Pete Rose has again asked to be reinstated into the good graces of Major League Baseball and I think he should. You see, me and Pete…well, we go way back…back to the time he was tossed out of baseball for betting on his own team and other infractions that don’t include taking performance enhancing drugs or stealing signs.
So what’s this about me and Pete? Don’t ask him. He’ll have zero memory of me. I was just another reporter covering the whole saga of the investigation that led to his ban, but we did have some one-on-one time together that resulted in a good anecdote and an idiotic decision by a CNN producer in Atlanta.
Here’s how it went down. We were granted an exclusive with the man on the first night of his radio show on a Cincinnati station. We captured him taking calls on the air, and afterwards I would interview him. Cool. Right? Now, I couldn’t care less about his radio show. I had some questions about reports of alleged tax issues and other fun stuff like that.
So we set up in a separate studio where I would conduct the interview with both of us standing up near one of the walls. Remember that wall. I figured I’d soften him up with some fluff questions about his radio show and flattery that he sounded relaxed. “I’m always relaxed talkin’ about baseball,” he replied with a big smile.
That’s nice. I knew his smile would soon disappear. After a couple of those softballs I got to the point and asked him about a report in the Dayton newspaper about alleged tax irregularities. Smile now a frown. “I ain’t seen it,” he snapped. Me being the helpful reporter gave him a quick summary of the story while his PR person panicked and attempted to get our cameraman to stop rolling. He ignored her. I persisted but Pete was looking at me the way he eyed poor Cleveland Indians catcher Ray Fosse when he barreled into him to score the winning run in the 1970 All Star Game. In 2015 Fosse told the Denver Post he still felt the effects of that collision.
At that point Pete had had it with me and my line of questioning so he took his big, beefy right arm, placed it across my chest and slammed me into the wall..remember that wall? Then he walked out grumbling he had to record promos. His PR person was shaking and insisted I shouldn’t have asked those questions. Meanwhile, my cameraman also was upset because he thought the chances of getting an autographed photo of Pete for his son were out the window. But somehow, a few days later, a signed glossy arrived in the mail.
I really didn’t get much of an answer from Pete but I thought it was good video, which we fed into Atlanta. A young producer didn’t quite see it that way and the video never saw the light of day. Today, a clip like that would probably go viral since there’s an insatiable appetite among many Trump supporters for video of reporter abuse.
I ended up covering the whole damn saga. Here are original courtroom watercolors of Pete from one hearing in downtown Cincy.
Funny story. The artist was placed in the jury box since there was no jury. It was still pretty tight quarters and in the middle of the hearing the poor guy kicked over the container holding the water he used with his paints. The judge was not amused and paper towels were summarily summoned. Despite that unfortunate interruption, I thought the images of Pete came out very well. Afterwards we politely suggested he consider colored pencils.
I think Pete’s paid a fair price for his infractions. I’m not making excuses. He screwed up, but he’s paid a much higher price than others who cheated, affecting the outcome of games and were only fined and/or suspended. Pete made some bad decisions. Did his time, suffered the consequences. He never lost his love for the game and even on the outside looking in, he’s continued to be an ardent ambassador for the game of baseball.
Look, I don’t hold it against him for slamming me into the wall. That was a long time ago. Things happen…then you move on. So should baseball.
Opening Day at Tiger Stadium I’ve never attended an opening day as a spectator, but I do have some clear memories of a couple that I was compelled to cover as a correspondent for CNN. I remember them because one involved almost being beheaded by a ball thrown by a Cleveland Indian, and the second involved mayhem at the old Cincinnati Riverfront Stadium when I covered the banning of Pete Rose from baseball.
I was sent to Tiger Stadium for their home opener in 1995, which occurred only players suspended the strike that began the previous August, wiping out the end of the season and post-season. The fans were angry and tossed beer bottles, baseballs and other debris on the field.
Suspecting the fans would be pissed, I was sent to get some comments from Tigers players before the game. I walked up to giant Cecil Fielder who mumbled some gibberish only decipherable by a code breaker. As I attempted to get the slugger to form actual words, Indians outfield Kenny Lofton decided to take advantage of my vulnerable position and whizzed a ball by my noggin’ so close I saw Sparky Anderson’s life before my eyes. Lofton’s asshole move sparked a chuckle from Fielder who then mumbled something like “igotnuthintosay.” I only know that because a drunk guy in the front row listening to my attempt at an interview was annoyed when I persisted in trying to get the beef slab to give me just ten good seconds of wisdom I could use. He shouted at me, “hesayhegotnuthintosay!” Oh.
I covered the entire arc of Pete Roses’s banning from baseball and that’s worth an entire blog post by itself. But I’ll tell you about the first opening day after Rose was bounced, replaced by Lou Pinella as Reds manager.
We get on the field before the game, which was artificial turf. Not good artificial turf. I’ve been on trampolines with less bounce. Anyway, our first target was team owner Marge Schott. She was not a nice person..banned from managing the team from 1996 to 98 for spewing garbage supporting policies by that great baseball figure Adolph Hitler. Her constant companion, aside from her bigotry, was her dog Schottzie, which she brought to the game. I both the dog and the cur in a front row box seat and I attempt to get some obnoxious comments. Schottzie decides he doesn’t like reporters, hops over the rails and takes a dump at my foot. Marge says she agrees with that comment then goes on to blab blab blab about what a good boy Pete Rose is.
My next quarry was manager Lou Pinella. It was a kick to try to talk to him since I’m a native New Yorker and a big Yankee fan and Looouuuuuuuu was a favorite when he wore pinstripes. Now he wore the scarlet letter R but I didn’t hold it against him. What I did hold against him was that he was a ton taller than I imagined and I was barely able to get the mic up to his mouth. I was glad he turned out to be a cool guy and didn’t let any animals take a crap on my crappy shoes.
And then there was reliever Rob Dibble. Can’t help it. Every time I heard his name I thought of Office Dibble on the old Top Cat cartoon show. When I ask about his feeling about Pete Rose he goes completely bonkers to the point of incoherance in his support of his former manager. Everyone picked up our soundbite which may have been ESPN’s Play of the Day that day.
In the end, between the dog shit and the bullshit our story came out just fine. However, thinking about that distant memory I’m not going to be able to resist, at least once today, hollering, “Hey Officer Dibble!”