Dorsey said. “Joel did a great job as well in this thing.”
Houston was considered one of the top linebackers in the draft coming out of Georgia, but a failed test for marijuana at the scouting combine caused his stock to slide. The Chiefs wound up taking him in the third round, in retrospect a massive bargain – or downright steal.
He has only made roughly $3 million over the course of his rookie contract. For that small price, Kansas City got 200 tackles, 48 1/2 sacks and five fumble recoveries.
Houston has also grown into one of the leaders in the locker room, helping keep things together when a rash of injuries struck last season. Despite losing linebacker Derrick Johnson and tackle Mike DeVito in the opener, the Chiefs still had one of the AFC’s top defenses.
Houston skipped the Chiefs’ entire offseason program, including their mandatory minicamp, rather than signing his franchise tender. But all along, coach Andy Reid expressed optimism that the sides would reach an agreement before the start of the season.
Reid also wasn’t concerned about the missed workouts.
“I think he’s working out, absolutely,” Reid said at the end of offseason work. “That’s just him by nature, so he’s not going to let things slide on his side.”
Fellow linebacker Tamba Hali, who went through a similar negotiation with the Chiefs in 2011, said he had been in touch with Houston throughout the offseason.
“He’s working his tail off,” Hali said. “Like any player he wants to be here, but again, we know our league is a business and you have to allow that business to work itself out.”
Dorsey declined to address the specific terms of the contract, though its long-term nature means the Chiefs should receive some salary cap relief. That could come in handy with several others entering contract years, including Johnson and cornerback Sean Smith.
“We’ve always said, if you can retain your own football players, great football players, that helps you sustain going forward,” Dorsey said. “I feel that we have enough flexibility to where we’ll be able to do more deals.”
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri forward Montaque Gill-Caesar is transferring after an injury-interrupted freshman season.
Coach Kim Anderson said Wednesday that the school would help Gill-Caesar, who would have been the school’s top returning scorer (9.1 points per game), in his efforts to relocate once the player completes his academic obligations. The player has not decided where to transfer.
Gill-Caesar scored in double figures in 13 of 27 games. He injured his back against Illinois and missed the first three SEC games, averaging 12.6 points pre-injury and 6.9 points post-injury.
Johnathan Williams III, the top scorer and rebounder last season, has transferred to Gonzaga.
by Ronald Blum, AP
CINCINNATI (AP) — Mike Trout flashed the skill that puts him at the front of baseball’s new generation, just moments after four of the all-time greats walked off the field.
Trout became the first player in 38 years to homer leading off an All-Star Game, then became the first player to take home the Midsummer Classic’s MVP award two years in row.
A new-look All-Star Game finished with the same old result. The AL beat the NL 6-3 Tuesday night and will open the World Series at home for the 10th time in 13 years.
“It’s obviously a humbling honor with the MVPs,” Trout said in his usual understated, aw-shucks manner.
After Trout completed a career All-Star cycle in just his fifth big league season, Prince Fielder delivered. He drove in two runs, sending Trout blazing home ahead of Joc Pederson’s throw with the run off Clayton Kershaw that put the AL ahead for good.
In an age of dominant pitching, Felix Hernandez, winner David Price, Zach Britton, Dellin Betances and Wade Davis took scoreless turns in the AL’s third win a row.
Playing on the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels, Trout could add an even bigger honor this fall — his first World Series ring.
“He can do anything that anybody can do on a baseball field,” AL manager Ned Yost said. “He can hit with power. He can run. He can drive the gap. He’s a great defender. He’s just special. When you look at Mike, you don’t look at a 23-year-old. You look at a guy that is one of the best baseball players on this planet.”
A season after the retirement of Derek Jeter dropped the curtain on the turn-of-century greats, Trout was among six starting position players under 25 — the most since 1965. At last year’s game in Minneapolis, he hit a tiebreaking triple and later a go-ahead double.
This time Trout sent Zack Greinke’s fourth pitch, a 94 mph fastball on the outer half of the plate, over the wall in right next to the visiting bullpen for an opposite-field homer.
