One night only
Combative Rose fights back on national TV
Posted: Sunday October 24, 1999 11:17 PM
Pete Rose waves to the fans as he is introduced as a member of the All-Century Team. AP
ATLANTA (AP) -- Pete Rose was back in baseball for the first time in 10 years, his lifetime ban lifted for a single night.
As a member of the All-Century team, "Charlie Hustle" was center stage at Turner Field before Game 2 of the World Series on Sunday, getting the loudest and longest ovation of them all. His was a 55-second cheer, 15 seconds longer than the welcome given Hank Aaron, the city's own career home runs leader.
Throughout the day, Rose defiantly repeated denials that he bet on baseball, and even told a national television audience that he never would admit to "something that didn't happen."
Grinning widely, Rose doffed his Cincinnati Reds cap twice, then turned and waved to all areas of the ballpark. After the national anthem, he spoke with Ted Williams as the game's greats walked off the podium, then posed for a photo by the pitcher's mound as Aaron threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
"I appreciate the ovation. I appreciate the American fans' voting me on the All-Century team," he said, going on to shake hands with Paul O'Neill and others near the Yankees' dugout.
In a live TV interview following the ceremony, NBC reporter Jim Gray repeatedly asked Rose why he wouldn't admit to betting on baseball.
"I'm surprised you're bombarding me with this, I'm here to do an interview with you," Rose said during the riveting segment. "You're bringing up something that happened 10 years ago."
Gray, refusing to change the subject, said the commissioner's office had strong evidence that Rose bet on baseball.
"Show it to me, where is it?" Rose asked.
At one point, Rose tried to get Gray off the subject, saying: "I'm sure everyone's tired of hearing about that. It's too festive a night to worry about it. I'm just a small part of a big deal tonight."
Two hours earlier, as Rose faced reporters during a 25-minute news conference, his 15-year-old son Tyler sitting beside him wearing a Yankees cap, baseball's career hits leader blurted out his feelings:
"I mean, Charles Manson gets a hearing every year, doesn't he?" Rose said. "This kid thinks his dad's a monster."
When he went to see his other son, Pete Jr., play in Cincinnati in 1997, he said he sat next to owner Marge Schott and felt like a pariah.
"They're paranoid about me being at the game," Rose said. "Can you park here? Can you go into the entrance? Can you sit here? Can you buy a hot dog? A Diet Coke? They're all scared they're going to lose their jobs.
"That's the first time in my life I ever bought four tickets to a baseball game. I had to buy the tickets. I had to buy the tickets the next night to sit up in her box. I was always on the pass list. My son couldn't leave me passes."
Rose is balding now, the closely cropped hair noticeably thinner, the creases on his face deeper. He looked dapper in a crisp white shirt, blue jacket, hip tie and pocket square.
But even at 58, Rose still longs to put on a uniform and return to the game he loves.
"I'm the best ambassador baseball has," he said. "I'll be talking about baseball tomorrow in Florida, Wednesday in Chicago, Saturday back in Florida, Sunday in Los Angeles, because my name in synonymous with the game."
He named some other in the game who've been given second chances: Dwight Gooden, Steve Howe, George Steinbrenner and Leon Durham.
"I just think somewhere down the line, somebody's going to give me a second chance," he said. "I won't need a third. We all know that baseball has a tendency to give people more than one chance."
Rose applied for reinstatement in September 1997 and doesn't understand why commissioner Bud Selig hasn't formally decided on his request. As he spoke, Selig's personal lawyer stood off to the side behind a thick black curtain, listening.
The commissioner didn't come near him during the ceremony, but Rose certainly was given the royal treatment. Baseball's head of security, Kevin Hallinan, one of the men who gathered the evidence on gambling that got Rose thrown out of the game, accompanied him in and out of the news conference.
Rose had missed the formal news conference with the other living members of the All-Century team. He was at Bally's Park Place Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, N.J., with other members of the 3,000-hit club, signing baseballs for $40, caps for $60 and bats for $75.
"Obviously, you can't have a 3,000-hit show if I'm not there," he said.
Others didn't share his opinion.
"It's disappointing that he's there," said Nolan Ryan, one of nine pitchers on the All-Century team. "It's something you've got to deal with. I think the fans look at it differently."
If nothing else, Rose remained as self-obsessed as ever, reciting many of his career statistics off the top of his head. And not just the 4,256 hits in a 24-year career ending in 1986, more than any other player in baseball history. Little detailed ones, like how he got 77 hits (actually 64) off former Brave Phil Niekro.
"He had to be on the team," said former Reds teammate Johnny Bench, one of two catchers elected.
The 16-time All-Star and three-time batting champion, then the manager of the Reds, accepted a lifetime ban from baseball on Aug. 23, 1989, following an investigation of his gambling by then-commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti. Despite what baseball concluded was overwhelming evidence, Rose has denied he ever bet on his sport.
"I would do anything in my power to change what has happened to me in the last 10 years," Rose said. "But I can't change what has happened. You know how I feel. You know I'm sorry."
While he's banned, Rose remains ineligible for the Hall of Fame. He said a compromise in which he'd become eligible for the Hall but ineligible to work for a team wouldn't make him happy.
Like most others, the All-Century team members had mixed feelings.
"I have no problem with Pete being on the team," Brooks Robinson said. "I have a problem with the gambling part and putting him in the Hall of Fame. That's the worst thing you can do. It undermines the whole integrity of the game."
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