Rose’s Rhetorical Resurgence May Alter Fallen Celebs’ Approach to Reputation Rehab

  December 18, 2003

You may recall this exchange between NBC reporter Jim Gray and baseball’s all-time hits leader Pete Rose after the 1999 announcement of the "All-Century" team during Game Two of the World Series:

Gray: Pete, now let me ask you.  It seems as though there is an opening, the American public is very forgiving.  Are you willing to show contrition, admit that you bet on baseball and make some sort of apology to that effect?

Rose: Not at all, Jim.  I’m not going to admit to something that didn’t happen.  I know you’re getting tired of hearing me say that.

Gray pursuit of Rose on the gambling question, immediately following a 55-second standing ovation for Rose when he was introduced to the Turner Field crowd, brought a wave of popular support that bolstered Rose’s chances of being re-admitted to baseball.

In his article "The Rhetorical Resurgence of Pete Rose: A Second Change Apologia," to be published in Case Studies in Sport Communication, Wabash speech professor Todd McDorman analyzes Rose’s rhetorical strategy as Charlie Hustle has climbed back from his fall from grace. McDorman believes that Rose’s approach can be summed up in the former All-star’s statement, "Everybody in the world will agree that regardless of what you think I did do or didn’t do, I’ve been in the penalty box long enough. It’s just the American way to give you a second opportunity."

And the seeming success of that approach, McDorman argues, could re-shape the way celebrities fallen from the public’s grace attempt to rehabilitate their own reputations.