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Anatomy of Gray Interview: Right Question, Wrong Time

Looking back on the 1999 World Series, we will remember Orlando Hernandez, Chad Curtis and Jim Gray.

That is unfortunate for Gray because “the best TV reporter of his generation,” according to his boss at NBC, committed a cardinal sin of journalism, becoming the story instead of merely reporting it when he interviewed Pete Rose on Sunday.

Gray doesn’t, however, suddenly become an incompetent journalist because of that. He’s a good journalist who merely made a mistake while 53 million people watched on television.

Gray’s spontaneous, hard-hitting interview with Mike Tyson minutes after he bit Evander Holyfield’s ears should be required viewing in electronic journalism classes.

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But the same approach did not work with Rose because of the environment in which the interviews were conducted and the interviewees.

Tyson is not a sympathetic character under any circumstances, certainly not under the circumstances following the second Holyfield fight. Rose, however, remains popular among baseball fans, and he was in Atlanta to celebrate his inclusion on the all-century team and to be celebrated.

It wasn’t an easy assignment for a journalist. If he had thrown fat pitches to Rose, Gray would have been ridiculed like Ahmad Rashad. The toughest question Rashad ever asks his interview subjects is where they want to go to dinner afterward. Gray came off more like Sam Donaldson without the eyebrows.

It’s not that his questions were inappropriate. Bob Costas or Roy Firestone could have asked the same ones and been applauded because their tone would have been softer, less--as Rose suggested--prosecutorial.

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Rose is not a murderer, a rapist or even an ear biter. His crime against baseball was egregious, and his ongoing punishment is not too harsh, but his damage to society was minimal.

Gray has asked for forgiveness and should be forgiven. When Rose asks for forgiveness, so should he.

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According to the Orange County Business Journal, Alice Cooper is considering opening a restaurant near Edison Field. . . .

His “Welcome to My Nightmare” would be an appropriate soundtrack for the Angels’ 1999 lowlight film. . . .

If the muddled search for a general manager is an indication, Angel management has yet to awaken. But don’t blame this one on President Tony Tavares. . . .

If he were calling the shots, the news conference to announce Bill Stoneman as general manager already would have been held and one to announce Don Baylor as manager would be forthcoming. . . .

But Disney Chairman Michael Eisner is stalling for reasons known only to the corporate types in Burbank, jeopardizing the Angels’ chances of hiring Baylor. . . .

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Baylor will take the Cubs’ job but prefers the one in Anaheim. All the Angels have to do is ask. . . .

Los Angelose? Take that headline back, Sports Illustrated. . . .

Steve Hathaway and Craig Leeds upset two English teams from Cambridge to win the Masters double sculls at the Head of the Charles Regatta last Sunday in Boston under the flag of the L.A. Yacht Club. . . .

Rick Barry told Jerry Gross’ Sportstalk on the Christian Sports Network that Shaquille O’Neal was willing to try underhand free throws but that Del Harris didn’t want Barry to coach Shaq. . . .

“If Shaq was really serious about wanting to get better and not be a liability to his team, why wouldn’t he hire me?” Barry said. “I would guarantee him that if he put the effort and time in that he would become a better free-throw shooter.” . . .

The 106,869 spectators who attended the 1973 Rose Bowl game were part of only the fourth-largest crowd for a sporting event in California. . . .

The three largest were all for auto races--139,919 for the 1970 opening of Ontario Motor Speedway, 115,000 for this year’s NASCAR race at California Speedway and 114,000 for last year’s NASCAR race at California Speedway. . . .

A crowd at least equal to the 105,000 who attended last year’s Marlboro 500 CART race at California Speedway is expected for this year’s race Sunday in Fontana. . . .

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The CART cars at their highest speeds travel two football fields per second. . . .

“You try not to blink,” driver Dario Franchitti says.

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While wondering how many voters for the all-century team saw Frank Robinson and Roberto Clemente play, I was thinking: If you’re choosing between becoming an athlete or an agent, choose agent. While one of his clients, Steve Young, is recovering from a concussion, Leigh Steinberg sold his agency Wednesday for $120 million.

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Randy Harvey can be reached at his e-mail address: randy.harvey@latimes.com


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