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It is the middle of last week, and in the exercise room adjacent to the Cincinnati Reds' locker room, 37-year-old Pete Rose is mugging for the camera. Over his stocky frame he wears a T shirt similar to the ones he gave President Carter's Softball team during a recent visit to the White House. Across the back of the shirt in bold lettering is written: PETE ROSE—3,000—HUSTLE MADE IT HAPPEN. Rose likes being photographed. A vain man without a trace of self-consciousness, secure in his image, Rose is the Muhammad Ali of baseball.
On his head is a Phillie cap. "What do you think of the Phils, Pete?"
"They need me." Rose points to his chest and grins. Click.
Someone hands him another cap. Rose removes the small, plastic insert from the front of the Phillie cap and puts it in the new one, so that it will sit on his head just so. "O.K., Pete. The California Angels. What do you think of?"
" Gene Autry." Rose grins, baring the gap in his front teeth. "Maybe he'll give me his horse if I sign. What was the name of that horse? Champion? Champion!" Click.
Next cap. It bears the interlocking "S" and "D" of the Padres, owned by McDonald's magnate Ray Kroc. " San Diego had two Pete Rose Days this year," Rose divulges. "Two. Ray Kroc likes me because I'm a self-made, aggressive guy like he is, and he likes me because I help his younger players. I go to the park early and work with them. He appreciates that." Rose grins and bites into an imaginary Big Mac. Click.
"Ahh, endorsements!" says Pete. Click.
"O.K., Pete, how about a frown?"
"You want a frown? I'll give you a frown. Give me that Reds cap."