All that was missing last Saturday night at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium was Hulk Hogan.
The Pete Rose-Dave Pallone incident over a call in the ninth inning of the Reds-Mets game wound up resembling Wrestlemania III more than a baseball game.On a delayed call with two outs, Pallone called Mookie Wilson of the Mets safe at first, Howard Johnson scampering home from second with the winning run. Rose confronted Pallone, who poked Rose on the left cheek with a finger during the argument. Rose shoved Pallone twice and was ejected. Reds broadcasters Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall called Pallone "terrible" and "incompetent" and Brennaman called it "appropriate" when a roll of toilet paper was thrown on the field. Fans also littered the field with other objects, including golf balls and transistor radios.
The umpire was out of control. Rose was out of control. The announcers were out of control. The fans were out of control. And, some members of the media are saying National League President A. Bartlett Giamatti was out of control for suspending Rose for 30 games and dressing down Brennaman and Nuxhall. The opinions vary widely.
Following are excerpts from commentaries on the incident by some of the country's better known writers and columnists:
THOMAS BOSWELL, Washington Post: "A. Bartlett Giamatti better get his act together or we're going to have to change his grade to F. Bartlett Giamatti. This spring the vastly educated, but equally inexperienced National League president has already been a chief offender in messing up the balk rule beyond recognition. Now, he's given Pete Rose a 30-day suspension for bumping an umpire, a raw deal that is at least three times, and perhaps 10 times, the punishment Rose deserves.
"As president of Yale, Giamatti's decisions were relatively harmless since they could only damage one educational institution. Now, however, he's messing with something really important."
STAN ISAACS, Newsday: "In kindergarten terms, principal Bart Giamatti took a couple of bad boys, Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall, into his office, gave them a good, verbal spanking and left them chastened and a little smarter about how to behave.
"That was a good enough lesson by the president of the National League to the two Cincinnati radio broadcasters. More than that, it may have sent a message down the line to all other would-be homer baseball broadcasters that they should think twice before they become too wrapped up in home-team flannels when a volatile situation is at hand."
ART SPANDER, San Francisco Examiner: "Strange country we have here. Bump off your next-door neighbor and the government gives you immunity to testify. Bump against an umpire and a league executive gives you 30 days.
"Don't get me wrong. You don't go around manhandling officials in any sport. Reds manager Pete Rose is guilty of shoving Pallone, the umpire who may or may not be incompetent, and admits the guilt. He should be suspended.
"But 30 days? Nearly a fifth of the season?
"Punishment is supposed to fit the crime, not fit the mood of the man handing it out. What happens if someone repeats the incident? Is he sentenced to two years in the Gulag?
"And what about Reds announcers Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall? Do they get the same guarantee of free speech as Ollie North? Or Ollie Hardy? . . .
"Why is the man in the street allowed to call the president of the United States incompetent but a man in a radio booth is not allowed to call an umpire incompetent?"
MIKE LUPICA, New York Daily News: "A. Bartlett Giamatti's 30-day suspension of Pete Rose is a fraudulent response to the problem of crowd control in baseball.
"Giamatti can roll up his sleeve and show us his muscles all he wants. He fixed nothing. If Giamatti really wants to make the stands civilized at baseball games, he ought to do everything in his power to ban the sale of alcoholic beverages at baseball games.
"Giamatti won't do it. American League president Bobby Brown won't do it. Nor will Peter Ueberroth. They won't use what muscle they have to take on Gussie Busch and the other beer barons, who supply a steamy fortune to the sport in advertising.
"Suspensions are easy, even big ones. Taking on the beer companies takes real nerve."