Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Rose, Bench bury the hatchet

Pete insists they're still friends

By John Erardi jerardi@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It was a love-fest Monday night between Reds greats Pete Rose and Johnny Bench. A decade ago, they had a falling out when Rose was banned from baseball for gambling, and Bench said Rose's off-field activities should preclude him from being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

        Bench was later joined by plenty of influential company - the majority of other Hall of Famers agreed with him - but Rose took it hard and said Bench didn't know the inside situation between him and baseball.

        At one point before Monday's softball game at Cinergy Field, Rose and Bench were standing together, talking. They shared a laugh, saying that fans probably expected them to start taking swings at each other.

        Rose said he has no problems in his personal relationship with Bench.

        “The only thing that gripes me a little bit is that it seems like now and then I keep reading reports of how you (writers) think that Johnny and me are mad at each other; that we didn't get along when we played,” Rose said. “That is so far from the truth. We didn't have any disagreements until I had my problem.”

        Regarding Bench's earlier remarks about his worthiness for Cooperstown, Rose said, “Johnny's a big boy. He's entitled to his opinion.”

        Bench said he and Rose “have always had a relationship, and we've never not gotten along. What happens with baseball is their choice, and that's what people have to understand. And he understands that. We all would like things to be different, but they aren't.”

        Added Bench: “Pete would go to war for me, and I would go to war for him. Hopefully - and I think it's closer than it's ever been - if he makes the step, I think he can step forward in the right direction. It's a big step, but I think he's capable of making it.”

        Bench was referring to what has always been his hope - that Rose would make an acknowledgment that he bet on baseball, and the process could begin for him to be accepted back.

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