By Tom Price Jr.
Pete Rose may have been the keynote speaker at Friday night's Miracle League of Visalia charity dinner, but the buzz was of another miracle.
After 14 years of denials, Rose finally told the truth that he bet on baseball in a book titled "Pete Rose: My Prison Without Bars" released one week before the charity event.
On Aug. 24, 1989 Rose agreed to a lifetime ban from baseball following a six-month investigation of his gambling.
Before a throng of media -- a total of 45 media credentials handed out -- Rose spoke publicly for nearly the first time since the books release at a pre-dinner press conference. And it didn't take him long to defend his years of silence.
"I took [14 years] because I finally got the opportunity to talk to someone," Rose said. "It wasn't going to help me to talk to Jim Grey, or you, or him, there is only one person that is in charge of me and that's the commissioner of baseball."
Rose also took the opportunity to elaborate on his feelings on the current state of the game of baseball.
"I am amazed how on edge and uneasy all the people that work [at stadiums] would be," Rose said. "I felt sorry for them. When I played I was friends with all the parking attendants, the elevator operators, the concessioniers and the ushers. So I say to hell with it, I won't even go to games anymore, I'll just watch them on TV."
Rose didn't show up in Visalia just to talk about his book, he was here to support the Miracle League of Visalia. The Miracle League is a baseball field designed for handicapped children and adults.
The more than $150,000 raised at the event went to the creation of a larger field to neighbor the one already in place.
"Everybody should have the chance to play baseball," Rose said. "This may be a small town, but it's a large cause."
Also speaking at the event was Anaheim Angel announcer and Fresno native Rex Huddler, Indy Racing League team owner Sam Schmidt and community activist Erin Brokovich.
During the dinner, Huddler spoke fondly of Rose and told unique story about Rose's jersey number, 14.
"One year I was picked up by the Phillies and they asked me what number I wanted," Huddler said. "So they started reading off a bunch of numbers and one of them was 14. I asked 'Isn't No. 14 retired?' They said they only retired Hall of Fame numbers."
Wanting to wear Rose's number Huddler decided to call him first and make sure it was alright.
When Huddler called the first thing Rose asked was, "What did you hit last year?"
Huddler, who jokes about his lack of ability, told Rose that he may not be as good as him but that he would always hustle. Pete agreed to let him wear the number but told him that there weren't a lot of hits left in that uniform.
"He was right," Huddler said. "I was there two years and didn't hit a thing."
Unique fantasy trips that included dinner with Rose at his restaurant in Florida and a day of shopping with Brokovich. were auctioned off. The event was sold out.