Rose won't visit Gray area

In town to receive award, all-time hits leader won't discuss announcer

November 05, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

His exclusion from baseball's Hall of Fame and lifetime ban for gambling on the sport used to be the most sensitive subject in Pete Rose's life.

Apparently, that's no longer the case, though it probably ranks a close second.

Don't bring up the name Jim Gray and expect to land in Rose's good graces. That much was evident when Rose appeared at Martin's West to take part in the Sports Boosters of Maryland Headliners' Banquet.

Having signed autographs for about 45 minutes before heading to the podium for dinner, Rose refused to address any subject related to the NBC announcer, who drew national criticism for his aggressive interview with baseball's all-time hits leader during the World Series.

Gray offered an on-air apology before Game 3 of the Series, but it wasn't directed at Rose. And it didn't sit well with Rose's camp.

"He didn't apologize to Pete. We all know it was a [bad] thing to do," said Rose's agent, Andrew Vilacky.

Rose wore gold cuff links shaped in the No. 4,129, representing the hits he totaled in a career that has stopped short of Cooperstown. Commissioner Bud Selig said during the Series that he had no intention of lifting the ban, prompting the Sports Boosters of Maryland to present Rose with a plaque last night proclaiming him the greatest player not inducted into the Hall of Fame.

He received a standing ovation upon being introduced. "I'm happy to be here, but I'm happy to be anywhere that involves a baseball crowd," he said.

Rose's ties to Baltimore extend to the two clubs he played on that met the Orioles in the Fall Classic -- the 1970 Cincinnati Reds and 1983 Philadelphia Phillies. One member of the Orioles' team that defeated the Phillies, catcher Rick Dempsey, was roasted last night as the guest of honor. But he was upstaged by Charlie Hustle.

"I don't like Baltimore, honestly," Rose said, grinning, "because I lost my first Series here and my last Series here.

"They've got great fans here. And anytime you get 900 people talking about baseball in November, you're helping the game."

If only last night's tribute could pry open the doors to the Hall of Fame.

"Maybe we can get that thing turned around," Rose said. "I understand the importance of going to the Hall of Fame and what it means."

B. J. Surhoff, who was presented with the Most Valuable Oriole Award, took a moment to pay tribute to Rose. "I want to put one thing in perspective," he said. "I had 200 hits this year, but if you sit down and do the math, it would take 21 years to do what Pete Rose did."

Rose said later, "You keep getting those 200 hits, and by the time you're 60 you'll get to my record."

Rose wasn't paid for last night's appearance, but he made about $16,000 the previous day while putting his signature on various items during a card show in Timonium. Part of the money raised last night went to one of Rose's favorite charities, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

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