It's all about the hustle
By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist

What really went on behind closed doors when Bud Selig, Pete Rose and Mike Schmidt recently held a private, double-secret meeting regarding Rose's possible reinstatement to baseball? Page 2 spies bring you the bird's-eye lowdown ...

SELIG: Come in, gentlemen. Come in. Please, sit down.

SCHMIDT: Thank you sir, for agreeing to meet with us today. I know your time is precious.

SELIG: Never too precious to hear from two of our finest players.

SCHMIDT: You have a lovely view here, Mr. Selig.

Pete Rose

SELIG: Yes, it is impressive. Although sometimes I miss working out of the old stadium with the sounds of batting practice and the smells of the concessions drifting in. But enough about that. We're all here to discuss something a little more important.

It's good to see you again, Pete.

ROSE: Yeah.

[LONG, AWKWARD SILENCE]

SELIG: Nice haircut.

ROSE: Thanks. Yours, too.

[BRIEF, BUT STILL AWKWARD SILENCE]

SELIG: What color do you call that anyway?

ROSE: I don't know. Red, I guess.

SELIG: No, it's more like orange.

ROSE: I guess.

SELIG: But that's still not right.

ROSE: Like I said, I dunno.

SELIG: It's more like the color of Tang.

ROSE: Maybe.

SELIG: You know, like the astronauts drink.

ROSE: Whatever.

[BRIEF BUT AWKWARD PAUSE]

SELIG: Well, it sure works for you.

ROSE: Thanks. I guess.

[LONG, AWKWARD SILENCE]

SELIG: I don't think it would work for me, though.

ROSE: Probably not.

[LONG, AWKWARD SILENCE]

SCHMIDT: A-hemmm ...

SELIG: Yes?

SCHMIDT: [ELBOWING ROSE] Pete, didn't you have something to say to the commissioner?

ROSE: Not really.

SCHMIDT: Yes, I think you do.

ROSE: No, I don't think so.

SCHMIDT: Will you excuse us just a moment, commissioner Selig?

SELIG: Certainly.

SCHMIDT: [WHISPERING] Don't make me look bad, Pete. A lot of people went to a lot of work on your behalf so we could have this meeting today. So say what you were going to say and let's get on with this.

ROSE: Say what?

SCHMIDT: You know. The "thing" we discussed last night with Johnny and Joe.

ROSE: I don't remember.

SCHMIDT: Yes, you do. The "thing."

ROSE: The what?

SCHMIDT: The apology, a------.

ROSE: Oh, that. Yeah, right. I gotcha.

SCHMIDT: Then get on with it.

ROSE: Right, right.

SCHMIDT: Sorry about that commissioner, we just had to discuss ... ummm ... our golf game. But Pete is ready to say something you've been waiting to hear for a long time.

SELIG: Good. Pete, I'm all ears.

ROSE: Yeah, well ... I just wanted to finally apologize. And say that I'm really, really sorry that Giamatti double-crossed me and banned me from baseball in 1989. Now, will you let me in the Hall of Fame?

SELIG: That's not exactly an apology, Pete.

ROSE: Well, it's the best you're going to get from me. 'Cause I never bet on baseball and I'm not one bit sorry for one damn thing I ever done in baseball. I'm the Hit King!

SELIG: I'm sorry, Pete, but that's not going to cut it.

ROSE: Who the hell are you to decide? How many hits did you have in the majors? How many World Series rings did your team win?

SELIG: Mike, was there a reason for this meeting?

SCHMIDT: [THROWING UP HANDS] I'm sorry, Mr. Commissioner. I thought we had finally gotten through to him.

ROSE: And before you criticize me, just remember that at least I know how to end an All-Star Game -- by knocking a catcher on his butt. There are no ties in my world!

SELIG: I think I've heard about enough. Mike, if you would kindly escort Pete out?

SCHMIDT: [GETTING UP] Way to go, Pete.

SELIG: But before you leave, I'd like to ask Pete just one question first ...

ROSE: Yeah?

SELIG: Just how the hell do you stay so popular?

ROSE: What do you mean?

SELIG: Well, you bet on baseball, breaking the one rule that every player learns their first day in uniform and the one rule every other player obeys. You served time for cheating on your income taxes. You charge fans obscene amounts for your autograph. You're arrogant, unrepentant and a hot dog. Your choice of companions was questionable, at best. You're a compulsive gambler. You're basically everything most fans despise in a player.

And yet, every time I'm at a game with you, they boo me and cheer you wildly. In fact, the fans are so supportive of you that they're effectively pushing baseball to broker some sort of compromise with you despite your defiant stance.

So I'll ask again. How is that you remain so popular?

ROSE: I always hustled.

[ANGRY SILENCE]

SELIG: Yes, well. Fine. I think we've discussed the issue frankly. Should baseball consider your request for reinstatement, my office will be getting in touch with you regarding a timetable.

SCHMIDT: Thank you, commissioner Selig.

SELIG: You're welcome, Mike. I still remember that day at Wrigley when you hit those four home runs. Incredible performance.

SCHMIDT: Thank you, sir.

SELIG: Well, we'll be in touch.

SCHMIDT: Looking forward to it.

SELIG: Thank you again and have a good day.

SCHMIDT: Same to you.

SELIG: So, I guess we'll be seeing you later.

SCHMIDT: I can't wait.

SELIG: Right.

SCHMIDT: [NUDGING ROSE] Isn't there anything you would like to tell the commissioner before we leave, Pete?

ROSE: Oh, yeah. There is one thing.

SELIG: Yes?

ROSE: Validate our parking, would ya? For crying out loud, it costs a lot to park in this lousy city.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.





FOR PETE'S SAKE

ALSO SEE:


Jim Caple Archive

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Caple: Showin' them who's Boss





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