Pat Bigold

The Way I See It

By Pat Bigold

Tuesday, October 26, 1999

Interview with
Rose botched

I was just as uneasy as anyone watching NBC's Jim Gray interview Pete Rose on Sunday.

It was, after all, in the wake of a 75-second emotional upsurge at Atlanta's Turner Field for Rose.

Picked to the All-Century Team despite being banned from baseball since 1989, "Charlie Hustle" was receiving absolution from his public.

It seemed a clear endorsement of Rose for the Hall of Fame, even though evidence is overwhelming that he gambled on baseball.

Gray wasn't swayed by the Rose love fest, and he opened his on-camera interview by asking the all-time hits leader if he wanted to apologize.

Rose, never "Charlie Mumble," made it clear he didn't want to apologize.

"I'm not going to admit to something that didn't happen."

Gray persisted with six questions aimed at eliciting a historic apology.

Rose finally grew visibly frustrated and told Gray he was surprised at him.

Millions complained to NBC that Gray ruined Rose's night, and Mastercard International (sponsor of the All-Century Team), demanded that Gray do some apologizing.

There's even a "Ban Jim Gray" website.

GRAY went too far and showed a lack of sensitivity in badgering Rose. But to those who say he should never have raised the topic, I say get real.

Rose and his gambling past are forever linked, and any time he's allowed to appear at a baseball event, the subject will come up. It's a fair question.

But I think Gray could have eased more gracefully into the gambling issue after properly acknowledging the historic ovation Rose received.

It seemed a bit cruel to bore into Rose from the get-go.

"What was going through your mind during the prolonged applause?" is the first question I would have asked.

While he waxed sentimentally about it, my next question would have been, "Did it make you think about what you've gone through in the past 10 years?"

That might've been a gentler setup for the hard question, "Do you want to tell the fans you're sorry?"

I thought that Gray's choice of words -- "Are you willing to show contrition?" -- made him sound like an agent of the Inquisition.

Gray told Rose he was his "own worst enemy" for not admitting to the baseball gambling.

Rose said he was surprised Gray was "bombarding" him.

I applaud Gray for having the guts to go against the feeling of the night and be journalistic.

If he had not asked about the gambling, I would have considered him a marshmallow.

What I didn't think was too bright was Gray's unrelenting attempt to wring a confession from a very tough and proud man who was fighting like a prize marlin to throw the hook.

Shoeless Joe Jackson might've deserved the same questions, but the record shows he bet against his own team.

Gray should have put the toughie to Rose, followed up with a different angle on the same question, and then let it go if Rose refused to sing.

There's a point at which you stop sounding like a journalist and start sounding like a prosecutor.

I'm afraid that's what tarnished the Gray interview and the All-Century moment.

Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.

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