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Legends game proves a hit for most

Rose saga impacts day, which is highlighted by former stars, football players, entertainers and a Bob Feller protest.

The ovation began to rise even before the player introductions were concluded Saturday at Florida Power Park.

Chants of "Pete, Pete" beckoned Pete Rose, baseball's all-time hit leader, from the third-base dugout for a rousing welcome before he threw out a ceremonial first pitch at the ninth annual Legends of Baseball Game.

The benefit for All Children's Hospital and the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association drew about 3,000 fans and a cross section of players from before, during and after Rose's 24-year career. It was a career polished with Hall of Fame accomplishments, but tarnished by gambling allegations that eventually led to his banishment.

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Most of the nearly 50 players applauded with the crowd. A notable abstention was Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller.

The Cleveland Indians legend stood with his hands in pockets, not merely boycotting, but shaking his head in disgust at the scene.

"It wasn't by accident," Feller said of his display. "I think the commissioner is right and (Rose) should be kept out (of the Hall of Fame). I don't agree with (commissioner Bud) Selig and (chief executive officer Paul) Beeston with letting him be here, though."

Rose was an honorary coach on Saturday, but whisked in from a card show with Tom Seaver and did not appear again after pregame ceremonies.

"He's making big money," Feller said of Rose. "He's making a career out of being a victim. Maybe he helped make money for the event. Is that money that important?"

Rose's presence at recent spring training games has elicited vocal sentiment from fans who believe he should be allowed into the Hall of Fame.

"He's trying to sneak in the back door," Feller said. "The game doesn't need him. It doesn't need me and it didn't need Babe Ruth. It'll go on."

Pitcher Tug McGraw, wearing a uniform that was half-Phillies and half-Mets, meted out much of the typical old-timers' game chicanery. McGraw popped the prerequisite shaving-cream pie in the face of actor Jon Lovitz, who welcomed the initiation.

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"I guess I'm a real player now," Lovitz said. "That's okay though. It's still unbelievable I get to be out on a field with all these players I grew up watching."

McGraw clearly enjoyed his role in the proceedings.

"All baseball players want to be Hollywood, and all actors want to be athletes, so it's fun for everybody," he said.

McGraw also dogged the Buccaneers' Shaun King and Damien Robinson about tucking in their black Devil Rays jerseys.

Even all tucked in, Robinson apparently has a lot more trouble chasing airborne baseballs than footballs, and had an adventurous afternoon in leftfield. Robinson and King hit singles, Robinson's on a bloop off Bert Blyleven after a strikeout was allowed to slide by the home plate umpire.

The Buccaneer connection helped the National League beat the American League 8-5.

Both squads were sprinkled with entertainers _ Lovitz, Casey Sander, Jonathan Silverman and Eric Carmen _ and local personalities.

Radio disc jockey Bubba the Love Sponge Clem earned the unfortunate task of pinch hitting just as Goose Gossage entered the game. Gossage, the intimidating former reliever, still can throw hard and sent several pitches buzzing over Clem's back.

Kevin and Roger Maris Jr. lent their family name to charity although neither played in the major leagues. Kevin, a baseball coach at Oak Hall School in Gainesville, wore his father's No.

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9, and bore a striking resemblance to the man who set a then-major-league record with 61 home runs for the New York Yankees in 1961.

"It's a real joy for me just to be able to represent Dad," Kevin said. "He enjoyed the game of baseball and being in uniform and coming out and playing, and for us to be able to be around his teammates and competitors is an honor."

Rose saga impacts day, which is highlighted by former stars, football players, entertainers and a Bob Feller protest.

The ovation began to rise even before the player introductions were concluded Saturday at Florida Power Park.

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