NOW 66, Pete Rose is a quintessential fallen hero, one who, if he hasn't quite sold his soul, seems to have tried to sell just about everything else. On his website you can buy a personalized ball inscribed with I'M SORRY I BET ON BASEBALL. PETE ROSE for $350. Rose's banishment from the game for gambling has obscured one of the greatest baseball careers ever. The Hit King (4,256 career base hits; a .303 batting average) infected his teammates and those watching with his indefatigably hard play, his voracious love of the game. Rose landed on eight SI covers, and through them we see the arc of an all-too-mortal immortal.
MAY 27, 1968
"The first time," recalls Rose, then 27 and en route to batting a National League--high .335 for the Reds. He was in his second year as an outfielder after playing four seasons at second base. "It took me five years to get on the cover, but I was so happy when I saw it. One of the highlights of my career."
APRIL 8, 1974
"My favorite cover. The picture was taken after Game 3 of the 1973 NLCS when I got into that fight with Bud Harrelson." Rose and Harrelson, the Mets' shortstop, brawled after Rose barreled into second to break up a double play. "I was still thinking about our fight as I tried to smile for the camera."
DEC. 22, 1975
Two months after batting .370 and earning MVP honors in the Reds' dramatic seven-game World Series win over the Red Sox, Rose was named SI's Sportsman of the Year. "This picture was taken at 8:30 in the morning in a hotel in downtown Cincinnati," says Rose, who had switched to third base that year to improve the Reds' lineup. "They wanted to make the room look like a ticker-tape parade. I was so tired. If you look at my eyes, it looks like I'm still asleep. But what an honor! In those days you needed things like this because that's how you negotiated your contract."
JULY 19, 1982
Rose recalls 1982 as "one of my best seasons with the Phillies"—he was captain of the All-Star team and played all 162 games in his fourth of five years in Philadelphia. "We took this picture up in Montreal [site of the All-Star Game]. I think it was shot after batting practice. I was happy to be on the cover with Carl [Yastrzemski]."
MARCH 14, 1983
"This was a great time—[ex-Reds] Tony [Perez], Joe [Morgan] and I were reunited as Phillies. They took that picture at Carpenter Field in Clearwater, Florida, during spring training. They called us the Wheez Kids, but we did all right." Indeed, the Phillies won the NL pennant before losing to Baltimore in the World Series.
AUG. 27, 1984
"I got to go back to Cincinnati," says Rose, who was a player-manager for two years, then a manager only. "That was a great time in my career." The career came unglued in 1989 when Rose lost his job—he was 412--373 as manager—for what commissioner Bart Giamatti ruled were "acts which have stained the game."
APRIL 3, 1989
The investigation into Rose's gambling was intense, Rose recalls. As he prepared the Reds for the season, federal authorities were scrutinizing him and baseball announced a "full inquiry" into his situation. "UNDER SIEGE was right," says Rose. "But what are you going to do? I guess any publicity is better than no publicity."
JAN. 12, 2004
Rose, who for years had steadfastly denied gambling on baseball, finally came clean in an excerpt from his book, My Prison Without Bars. "I bet the Reds to win every time," he said in the magazine—and in that he has found some closure. "That was a nice last cover," Rose says, "finally getting everything off my chest."
ONLY AT SI.com To see any cover in SI history, go to SI.com/covers.