Game time. The Cincinnati Reds are trotting onto the artificial turf at Riverfront Stadium in their white and red-trimmed uniforms, greeted by a loud ovation.

Above, Pete Rose is finishing off supper in the stadium dining room. He's wearing slacks and a shirt - his "uniform" for the rest of the month of May.That's as close as Rose will get to the field. He has a week and a half left on his 30-day suspension for shoving umpire Dave Pallone over a disputed call.

Until June 1, baseball's most prolific hitter is perhaps baseball's most reluctant spectator.

"It's getting boring up there now," Rose said, referring to the stadium booth he occupies during the games. "I just watch the game. It's like sitting at home and watching it on TV."

Under terms of the suspension, Rose is allowed in the clubhouse before the games. He holds court with reporters in his office, then hands the on-field managing responsibilities to coach Tommy Helms. Rose watches from above, barred from communicating with the dugout in any way.

He's accepted the suspension the way he accepted other setbacks during his 24-year career - he doesn't brood over it.

"It's not tough (to be restricted to watching) because you know that's the way it is," he said.

"That's the penalty I received. There's no sense in crying in my beer because it's not going to change it. I just go up there and try to see the game from a different perspective, which I do. If I see anything that I think can help, I'll relay it to Tommy after the game or before the game the next day.

"I don't worry about calling the dugout or anything like that. I'm not going to do that.

"I'm not going to break the rules; I'm not a villain in the game of baseball."

He became a rallying point for Reds fans when National League President Bart Giamatti made him pay for shoving Pallone in an April 30 game at Riverfront against the New York Mets. Rose got the longest suspension for a manager in 40 years and a $10,000 fine. He's eligible to return to the dugout during games June 1.

The Reds were 11-12 when Rose was suspended. They've stayed around the .500 mark under Helms. Rose said he wasn't concerned that his suspension could be another distraction for a team struggling through a hitting slump and a rash of injuries.

"Nah. I've got too many professionals to worry about that," Rose said.

"And they knew I was right. They knew it (the suspension) was too long. They knew I was out there representing them. They knew I got the shaft.

"I'm saying it now, and I said it then, and I'll say it 50 years from now: 30 days is too long. And we haven't even started talking about the $10,000.

"It's too long for what I did. I was wrong. I deserved a suspension, but not for 30 days."

The length of the suspension enraged Reds fans.

Rose said he's gotten three or four bags of mail, but he hasn't read the letters.

"I appreciate the mail, whether it's good or bad," he said. "But I don't have the time to sit there and read all that mail. I've got other things to do."

For one thing, he has to care for his knee. He had previously scheduled arthroscopic surgery May 2 to remove a torn cartilege, suffered just before spring training. He missed several games that week because of the surgery, and still walks with a pronounced limp.

The knee problem - which would have cost him time in the dugout anyway - has kept Rose from being more frustrated when he's away from the field.

"It may be different if I didn't have a bad knee, because it's kind of easy to sit up there during the game. It's comfortable for me," he said.

Helms has managed the club on-field about the way Rose would.

"I don't think he's made a move yet that I wouldn't have made the same move," Rose said.