Baseball Turns into Political 'Bull'

04/11/2003 at 10:48 AM EDT

After not even three strikes, "Bull Durham" is out of Baseball's Hall of Fame, which has canceled its April 26-27 tribute for the 15th anniversary of the beloved movie because of the anti-war stance of its stars, Tim Robbins and his longtime partner, Susan Sarandon, reports Reuters.

Hall of Fame President Dale Petroskey, a former deputy press secretary to President Ronald Reagan, pulled the plug on the celebration in Cooperstown, N.Y., saying Robbins and Sarandon endangered U.S. troops in Iraq by flashing peace signs to cameras at the March 23 Oscar ceremony and by speaking against the conflict.

Robbins -- who, according to The Washington Post, donated his pitcher's uniform from the movie to the Hall's museum in 1999 -- tells Reuters that he was stunned by the decision and charged that Petroskey was playing politics by trying to turn baseball into "a Republican sport."

In a letter this week, Petroskey informed Robbins that he had canceled the event because "as an institution, we stand behind our President and our troops in this conflict."

Responding to Petroskey with a letter of his own, a dismayed Robbins, 44, said: "As an American who believes that vigorous debate is necessary for the survival of a democracy I reject your suggestion that one must be silent in times of war.

"I wish you had ... saved me the rhetoric and talked honestly about your ties to the Bush and Reagan administrations. You are using what power you have to infringe upon my rights to free speech ... ."

Robbins, 44, said Petroskey apparently faxed his letter to the media at the same time he mailed it to Robbins "to make it a story, the message of which is, if you oppose this administration, you can be punished."

The actor signed his message, "Long live democracy, free speech and the '69 Mets."

Kevin Costner, who played the lead in "Bull Durham" and who happens to be a Republican, said in a statement: "I think Tim and Susan's courage is the type of courage that makes our democracy work. Pulling back this 'invite' is against the whole principle about what we fight for and profess to be about."

A spokesman for Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said professional baseball had nothing to do with the Hall of Fame event and did not make "political statements."

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