Baseball legend Johnny Bench apologized for using an “insensitive” remark during the Cincinnati Reds’ Hall of Fame ceremony on Saturday night, which came as the team honored the late Gabe Paul.
Jennie Paul, Gabe’s daughter, and Pete Rose were among those who spoke about the former team executive. Jennie noted how her father was Jewish and became a champion of minorities in pro baseball. Rose told a story about how Gabe signed him on a deal that paid him about $400 per month.
After Jennie chimed in with a comment about how her father was “cheap,” Bench was heard yelling, “He was Jewish!” The former Reds catcher’s joke didn’t go over well, and he was scrutinized for it.
He apologized in a statement through the Reds.
“I recognize my comment was insensitive,” Bench’s statement reads. “I apologized to Jennie for taking away from her father the full attention he deserves.
“Gabe Paul earned his place in the Reds Hall of Fame, same as the others who stood on that stage, I am sorry that some of the focus is on my inappropriate remark instead of solely on Gabe’s achievement.”
Jennie Paul told The Athletic she didn’t hear the comment.
“I didn’t even hear him say that,” she said. “Johnny came up to me and said, ‘Were you offended?’ I was like, ‘For what?’ I didn’t even hear him say that. I suppose if I had heard him say that I might have said something, but I didn’t even hear him say that.”
Paul said she is not Jewish and was raised Episcopalian. She added that Gabe Paul’s parents were from modern-day Ukraine – which was part of Russia at the time.