Jeff Rimer: The brawling broadcaster

Chris Gaitten

On March 14, the Columbus Blue Jackets gave broadcaster Jeff Rimer a welcome homecoming gift, a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers in Nationwide Arena, to honor his 2,000th career NHL call, which he'd logged three days earlier in Buffalo. During a ceremony before the Panthers game, Blue Jackets president John Davidson regaled the crowd with stories about his longtime friend, including this unexpected nugget: Rimer once fought the great Pete Rose.

The tale traces back to Rimer's time as a radio broadcaster for baseball's Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals), where he says he'd publicly lobbied for management to acquire the all-time leader in hits in 1984. The relationship soured that June after Rose and Rimer traded barbs about negativity surrounding the struggling team, and one fateful Friday, Rose called into Rimer's evening radio show to speak to him on the air. Here's what happened next, in Rimer's own words.

[Rose] told all the players to tune in because he was going to give it to me, and he basically said, “You owe me an apology.” And I said, “What for?” and he said, “Well, you're trying to ruin my reputation with the fans. I [spent] all my years in baseball building it up with the fans.” And I said, “Pete, I'm not apologizing.” Anyway, we went back and forth, and I didn't apologize. He ended up hanging up.

Well, fast-forward to Saturday, we're the NBC game of the week, and I go into the clubhouse to do my postgame stuff, and two players, Chris Speier … and Jim Wohlford, a utility player, are standing at the entrance to the clubhouse, and they've got boxing gloves … they're trying to make light of the whole thing and kind of cool off any hard feelings. And I walk in and they've got the boxing gloves going, and they're yelling, “Pete, Pete, Pete! Rimer, Rimer, Rimer! Pete, Pete, Pete! Rimer!” And, anyway, the guys were all laughing in the clubhouse.

I go to Pete and say, “Pete, here's a cassette [recorder]. You tell me where I'm trying to ruin your reputation in baseball. You're here because I started that campaign.” Anyway, Pete tells me to take off, with a few expletives, and I stand there. Next thing I know, he's got his cleats off and he stands up and he tries to grab me. Well, I wasn't going to let Pete hit me. If you ever saw Pete and me standing next to one another, he'd kill me. So I hit the ground, and all of a sudden there's bedlam in the clubhouse.[Reports after the fact indicated that Rose pushed Rimer and ripped his shirt inthe scuffle.]

The president of the team, John McHale, comes in: “What's going on here? Jeff Rimer's the greatest ambassador that we have here in Montreal,” yada, yada, yada. Well the station was sold and our owner, our new owner, demanded an apology or a lawsuit was coming, and the next day in the owner's box, Pete and I are there and Pete apologizes. He tells the players he only did it to kind of rally the team because I was so close to the team, and it was a way to get the guys rallied around, et cetera.

How about that?