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30 DAYS
Steve Wulf
May 09, 1988
A call against his team set Reds manager Pete Rose on fire. After some finger pointing and poking, Rose bumped umpire Dave Pallone. On Monday, the National League president, Bart Giamatti (right), punished Rose with the longest suspension in 41 years
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May 09, 1988

30 Days

A call against his team set Reds manager Pete Rose on fire. After some finger pointing and poking, Rose bumped umpire Dave Pallone. On Monday, the National League president, Bart Giamatti (right), punished Rose with the longest suspension in 41 years

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In the meantime, the crowd of 41,032 became incensed. Fans began throwing all manner of things on the field: baseballs, golf balls, coins and at least one transistor radio. When a roll of toilet paper landed near Pallone, Reds radio announcer Marty Brennaman remarked about the appropriateness of the missile. His partner, Joe Nuxhall, called Pallone a "scab" and a "liar" on the air. Blaming them for "inciting the unacceptable behavior of some of the fans," Giamatti summoned the two broadcasters to a meeting in New York City on Tuesday.

During the 14 minutes of madness that followed Rose's ejection, Cincinnati owner Marge Schott sat in her box near the Reds dugout, cradling her face in her hands in remorse. For his own safety, Pallone left the field, leaving three umpires to finish the game, which the Mets won 6-5 after the Reds went quietly in the ninth. "It was as unruly a crowd as I have ever seen," said second base umpire and crew chief John Kibler, a 23-year veteran and a former New York State policeman. "I was afraid when I went to first base [to replace Pallone]."

After the game Rose pressed two points—that Pallone was much too slow making the call and that Robinson interfered with Esasky. "I don't understand why an umpire needs four seconds to make a call," said Rose. "Molly Putz could have scored from second base. Howard Johnson runs good, but he's not the wind. Plus, if Nick goes to make the throw to the plate, he hits the coach. What's he doing on the field?"

Rose was wrong on both counts. First, Pallone did not take four seconds, though he did take about three, which is still a long time. Second, although Robinson was in fair territory, he didn't interfere with Esasky, who was too intent on arguing to notice Johnson steaming home. Anyway, Johnson said he ran home because catcher Lloyd McClendon had wandered up the first base line and nobody was covering the plate. Still, Pallone might have gotten out of the jam if he had sent Johnson back to third on the grounds that Robinson crossed into fair territory before the play had ended.

However, the run stood, and all hell broke loose. Later Rose said he was sorry he bumped Pallone, but, hey, the umpire started it. Rose also said he could not condemn the crowd for throwing things. Sitting behind the desk in his office, he raised his right index finger to a red mark the size of a quarter just below his left eye. "Get that on camera," he said to a group of TV cameramen. "Get a picture of that. Zoom in on that."

The next day Pallone worked behind home plate and even called two balks on the Reds without incident, although the Mets took the crowd out of the game early en route to an 11-0 win. Rose apologized again. "I pushed him and I was wrong," said Rose. "But if he doesn't touch me, I don't touch him. I'd say it would be fair to suspend both of us."

There was no word on Monday whether Pallone would be disciplined. "That's a private matter," said Giamatti. But if Giamatti is to wield a heavy sword, it should cut both ways. In fact, Pallone has had problems with the Reds, particularly in fielder Dave Concepcion, since 1983 when, Pallone says, Concepcion spit on him. "I don't respect him now, I'll never respect him until the day he retires, and I probably won't respect him even then," Pallone told Edvins Beitiks of the San Francisco Examiner last August. "There are films of me running after him, players pulling me back. If they hadn't, I probably would've hit him, probably would have been thrown out of the league.... I've got him thinking every game that I'm going after him. Mind over matter."

Pallone, who has had a history of controversy since he broke into the majors in 1979 as a replacement during the umpires' strike, threw Concepcion out of a game last September. Giamatti says he is aware of "a history of unhappiness between the two of them." But, he says, "I am satisfied that Mr. Pallone is an objective and professional person."

Giamatti acted with the best intentions on Monday, but he should have been at least as understanding of Rose as he was of Pallone. Rose has brought so much joy and energy to the game, and now it looks as if he'll have to sit out one fifth of the remaining season. Surely his reputation must be good for something.

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