'The Kissing Bandit' reminisces on Pete Rose and her 19 arrests 50 years after MLB debut

Morganna "The Kissing Bandit" started her act in 1969, she said, and planted kisses on dozens of players including the Angels' Fred Lynn. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)
Morganna "The Kissing Bandit" started her act in 1969, she said, and planted kisses on dozens of players including the Angels' Fred Lynn. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)

It’s been 50 years since “The Kissing Bandit” stole smooches from some of baseball’s greats. She became so much a part of baseball she had her own bubblegum cards, peanuts and a display at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Morganna Cotrell retired in 2000 from rushing the field and kissing players on the cheek. Now 72, she granted a rare interview to USA Today for the 50th anniversary of her first “act” ahead of the World Series (which she said she will not be crashing).

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‘The Kissing Bandit’ started with Rose

Morganna told USA Today she first started the act in August 1969 (reports vary from 1969 to 1971) when she rushed the field at at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati and kissed Pete Rose on a “dirty double dare” from her friend. She continued the act, kissing at least 18 players in 15 years, the Spokane Chronicle reported in 1986.

She recalled that first for USA Today, explaining that all of the Reds players were looking at her and her girlfriends except Rose. From USA Today:

“I remember at the time he was doing commercials for ballpark franks. I ran up to him and said, ‘Pete, I buy your hot dogs.’ And he turned to me, and I remember exactly what he said, ‘You crazy blanking broad.’ But he used a big word, ‘Are you out of your blanking mind?’

“And then I gave him a kiss on the cheek and I ran off and that was about it for that romantic moment.’’

Rose reportedly found her the next day at a nightclub where she was performing as an exotic dancer and gave her roses in apology.

Morganna still gets fan mail and it reminds her of another moment she told USA Today about.

“That’s like when I kissed Pete Rose Jr. at a minor league game,’’ she said. “I said, ‘Tell you[r] Daddy, 'Hi and ‘I’ll try to hang in there and not get wrinkled before there’s a Pete Rose III.’ ”

“The Kissing Bandit” stole smooches from, among others, Don Mattingly, George Brett, Nolan Ryan and Cal Ripken, Jr. in her day. She expanded her reach to football, basketball and, somehow, hockey. Her act was last seen in 1999 and she has avoided most media requests since.

Will ‘The Kissing Bandit’ return?

Morganna will not join the trend and make a comeback. She said she suffered a cracked knee cap, broken tailbone and three cracked ribs while being apprehended by stadium security over the years. In total she was arrested 19 times, she said.

From USA Today:

“It was fun, but there’s a time and place for everything, I think. You know, sometimes the rent-a-cops get a little carried away. That’s just part of it. That and the jail is just part of it.’’

If she were to try it today, she’d likely be banned and face more serious repercussions than in the 1980s. She said she wants to “live to be 200 but not look over 100” and spends winters in Florida because her Chihuahua mix doesn’t like the cold and doesn’t like wearing sweaters. She was one of the only women to serve as part-owner of a baseball club in the 1980s when she briefly oversaw the Utica Blue Sox.

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