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Friday, April 18
Petroskey's regret: Not calling before nixing 'Bull' gala

Associated Press

The baseball Hall of Fame president issued an apology Friday, saying he was sorry he failed to call Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon last week before canceling a "Bull Durham" celebration because of the actors' anti-war stance.

In an open letter to the 28,000 people who called or sent a letter or e-mail to the Hall, Dale Petroskey blamed himself for bringing politics into the shrine.

"I inadvertently did exactly what I was trying to avoid," the former Reagan administration official wrote. "With the advantage of hindsight, it is clear I should have handled the matter differently."

"I am sorry I didn't pick up the phone to have a discussion with Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon rather than sending them a letter," he said.

Petroskey made no mention of whether he still believed the decision to scrap the event was the right one. This latest letter was faxed to Robbins and Sarandon before it was posted on the Hall's Web site.

"Because Petroskey's actions resulted in a bipartisan, nationwide affirmation of free speech and the First Amendment, he has inadvertently done us all a favor," Robbins responded in a statement.

"I appreciate Petroskey's non-apology apology and his realization of the perils of paper trails," he said.

Robbins explained his final remark by pointing out that Petroskey invited White House spokesman Ari Fleischer to speak at a Hall event last year.

In a release promoting the visit, Petroskey wrote: "We are thrilled to welcome him to Cooperstown and hear his perspective on life in the White House and the current political scene which, of course, includes the war on terrorism."

Petroskey was traveling Friday and unavailable for comment.

Robbins and Sarandon were scheduled to appear April 26-27 in Cooperstown, N.Y., to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the popular baseball movie. Instead, Petroskey surprised the co-stars last week with a letter sent via Federal Express, telling them he'd called off the festivities because they'd criticized the war in Iraq.

"Politics has no place in the Hall of Fame," Petroskey wrote Friday. "There was a chance of politics being injected into the Hall during these sensitive times, and I made a decision to not take that chance."

A day after Petroskey's decision became public April 9, the Hall received 5,000 e-mails, both pro and con. Overall, the Hall of Fame said sentiment was running slightly against the stance.

Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton supported the decision and said, "I think Petroskey articulated it perfectly."

"The events of the past week show us all that the game burns brighter than ever and continues to stir passions in many people," Petroskey wrote.

Petroskey, a former White House assistant press secretary under President Reagan, said in his original letter to Robbins and Sarandon that their recent comments "ultimately could put our troops in even more danger."

Robbins and Sarandon, his longtime partner, have been active in peace rallies to protest the war in Iraq. Robbins said he "dismayed" by the decision and responded with a letter to Petroskey, telling him: "You belong with the cowards and ideologues in a hall of infamy and shame."

The Hall's stance resulted in another cancellation. Author Roger Kahn, whose "Boys of Summer" is considered among the best baseball books ever, called off his August appearance to speak at the Hall in protest.

The "Bull Durham" celebration, planned months in advance, also was to feature actor Robert Wuhl and writer-director Ron Shelton. In the 1988 film, Robbins plays an up-and-coming minor league pitcher and Sarandon plays a fan who helps him focus his erratic talent. Kevin Costner also stars.

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