But if a three-year contract is a necessity, the Padres are not likely to be the team, although of the eight clubs Rose named, San Diego is in greatest need of a third baseman. " Pete Rose would be good for the San Diego Padres," says Kroc, "and I would be willing to pay a substantial sum to him for one year or, under certain conditions, two years. He would be a big attraction for one season." But Kroc has also stated that he would be "disappointed if Pete Rose wasn't considerate of the fans in Cincinnati." He adds, "This is a country where people say, 'If you are successful, why aren't you rich?' Rose wants to certify his success with a fancy salary. We know he's accomplished more in the past than he will in the future, but he doesn't want to be paid on that basis."
So it seems that almost all of Rose's listed choices have been eliminated, which may help explain why he suddenly brought up the Braves last week. Sixth-place Atlanta may be more an offensive team than an offense-minded one, but it is also owned by Cincinnati native Ted Turner. "I was just on the phone with Ted," said Rose as the camera clicked.
What the two talked of was not divulged—and for good reason. Two years ago Turner was suspended by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn for tampering with prospective free agent Gary Matthews before the draft was held. If he is discovered to have been dealing prematurely with Rose, he might face similar disciplinary action. No wonder the Braves were denying any knowledge of conversations between Turner and Rose. Besides, the Braves' director of player personnel, Bill Lucas, thinks it would be incongruous for Atlanta to sign Pete, even on the off chance that Rose would play for a non-contender. "We're committed to youth," he says. "Our average age last year was 24.6. Rose would provide spark and leadership, and people would come out to see him once. But after that we'd have to start winning."
Which teams does that leave? Rose has an answer. "The Phillies," he says. "All they lack is a team leader. Two of my three favorite people in baseball are on the Phils—Larry Bowa and Greg Luzinski. And they need a leadoff hitter. They need me."
The Phillies are no less enthusiastic. "There isn't much doubt in my mind that he can play another three years," says Paul Owens, the Phils' director of player personnel. "He's got the kind of body that doesn't wear down. And he has so many intangibles. He's proud. He works hard. He's a leader. And the son of a gun can still hit. He and Bowa on the same team would be contagious. By himself, Pete Rose couldn't turn a club around, but with a contending team he could be the difference between a winner and a bridesmaid." Having watched his team catch the bouquet three straight years in the playoffs, Owens knows of what he speaks.
Because of tampering rules, no one in Philadelphia will say whether Rose's salary demands will be an obstacle for owners Bob and Ruly Carpenter, though that sort of thing has never made them back down before; they have the highest payroll in their league.
Where the Phillies would play Rose is of greater interest. Luzinski came up as a first baseman, but his knees are too bad for him to return there. He will surely stay in left. That would leave Rose at first, and the incumbent first baseman, Richie Hebner, on the trading block. Another intriguing possibility would be to move Gold Glove Third Baseman Mike Schmidt to second base, installing Rose at third and leaving Hebner at first.
In the end, the club that signs Rose will probably be the one willing to—surprise—pay him the most money, even if that team is not on his preferred list. Lest anyone still think that Charlie Hustle is not a man of material concerns, this season, when he could not take advantage of a free trip to Hawaii that the Padres gave him for appearing on a pregame show, he tried to sell the trip. No philanthropist he.
Thus it is unlikely that recent moves by Cincinnatians will tie Rose's heartstrings to Riverfront. Broadcaster Bob Trumpy first vainly tried to have the Cincinnati zoo declare Rose an endangered species. He then asked that Rose be declared a historic landmark. That was rejected, because historic landmarks must be at least 50 years old. But the City Planning Commission did designate Rose as a "listed property," which prohibits "demolition, displacement, or relocation...alteration to the exterior appearance of the property, including the preservation of the following characteristics: red on white uniform, the insignia ' Cincinnati Reds' on the cap and shirt; number 14 on the shirt; and large lettering on the posterior portion of the shirt spelling out the word ROSE." Should Rose want to grow a beard, he must first obtain a building permit from the city's architectural board of review.
"The fans of Cincinnati have been wonderful to Pete," says Katz. "But he's been pretty wonderful to them, too. I don't think anybody owes anything to anyone else."