But the controversy has been blown out of proportion, says Bruce Fretts

By Bruce Fretts
Updated October 28, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

Jim Gray went too far in his Pete Rose interview

Earlier this week, my EW colleague Ken Tucker posed the question, ”Who needs the World Series, anyway?” With all due respect, I do — I’m a baseball fanatic. What I don’t need is the continuing controversy over Jim Gray’s alleged ”ambush” interview with Pete Rose.

Yes, Gray blew it by raining on Rose’s parade. The Cincinnati Reds slugger was basking in the honor of having been selected by the fans as part of the All-Century Team when the NBC reporter started grilling him about the gambling allegations that led to his being banned from the game (and the Hall of Fame). Instead of dropping the subject when it became clear Rose wasn’t going to give up the goods, Gray kept pummeling away. He was straining to get a scoop, and he wound up looking like a fool.

Outraged viewers deluged NBC and sports-radio stations around the nation with calls of protest over Gray’s actions. He probably didn’t help the situation by issuing a half-hearted statement of remorse (any apology that includes the word ”if” is no apology at all). Then after Tuesday night’s victory, New York Yankee hero Chad Curtis embarrassed Gray on-camera by refusing to answer his questions and storming off the field.

Was this petulant display really necessary? (And before you accuse me of Yankee-bashing, let me disclose that although I would’ve pulled for the Mets in a subway series, I root for both of New York’s baseball teams.) All Gray did was commit an error — something that baseball players do on the field all the time, and reporters don’t boycott them as a result.

It’d be a shame if this media brouhaha overshadowed what really matters about the World Series: the games. Just because Rose wasn’t allowed to enjoy a moment of glory doesn’t mean the triumphs of Derek Jeter and the other future Hall of Famers out on the field should be tarnished by a silly ”scandal.” I bet even Pete Rose would agree.