By Cliff Radel
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Pete Rose passed on the invitation to be the grand marshal of history's biggest Opening Day parade. So former teammate Tom Browning - the only Reds pitcher to hurl a perfect game - will pinch-hit for baseball's banned hit king. There will still be a Pete Rose presence in Monday's 84th Annual Findlay Market Opening Day Parade.
"We're going to hold a Pete Rose look-alike contest," said Neil Luken, a Findlay merchant and parade chairman.
The winner gets two tickets to the Opening Day game and a place of honor in the parade, along with a record 205 entries, including 25 floats, 15 marching bands and the Budweiser Clydesdales.
The contest will be held at noon Saturday outside Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine. That's where an additional four Opening Day tickets will be raffled off at 4 p.m.
Look-alike contestants are encouraged but not required to appear in costume.
"We won't be asking anyone to do a head-first slide," said Bob Pickford, executive director of the Corporation for Findlay Market. "But knowing Pete's fans, I wouldn't be surprised if someone didn't try to do one."
The parade kicks off at noon, 45 minutes later than normal, to accommodate the 4:10 p.m. first pitch at Great American Ball Park.
Rose's look-alike will be seen by more people than can fit in the ballpark. The Reds' new home seats 42,263. An even bigger parade crowd than last year's 60,000 is expected.
Planned long before war broke out in Iraq, the parade has no specific patriotic theme. "As always, we will have color guards and veterans carrying flags," Luken said. "We asked everyone to celebrate either Cincinnati, Findlay Market or the Reds. We don't want anyone coming in with an antiwar or pro-war agenda."
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