After 28,000 people protested, Dale Petroskey, head of the Baseball Hall Of Fame, apologized for his cancellation of a celebration marking the 25th anniversary of Bull Durham.

The event was originally scheduled for this weekend to commemorate the baseball movie’s release, with Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon appearing at the showing in Cooperstown, N.Y. In early April, the two actors, who both had roles in the film, were notified that the event had been cancelled, due to their vocal stand against the Iraq war. The notification letter they received contained Petroskey’s idea that their anti-war comments “ultimately could put our troops in danger.”

Petroskey’s actions were immediately met with phone calls, faxes and e-mails to the Hall of Fame, protesting his move. In addition, author Roger Kahn, whose Boys of Summer is considered among the best baseball books ever, called off his scheduled August appearance to speak at the Hall in protest.

Petroskey claimed his concern was over “politicizing” baseball, though he himself has a very political background. Petroskey was a White House assistant press secretary under Ronald Reagan. Last year, he invited Ari Fleischer, President Bush’s press secretary, to give a non-baseball speech at the Hall.

In a release promoting Fleisher’s 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.”

In a letter responding to Petroskey’s original letter, Robbins and Sarandon expressed their outrage over his hypocritcal act. “You belong with the cowards and ideologues in a hall of infamy and shame,” they wrote.

“It’s interesting that we’re liberating Iraq and trying to give that country a democracy,” Sarandon said in an interview. “But in America, some would try to silence those who hold opposing views.”

In interviews, Robbins has said that they had planned on avoiding political remarks at the event. On April 15, in a speech at the National Press Club, he joked about Petroskey’s fears, saying, “I had originally been asked here to talk about the war and our current political situation, but I have instead chosen to hijack this opportunity and talk about baseball and show business.”

“I love the Hall of Fame and I love baseball,” Robbins said. “Our two boys wanted to tour the Hall, and visit the baseball card and memorabilia shops. It’s such a wonderful atmosphere. We wanted to watch the movie again, and reminisce. I didn’t want to talk about war and politics. I wanted to talk about baseball. It’s a beautiful film about a beautiful game.”

Petroskey’s letter of apology, in which he said, “I inadvertently did exactly what I was trying to avoid,” was released April 18. There was no word on any plans to reschedule the event.

“I appreciate Petroskey’s non-apology apology and his realization of the perils of paper trails,” Robbins said in a statement.

Robbins also noted that the debate over the action can be seen as a positive coming out of the flap. “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.”

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