Decked out in a crisp suit and gold jewelry on both wrists, flanked by his son and his business manager in front of a backdrop sporting Major League Baseball's official World Series logo, exiled legend Pete Rose offered quips and boasts--but no apologies or explanations--during a memorable 45-minute news conference tonight prior to Game 2.
Invited to participate in a pregame ceremony for baseball's All-Century Team despite his lifetime ban imposed 10 years ago, Rose, who was elected to the team as an outfielder, brushed off difficult questions about evidence that he had gambled on the sport, but called himself "the best ambassador baseball has."
"I would like to be reinstated," he said, "because I'm a baseball person. . . . I gave my all to the game. My name is synonymous with the game."
Rose, baseball's all-time hits leader, said he believes "somewhere down the line" he will be given a second chance, and promised, "I won't need a third."
But given a chance to apologize--which is considered the first criterion toward any discussion of reinstatement--Rose stopped just short. "I would do anything in my power to change what has happened to me the last 10 years," he said. "Everyone knows I'm sorry for what happened."
Commissioner Bud Selig, who was present for the All-Century Team ceremony, did not address the Rose issue tonight. Baseball spokesman Rich Levin said that Selig "has talked about this many times before. This was the fans' vote, and he decided to make an exception" to Rose's ban.
During tonight's ceremonies, Rose received the loudest and longest ovation--with a strong undercurrent of boos--of any of the 30 members of the All-Century Team, including local favorite Henry Aaron. Selig clapped politely as Rose's name was called.
At his news conference, Rose also played down his ill-timed appearance this afternoon at an Atlantic City casino for a card-signing show featuring members of baseball's 3,000-hit club, pointing out that 14 other players--including three on the All-Century Team--participated.
Rose's presence tonight added an uncomfortable sidelight to the austere ceremonies. In July, Selig did not invite Rose to the All-Star Game in Boston, where the living players on the All-Century ballot were honored. But a month later, Selig agreed to let Rose participate tonight if elected. Rose finished ninth among outfielders.
"I've never met Bud Selig, I've never talked to him," Rose said. "I might arm-wrestle him when I see him. If I see him, I want to thank him for giving me the opportunity to be here."
Rose accepted a lifetime ban on Aug. 23, 1989, from A. Bartlett Giamatti, who was then commissioner. But Rose said tonight he did so only because he believed he could apply for reinstatement within one year.
"I believe [Giamatti] would have given me a second chance," Rose said. "That's the kind of person he was. . . . I always got along with Bart."
Rose also boasted of his career record, displaying knowledge of even the most minuscule of his accomplishments, and said that if he were reinstated, he would be in great demand as a manager because of his winning attitude.
"I've played in more winning games," he said, "than anyone in the history of sports. . . . You can't tell me there's not several teams today that I can't help turn around."
Attempting to play down the severity of his indiscretions, Rose argued: "Charles Manson gets a hearing every year, doesn't he? And this kid right here [son Tyler] thinks his dad is a monster."
Among other players elected to the All-Century Team were Baltimore Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken, one of four active players on the list; former Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson; and former Washington Senators pitcher Walter Johnson.
The most controversial exclusion on the list appears to be that of former Orioles outfielder Frank Robinson, who was not named as one of the top nine outfielders despite a first-ballot Hall of Fame career that included the 1966 Triple Crown, 586 home runs (fourth all-time) and the singular distinction as the only player to win the MVP in both leagues.
"If he's not on the All-Century Team, then what the hell am I doing here?" said All-Century third baseman Mike Schmidt. "I guarantee you that if you ask anyone in this room who they would have voted for, Frank Robinson would be on that list. It would be unanimous."