Winner of his first season AL MVP award in 2014, the center fielder joined Willie Mays, Steve Garvey, Gary Carter and Cal Ripken, Jr. as the only two-time All-Star MVPs.
Stars old and young gathered in one of baseball’s most traditional towns. The Reds became baseball’s first professional team in 1869, and players wore caps with horizontal stripes in an attempt at a 19th century feel.
Pete Rose, Cincinnati’s hometown hero and baseball’s banned career hits leader, was given an 80-second ovation when he walked onto the field before the game to join Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Barry Larkin, elected by fans as the Reds’ greatest players. Wearing a red jacket and tie and walking stiffly, the now 74-year-old Charlie Hustle was applauded as soon as his image appeared on the video boards, even before he emerged from the AL dugout.
And in the first All-Star Game at Great American Ballpark, which opened in 2003, fans got to see some great ballplayers.
Bench, changed into a blue jacket, returned with Hank Aaron, Mays and Sandy Koufax, voted baseball’s great living players by fans as part of the promotion. In a sentimental yet stunning reminder of generational change, Aaron, 81, and Morgan, 71, needed canes to reach the infield, and Mays, 84, was aided on and off the field by an assistant.
“Growing up, I didn’t get to see them play that much,” Trout said. “But looking up, seeing highlights of all the Hall of Famers, it’s something I really look forward to looking at and I’m learning more about them, just how great they played in every respect of the game.”
Above the field, new Commissioner Rob Manfred watched from a luxury suite, the first All-Star Game not presided over by Bud Selig since 1992.
Many players of the new generation love bling in a manner that puzzles the old guard: Posey wore a gold-colored helmet behind the plate, looking a bit like the Great Gazoo or a Praetorian Guard, accessorizing with a chest protector, shin guards and cleats all with gold-colored trim. Baltimore’s Adam Jones was shod in bright orange cleats, and Kansas City’s Lorenzo Cain and Washington’s Bryce Harper donned golden spikes.
Trout, a Generation Y star with a baby boomer work ethic, completed a unique cycle on a clear evening that followed a heavy afternoon downpour.
He singled in his All-Star debut in 2012, doubled to open 2013 game and tripled in the first inning last year. He was just the ninth player to hit for an All-Star cycle in his entire career, joining an illustrious list that includes Hall of Famers Ted Williams, Roberto Clemente, Ernie Banks, George Brett, Mike Schmidt and Mays. Fielder later became the 10th.
No one had homered leading off an All-Star Game since 1977 at old Yankee Stadium, when Morgan connected off Jim Palmer. Greinke, coming off five scoreless outings, had not allowed a run since June 13.
“It’s not easy,” Greinke said of pitching to Trout. “You’ve got like a 2-inch window up in the zone. If you throw it higher than that, he takes it. If you throw it lower, he does what he did.”
Fielder and Lorenzo Cain had run-scoring hits in the fifth against Kershaw, the reigning NL MVP, that put the AL ahead 3-1.
Manny Machado, at 23 another of the sport’s fresh faces, hit a double off the right-field wall against Francisco Rodriguez in the seventh and scored on Fielder’s sacrifice fly. And Brian Dozier, the last player added to the game as an injury replacement, hit a solo home run off Mark Melancon in the eighth.
NL runs came home on Jhonny Peralta’s RBI single in the second, Andrew McCutchen’s homer off Chris Archer in the sixth and Brandon Crawford’s sacrifice fly in the ninth.
NL manager Bruce Bochy thought ahead to some future ceremony involving Trout, perhaps at an All-Star Game or World Series, perhaps at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
“He’s going to be standing there, I think, with the guys we saw tonight,” Bochy said.
THE OLD RIVALRY
The AL is 21-6-1 in the last 28 games, losing three straight from 1994-96 and 2010-12. The NL leads the matchup 43-41-2.
Jacob deGrom of the Mets, the NL Rookie of the Year, struck out Stephen Vogt, Jason Kipnis and Jose Iglesias on 10 pitches in the sixth, reaching 98 mph. … Reds closer Aroldis Chapman threw 12 of 14 pitches at 100 mph or more in the ninth, reaching 103 mph and striking out the side. NL pitchers struck out 15.
by Joe Kay, AP
CINCINNATI (AP) — Pete Rose came home for the All-Star Game and made a rare on-field appearance in the place where he’s still treated like a king.
