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Pete Rose’s acts of contrition come at a price

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I was running behind getting a Father’s Day gift for my beleaguered dad — beleaguered because he now realizes his three children have reached their full potential and we’re not talking presidential material here — so I figured I’d save time by buying something online.

Alas, when I went to the famed World Wide Web, I was stunned to see that 16 percent of all available online items were Pete Rose-branded merchandise.

Pete Rose collectibles, Pete Rose posters, Pete Rose autographs, Pete Rose memorabilia.

In fact, in 2009 — the most recent year for which figures are available — Pete Rose had a larger GNP than Puerto Rico.

Out of baseball involuntarily for 23 years now, Rose has maintained an income the old-fashioned way — by selling his name $39.99 at a time.

Actually, other than, say, the unsigned Pete Rose Montreal Expos Bobble Head ($8.99), most Pete Rose paraphernalia is going to cost you a whole lot more.

(By the way, in addition to his online retail onslaught, the all-time hits leader is also doing a 90-minute, one-man stage show billed as “An Evening With Pete Rose,” in which he tells stories, takes questions from the audience and reminisces. Sort of Garrison Keillor, with a bookie.)

From Charlie Hustle to Charlie Hustler: An American Success Story.

Autographed Pete Rose bat, $221.99.

Autographed Pete Rose baseball with “Big Red Machine” inscription, $107.25.

Autographed Pete Rose throwback jersey with “4256,” $176.12.

Autographed ticket from Pete Rose 4,192-hit game, $188.99.

Autographed Pete Rose Cincinnati Enquirer 4,192 front page, $149.99.

(Forget the mind-boggling glut of Pete Rose-autographed merchandise. Here’s the more mind-boggling reality: Rose had to autograph all this stuff. I mean, at this very moment, if he’s not snacking, sleeping or showering, I assume he must be signing something. If Rose had been born before John Hancock, the expression would be, “Put your Charlie Hustle here.”)

Unquestionably, the most intriguing Pete Rose commodity is the signed baseball with the inscription, “I’m Sorry I Bet On Baseball,” available on various sites from $144.99 to $265.86. But let’s be blunt here: Rose is not sorry he bet on baseball; he’s sorry betting on baseball got him banned from the game, and I guarantee you he’s even more sorry he lost when he bet on baseball.

However he truly feels, in a rather transparent bid to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Rose has shown a lot of belated contrition. Frankly, his “I’m Sorry I Bet On Baseball” world tour might carry a lot more weight if he weren’t literally selling the message on baseballs.

I’ll let others debate on whether Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. I’ll just say this: As long as you are banned from the game, it seems somewhat incongruous that you could receive the highest honor in the game.

Speaking of which, for $500 Rose will send you an autographed copy of the official document with which he was banished from Major League Baseball in 1989. This paperwork originally was signed by A. Bartlett Giamatti, Fay Vincent and Charlie Hustle himself and set off a generation of Pete Rose wares that prop up the world’s economy today.

You can get this item only at peterose.com, which is essentially a clearinghouse of Rose’s life; it appears to have a larger inventory than the old Sears Roebuck catalog. You can get his signed autobiography for $99.99, but why read about Pete when you can break bread with him? That’s right — dinner for four with Rose, in a Las Vegas steakhouse, goes for just $5,000!

(For that price, I’d order the porterhouse for two and a pitcher of Grey Goose, and I’d doggy-bag everything on the table.)

Anyway, I settled on the $8.99 bobble head for my dad — it occurred to me that his lackluster parenting might’ve had something to do with my lack of success — but I wholeheartedly recommend peterose.com for all your Pete Rose collectible needs. You cut out the middleman and we’re talking “FREE SHIPPING.”

Plus, they accept all credit cards and PayPal; apparently, Rose prefers your signature to his own.

Ask The Slouch

Q. Jim Nantz just got married on a golf course. Can I assume that’s the only place Couch Slouch hasn’t been married? (Tim Wagner; Indianapolis)

A. If I had wed on a golf course, to be realistic I would’ve held the ceremony in a sand trap.

Q. I thought I saw you in a mall in L.A. the other day and, surprisingly, you looked better in person than on TV. (Brian Hall; West Hollywood, Calif.)

A. I haven’t been in a mall since 1989 (Bergen Mall). Perhaps you saw George Clooney.

Q. Ronald McDonald is taking part in several public libraries’ summer reading programs. I didn’t know Ronald could read — didn’t he graduate from the University of Maryland? (Sean Leary; Richmond)

A. That’s a clown question, bro.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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