Friday, January 9, 2004

Rose strives to make amends

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] After a day full of interviews in New York with newspapers, magazines and television, Pete Rose autographs books Thursday night at a store in Ridgewood, N.J.
(Associated Press photo)
NEW YORK - In Room 1154 of the swank Essex House in New York City, Pete Rose held forth.

On a Thursday afternoon in midtown Manhattan, Rose found himself in the high-stakes world of trying to convince people of his good intentions.

He is trying to explain why he wrote his book, My Prison Without Bars.

He is working to show the skeptics that he is contrite and repentant and that, in fact, it does matter to him that his biggest fans in Cincinnati are feeling hurt and betrayed by his past behavior and current conduct.

Here in Room 1154, Rose is relaxed in his dress but serious in tone.

He never breaks into his trademark impish grin. He isn't defensive, but purposeful. He knows his credibility is on the line. And so, probably, is the sale of 500,000 books his publisher has printed.

Rose did eight 20-minute interviews Thursday, mostly with the national media, beginning at 8:30 a.m. In addition to The Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati Post, Rose talked to The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, USA Today, Associated Press, and Time magazine. Afterward, Rose hustled to a TV studio for a CNN shoot, then went to New Jersey in the early evening for a book signing.

He was a long way from the playing fields of Sedamsville near where he grew up, a long way from the player who once wouldn't let manager Sparky Anderson take him out of an exhibition game in Indianapolis because "fans ain't got what they come for yet."

On that night in Indy, Rose went to the plate for one more at-bat. He ripped a hard smash into the outfield, and then out-raced the fielder's throw with a head-first slide into second base. Double.

"Now," hollered Rose to Anderson, "you can take me out."

Say what you will about Rose, he could always connect with the spectator even in the top row of the ballpark in those days.

Now, however, he's struggling to connect. He doesn't have the vocabulary, the oratory, the emotional makeup to easily make that happen. Still, he's trying.

Rose said Thursday that after he met with Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig 14 months ago, "The initial load was taken off my shoulders ... and today's load is with the people.

"I know I'm being criticized for making money off the book, but I did write it for the fans.

"It's kind of the way I talk, and I told them what I did do and didn't do," he said. "Hopefully, I told them how sorry I am. I don't think you can put it on every page, but this book is 62 years of a man's life. There isn't remorse on every page, but I didn't need remorse for my high school career and my baseball playing career."

The hardest of the hard-core Rose fans on Cincinnati's west side are still with him, but others are calling the Enquirer to complain about references to him as "Cincinnati's favorite son," calling sports-talk shows to all but disown him.

"It's a legitimate beef for people," Rose said. "I deserve it. I'm the one who screwed up. I'm the one who did it. I'm trying to clean the slate. I'm trying to be a stand-up guy. ... Any time you do something that is devastating like I did, you have to stand up and take the blame.

"All you can do is cross your fingers and try to do anything you can do to get people on your side."

Rose said he is disappointed in "what's taken place the last couple of days. I hope the commissioner understands that most of the critics have acted on the excerpts and not on the entire book and not on Charles Gibson's interview (that aired on ABC-TV's Primetime Thursday). I think people need to have seen the interview or read the book to see how remorseful I am."

For example, Rose knew his former teammate Joe Morgan on Thursday made critical statements about the week's events.

"I know Joe says I'm not remorseful enough, but I know he hasn't read the book yet, because it didn't come out until after midnight (Wednesday) and I know he hasn't seen Charles Gibson, because it (hadn't) aired yet," Rose said.

"I'm more interested in the fallout (today) and the next day and the next day, when people have had a chance to read the book ... I know there are people who are saying and are going to say I confessed for money. I can't eliminate those people."

Rose said he certainly was paid for doing the book, "but I did it because I wanted the fans to hear from me. I could tell them, in my voice, exactly what went on. My purpose was to try to get them to understand how sorry I am that it happened. And, if I can't, I've got to continuously work to get them back in my corner.

"I know I disappointed people. I disappointed myself. I embarrassed myself. But I feel that if I work hard enough - which I will - that I can get people back in my corner."

Rose said he could understand why so many Cincinnatians feel betrayed.

They had faith in him: Rose, the consummate player. Rose, sparkplug of the Big Red Machine. Rose, square-jawed and defiant, idolized by so many fans, standing by his stated conviction that he didn't bet on the sport that made him famous.

"With time, I think people are going to realize that I'm human," Rose said. "I don't like to read that it took me 14 years to fess up. I fessed up 14 months ago, and I'm not sure I wouldn't have fessed up in '93 if I'd been in to the commissioner's office.

"We weren't going to get an opportunity from (former commissioner) Fay Vincent. He made it clear when he took over that he didn't want anything to do with me. Mr. Selig took over on an interim basis, and then when he took over, we sent him a letter of application for reinstatement."

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