The hits king was voted one of Cincinnati’s Franchise Four players as part of a Major League Baseball promotion. Rose and Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Barry Larkin and Joe Morgan were introduced on the field at Great American Ball Park before the All-Star Game on Tuesday night.
The 74-year-old Rose was last out of the AL dugout. Fans started chanting “Pete! Pete!” when they saw him reach the top step, wearing a red jacket and tie.
He always gets a good reception in his hometown. This one was a bit more subdued than usual — home run derby champion Todd Frazier got a more raucous cheer, and the boos for Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina were louder, as well.
Even so, Rose acknowledged it was emotional.
“The only bad thing about being out there: I didn’t get no at-bats,” Rose told reporters afterward. “I wish I had gotten a couple of at-bats. The fans were wonderful.
“I’ve been going through this love affair for 30 years. The fans are great.”
What’s next for Rose? He still has no idea.
Rose was banned for betting on baseball in 1989 and has a longstanding application for reinstatement pending. Commissioner Rob Manfred said on Tuesday that he hasn’t yet scheduled a meeting with Rose to discuss it.
Manfred, who replaced Bud Selig in January, said he’s reviewing material developed in the various investigations of Rose’s gambling.
“I frankly was surprised at how much material there was to be reviewed,” Manfred said. “We’re taking a fresh look at all of that. I remain committed to the idea that Mr. Rose deserves an opportunity to tell me in whatever format he feels most comfortable, whatever he wants me to know about the issues. And I’m sure there will be an in-person meeting.”
Rose got to meet Manfred for the first time as he waited to go on the field.
“I’ve never talked about a guy so much I’ve never met,” Rose said.
Rose also has talked to Tony Clark, head of the players’ union, even though it has no role in his case. Clark said on Tuesday that the whole situation is disappointing.
“Just disheartened that the hit king finds himself in a place where every time you say his name, it’s tied to gambling and the challenges or the situation that has dictated the 25, 26 years away from the game,” Clark said.
Rose is in his first season as a Fox Sports analyst. He also makes frequent public appearances, keeping a high profile during his exile from the game.
It’s led to a lot of choose-your-words-carefully moments in Cincinnati this week. Various baseball figures, including NL manager Bruce Bochy, were diplomatic when asked their thoughts about Rose’s appearance in his hometown.
Last week, former major league pitcher Curt Schilling expressed disappointment over how Rose seems to overshadow some of baseball’s biggest moments.
He’s had a few on-field appearances at major league parks since his ban. For example, baseball gave permission for him to go on the Great American field on Sept. 11, 2010, on the 25th anniversary of his record-setting hit 4,192 at old Riverfront Stadium. He stomped on first base.
His most notable on-field appearance came in Atlanta before a World Series game in 1999, when he was honored as part of baseball’s All-Century team. During that ceremony, reporter Jim Gray asked him about his gambling, leading to some awkward moments.
No surprise questions for Rose on Tuesday at the ballpark located on Pete Rose Way — not Johnny Bench Boulevard, not Tony Perez Place, not Joe Morgan Street. It’s named for Rose.
“It was nice and loud but when Pete went out there, the decibels went up a whole bunch and we expected that,” Larkin said. “Johnny was saying he was glad Pete went last. It was fantastic.”
Frazier was looking forward to seeing Rose get a warm reception.
“It’s going to be awesome, knowing these fans and how true they are to the game and how much they love Pete Rose,” said Frazier, who won the Home Run Derby on Tuesday night. “If you want to get into an argument with somebody from Cincinnati, tell them that you don’t love Pete Rose. It’s like saying something about your dad.”
Even though he’s never played in Great American, his fingerprints are all over the ballpark. Fans in Rose jerseys dotted the stands on Tuesday. The team’s adjacent Hall of Fame includes Rose prominently in the displays.
A rose garden just outside the ballpark marks the spot where his record-breaking hit landed at old Riverfront Stadium.