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Old-Timers Concerned About Rose Case

<i> Special to The Times </i>

Old-timers’ games are designed to be strictly for fun.

Baseball players of the past gather to clown around and tell each other how great they used to be. Any resemblance to a real game is purely coincidental.

Sunday, however, there was an undercurrent of concern among the men of bygone days who participated in the fourth annual Equitable Old-Timers All-Star game at Anaheim Stadium. For the record, the National League alumni won, 5-1.

Twenty-four of the 39 players, managers and coaches in the old-timers’ locker room were members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and they had a lot to say about the long-running case against a man who may or may not join them someday.

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Will the Pete Rose case damage baseball? Should the Cincinnati Red manager be barred from the Hall of Fame if he is suspended for life? Will the commissioner’s office be rendered powerless if Rose succeeds in having the case tried in the courts?

There wasn’t one Hall of Famer who would say that Rose should be kept out of Cooperstown if he was found to have bet on his own team’s games. Still, the impression from the majority was that such a happening would taint Rose’s chances severely.

Most of the old-timers thought that baseball had already been hurt by the case, and several worried about the future of the commissioner’s office in the wake of Rose’s success in obtaining a restraining order delaying a meeting with Commissioner Bart Giamatti.

Here are some of the Hall of Famers’ comments:

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Enos Slaughter: “I hate to see corruption in any sport, and I would have to classify this case as corruption. I don’t think they can take the case and put it in the courts. If they do, they might as well take all the sports commissioners and throw them out the door. I’m a firm believer in letting the commissioner run his own sport.”

Billy Williams: “The manager has control of his team, and people who have that control shouldn’t be involved in gambling. The rules are clear, and the rules are fair. If a man is gambling, he shouldn’t be in the game. I hope Rose isn’t guilty, and if they don’t find him guilty, let’s get off his butt and go on with the game.”

Harmon Killebrew: “This thing certainly can’t help baseball. It won’t give the game a nice image. I sure hope it turns out all right for Rose, but I don’t see how it can.”

Warren Spahn: “I’m concerned about the future of baseball. I’m concerned about the integrity of baseball. We have two former ballplayers as league presidents (Bobby Brown and Bill White) and an educator (Giamatti) as commissioner, so baseball should be in good hands. But now the commissioner’s office is being challenged, and that’s not good.”

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Johnny Bench: “Baseball will be hurt if indeed these allegations are true. If they aren’t true, after it’s all over, we can regroup and regrow. I was hoping it would be over by now.”

Roy Campanella: “I don’t think I should comment on it, but I don’t think any one man is any bigger than baseball.”

Bob Feller: “The Rose thing hasn’t been bad for the game. It’s an undeveloped matter, and it has had no effect on the fans or the media. However, I would hate to see baseball be thrown under the authority of the government and the courts. If that happens, all the commissioner of any sport will have to do is make appearances.”

Luke Appling: “This won’t necessarily damage baseball. I think Pete Rose has more sense than to do what they say he did.”

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Joe DiMaggio: “I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to get involved. I’m sorry it’s all happened.”

DiMaggio, 74, one of the most revered of all living former baseball players, received a standing ovation during the pregame introductions. In keeping with a policy he adopted 15 years ago, he was not in uniform. Having stopped suiting up for games 15 years ago, he was the best dressed man on the field.

“I just flew in from Rome,” DiMaggio said. “I was getting away from a lot of things, having a good time and getting rid of some stresses.”

Another subject that inevitably came up was the All-Star fan poll, which this year resulted in the election of the retired Mike Schmidt and the injured Jose Canseco to the starting lineups.

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“It’s ridiculous,” Spahn said. “The system is lousy. The way the fans vote, they ought to put Frank Sinatra and Gene Autry in the game.”

Said Slaughter: “Voting in guys like Schmidt and Canseco is bull.”

Lou Boudreau advocated taking the vote away from the fans.

“I don’t like the idea, but it would eliminate a lot of controversy,” Boudreau said.

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As for the game, which preceded the Angels’ 9-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins, the National Leaguers scored all five of their runs off Dean Chance and Rollie Fingers in the second inning. Bench, Bill Mazeroski and Al Oliver had two hits each.

Comic relief was injected in the third and last inning. First, umpire Cece Carlucci inspected pitcher Phil Niekro’s glove and forced Niekro to empty his pockets. Then Dick Allen grabbed catcher Manny Sanguillen around the waist to prevent Sanguillen from catching his pop foul.

What Niekro went through was intended as a reprise of brother Joe’s experience of two years ago, when he was caught with an emery board in his pocket.

“I never carried anything in my pockets and never will,” Phil Niekro said.

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Of Allen’s wrestling hold, Sanguillen said: “Every year you learn something new. I think that was great.”

Allen’s excuse was logical enough.

“I wanted just one more shot at Niekro,” he said. “I couldn’t hit him when we were playing and I can’t hit him now.”

MORE ON THE ALL-STARS IT SHOULD BE MIKE’S NIGHT

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Mike Downey says the fans are right. The recently-retired Mike Schmidt should play in this year’s game. Column, Page 6.

THE TWILIGHT ZONE

The 1967 game in Anaheim Stadium had a 5:30 p.m. start and a very sympathetic umpire. Ross Newhan’s story, Page 8.


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