Thursday, January 22, 2004

Crowd a solid sign for Rose

Faced with overwhelming demand, Hit King works overtime at store

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Pete Rose
In the face of unceasing demand Wednesday for his signature, Pete Rose put his best face forward, signing books at Joseph-Beth for nearly four hours.
(Jeff Swinger/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

book signing
Hundreds of people stood patiently in line Wednesday for Pete Rose to sign copies of My Prison Without Bars. Waiting in line with five copies at Joseph-Beth Booksellers are Suzanne Poland, 21 of Delhi Township (left) and Ken Vondermesche of Miami Township, with three copies. The Norwood bookstore was host to Rose's first local book signing.
(Jeff Swinger/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Pete Rose, who could always put fans in the seats, put a lot of feet in the door Wednesday night.

Not too many feet, but apparently too many books. What had been a smooth night turned heated around 8 p.m. at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Norwood, where Rose was signing his book, My Prison Without Bars.

The event, scheduled for two hours, lasted almost four.

Rose arrived about 5 p.m., an hour early for his 6-8 p.m. signing, and began signing books at 5:15 p.m. Almost three hours and 1,000 signatures later, the 62-year-old Rose was running out of gas.

Then came this announcement on the public-address system:

"At the publisher's request, Pete Rose will not be signing anymore tonight."

There was stunned silence. Scores of people were still in the store, and dozens queued on the stairs and through the history section on the second floor where Rose was signing. People began turning to one another: "What did they say?"

When the word spread, matters turned tense. Many people on the main floor of the store rushed to the bottom of the stairs and shouted upward toward the Rose signing area:

"Unacceptable! Unacceptable!"

Others yelled: "This is Cincinnati! You can't do that! We stood by you!"

A handful of uniformed police officers kept it from escalating beyond that. Within 10 minutes, calm had been restored with the announcement that Rose would sign one book per person the rest of the way. A four-man detail of Norwood police alerted two other units in the area to stand by in case it got any more heated.

"Some people were upset, but Pete decided to stay," said Norwood Police Sgt. Bill Kramer.

Here was the problem, said one person who had purchased a voucher for Rose's book several weeks ago: She, along with many other such purchasers, was told when she arrived at the store Wednesday that she could buy four more books, up to a limit of five. Everybody knew five was the limit, but not all knew they could buy additional books up to that limit Wednesday.

Rose had been signing multiple copies for so many people - and so many people wanted to speak to him - that by 8 p.m. he had been signing for almost three hours.

He stayed another hour and signed a couple of hundred more books.

Shawn Metts, Joseph-Beth general manager, said Rose signed between 1,200 and 1,300 books; Rose's deal called for him to sign 1,100. Metts said he wasn't blaming Rose for the problem and that it is standard in the industry to sell more books up to a specified limit on the day of the signing to people who already have been assigned spots in line. The publishers don't discourage it; they want to have a lot of books sold, too, Metts said.

Some people left when the announcement was made at 8 p.m. and didn't get a book signed, and 150-160 others turned in their books for refunds.

"His publisher (Rodale) wanted him to leave as close to 8 as possible," Metts said. "We had told people - and it says right on their (voucher) - that they were guaranteed a place in line, but there was no guarantee they would get their books signed."

Early on, Rose signed five copies of his book and made some small talk with Jenny Stephan, 33, and Mark Calico, 40, of Point Pleasant. Stephan handed Rose a homemade sticker ("Rose in the Hall of Fame? Bet on it!") and Rose told her that within a span of two days, he ran into Priscilla Presley and Babe Ruth's daughter.

"You're on a roll," Calico told Rose, who smiled.

He was definitely on a roll Wednesday night, accomplishing a literary version of what he did 16 months ago, putting 40,000 people in the seats for a farewell softball game at Cinergy Field. He had exchanged bat for pen, but plays both like the flute.

Sue Lancaster contributed to this report.

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