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Nestled amongst several soon-to-be-dirtied Reds uniforms, a peach basket full of fan mail, Pete Jr.'s tiny spikes and shower shoes, a clipping of a newspaper headline that said, "Rose Cleared in Death by Reason of Insanity," a book entitled The Greatest is Aloha ('Aloha' Means Love), a bottle of Jean Nate friction pour le bain, a small "Babyvision" TV set and other interesting stuff, there was something relatively new in Pete Rose's Riverfront Stadium locker last week: an infielder's glove.
For a curious visitor Rose took this fielding appliance out, spat in the pocket, rubbed the spit in with gusto and showed that the glove was shorter-fingered and more spread out than the outfielder's model he used from 1967 until a month ago, when Reds Manager Sparky Anderson asked him, for the sake of getting Outfielder George Foster's hot bat into the regular lineup, to make the switch to third. Did Rose think his taking on a new position had given the team a lift?
That was not for Charlie Hustle himself to say. He was willing to point out, though, that "we're 13 and 6."
Rose was referring to Cincinnati's record in games he had started at third. By Sunday that record stood at 16 and 7, the Reds had won 11 of their last 13, and the division-leading Dodgers had reason to feel hot Red breath on the backs of their necks—their margin had shriveled to one-half game.
Besides great talent and last year's pennant to defend, the Dodgers have a distinctive organizational pride. As Coach Tom Lasorda hit a difficult fungo to Third Baseman Ron Cey in spring training he exhorted Cey to "get it for that Big Dodger in the Sky." The Cincinnati club can hardly call upon a Big Red in the Sky, because such an expression might suggest Lenin or somebody, and if that got out—even though Reds are not permitted such signs of doubtful ideology as facial hair—it would be bad for fan identification.
(Last week the Reds did sign two Chinese prospects, but they are graduates of the Taiwan Little League, which is not only non-Communist but may be a higher league than the National.)
So now the Reds have a big Rose in the infield. They also have a person at second base who can do everything but sing the national anthem (and nobody can sing the national anthem), a slick shortstop who hits better than most outfielders, a cleanup hitter who has resumed cleaning up, a bullpen that has found its sliders, a centerfielder who has been gravely wronged by the All-Star ballot and a starter whose arm has returned from the dead. But since there is no Red vision more engaging than that of an utterly committed chunky man charging a slow roller with hair and hat and knees and elbows flying, let us consider first the case of the transplanted Rose.
Being in many cases his approximate peers, the Reds do not necessarily regard Rose with awe. "They call you Mr. Ty Cobb," cried Shortstop Dave (Bozo) Concepcion recently. "You couldn't tie Ty Cobb's shoes."
"If I couldn't tie his shoes," responded Rose, "then what could you do to him?"
"I played 36 games at third last year and nobody said a word," declared Catcher Johnny Bench.