|I just spent the last 16 hours with Pete Rose.
It all started when I called my friend Jeremy Katz, Rose's executive editor at Rodale, which published the book "Pete Rose: My Prison Without Bars," to congratulate him on the media frenzy and SI cover surrounding the launch of the book. And, of course, to see if our friendship merited an advance copy.
It didn't: A strict embargo was in place that even our friendship couldn't/wouldn't circumnavigate.
To the best of his knowledge only four people had read the book. Two at ABC, and two at Sports Illustrated. The on-sale date is so strictly enforced, booksellers are not even allowed to open the cartons of the book until Thursday morning. The journalists who will be interviewing Rose on that day will receive their copies Wednesday night.
This was like putting a red flag in front of a bull -- a very pushy girl-bull who just about always gets what she wants. Mad cow indeed.
After five phone calls to local booksellers who reiterated that they will be sued for selling me an advance copy of the book, I am about to give up. And then I get the manager of "The Unnamed Because We Don't Want To Get Him/Them Into Trouble Bookstore." When I asked if he could take my credit-card number and charge me for the books on Thursday, he said certainly. Come on over. He even sold me two copies -- why the heck not? I instantly thought about calling Bob Costas, Lesley Visser, Peter Gammons and Bryant Gumbel to auction the other copy off for my retirement fund. But there is no I in Team, nor in ESPN. Kevin Jackson, one of my editors, was the lucky recipient of the second copy.
And then the fun really started.
With two bright red books in the Unnamed Bookstore's guilty-looking bag, I called my editor. After breaking a date with a darling yet clueless man who asked, "Pete, who? Is he related to Charlie Rose?" I had no one to share this very guilty pleasure with. I was going to get to spend the night with Pete Rose, a good three days before the rest of the planet would. I had him all to myself.
So I took Pete out for a drink. We had Martini's at Maple Drive Restaurant in Beverly Hills, and I suddenly became very, very popular. No fewer than 10 people asked me about the book. The bartender recognized me from the bathtub photos I did for my Page 2 column.
While desperately trying not to get their Kick-Ass Chili all over the dust-jacket, I became completely engrossed ...