NBC announcer Jim Gray, under criticism nationally for his aggressive interview of Pete Rose on Sunday night after Rose was honored among baseball's All-Century Team, went on the air tonight before Game 3 of the World Series to respond to the criticism.

"The [viewer] response was so overwhelming over the past 48 hours, we felt we had to say something," Gray said in an interview before tonight's game.

Gray said on-air before Game 3 that during his interview with Rose, he "thought it was important to ask Pete Rose if this was the right moment for him to make an apology.

"If in doing so the interview went on too long, and took some of the joy of the occasion, then I want to say to baseball fans everywhere that I am very sorry about this."

NBC and a number of affiliates reported receiving hundreds of telephone calls protesting the interview, and sources close to Gray said tonight Gray had received several death threats on his voice mail, as well as through e-mail.

After the game, which the New York Yankees won, 6-5, on Chad Curtis's 10th-inning home run, New York players chose to boycott talking to Gray.

"It was a team decision and I honored it," Curtis said. "It was nothing personal."

Gray walked onto the field at Yankee Stadium an hour before the game with NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol.

"We simply had to respond to what has been an overwhelmingly negative reaction to a perfectly justified interview," Ebersol said, adding the phone calls to NBC in New York on Sunday night in protest "blew up the switchboard for an hour."

Gray also said on-air tonight that "after viewing the videotape, I can understand the reaction of many baseball fans."

"The mistake was our timing, choosing to put the interview on after the excitement of the ceremony, when everyone has such a good feeling," Ebersol said. "We also went too long and stayed with the same line of questioning for too long.

"We thought it was a reasonable interview that would result in getting answers viewers might be interested in, but it seemed to get away from us."

Ebersol said nearly all of the response to the interview was negative, which puzzled NBC executives as well as Major League Baseball officials.

"We managed to turn Pete Rose into a sympathetic figure," said one Major League Baseball executive, who asked not to be identified.