Nobody knows more about Rose's stats than Rose does, and his memory is legendary. Against Los Angeles on April 28, he called for the ball after his fifth hit of the game, but nobody in Dodger Stadium knew what the occasion was. The Philly broadcasters had to confess their ignorance on the air. It turned out that Rose had just tied Max Carey's National League record for most five-hit games in a career (nine). Cobb, naturally, holds the big league mark of 14.
Breaking Cobb's total hits record will be more fun for Rose than talking about it. He has never known fear and has rarely experienced uncertainty. "I can only base my feelings about making it on how I feel today," he says, "and right now I'd have to say there's a much better chance I'll make it than I won't."
Rose's career will hardly be a waste without it. "I've tried to do two things: be durable and consistent," he says, twitching on the bench a full four hours before the start of the game. "I hold the record for 600 at-bat seasons  and 200-hit seasons . To me, that's consistent and durable."
Since 1970 Rose has missed all of nine games; his current streak is 545 straight. "I'm lucky I've never fractured a wrist or anything," he says. "But you can't expect to be 100% all the time. If I took a day off I'd be sluggish. Two years ago I played six weeks with a broken toe by cutting open my right shoe. I played two months that same season with a hyperextended elbow I got when a runner hit me coming into first. I thought I broke everything on my left side. I went home and iced it and heated it and iced it and heated it all night. I don't let nobody but the trainer know when I'm hurt; people will use it for their benefit."
Rose watchers were worried when their man missed most of spring training with a pulled back muscle. But, typically, Rose had begun his conditioning regimen two weeks before camp started and was in good enough shape to play Opening Day. A couple of weeks ago he played five games in a grueling 47-hour stretch at Veterans Stadium and took some hard shots at first. Met Shortstop Ron Garden-hire bowled him over on one play, but Rose hung on to the ball for the out. Passing Phillie Third Base Coach Dave Bristol on the way to the dugout, Gardenhire called back, "I've just been introduced to Pete Rose."
Consistency? Simplicity is a better word. Rose—Yastrzemski, too, for that matter—almost always looks for the fastball, though Yaz tends to be much more of a pull hitter. "By looking for the fast one I can always adjust to any of the other stuff," says Rose. "I've tried it and I can't be a guess hitter. A few years ago when Gene Mauch was managing the Phillies and I was with the Reds, he told his catcher to tell me what each pitch was going to be. I didn't believe him the first three times up, but the fourth time, I looked for the curve he called and hit it for a double to help win the game. That's the only time I looked for the curve."
In one of his earliest spring trainings Rose was taken aside by Ted Williams, who began speaking about hips, wrists, arms, shoulders. " Mr. Williams," Rose said, "you may be the greatest hitter of all time, but I've always been taught to be comfortable, see the ball and hit it out front. That's what I'm going to do."
When Rose is slumping, he'll do one of four things: move up or back in the box, move closer or farther from the plate. No changes, you'll note, in his swing. The only major adjustment Rose has ever made there was to start choking up a little on the bat in 1978. In the next three seasons his strikeout totals were a lowly 30, 32 and 33.
One night last week some San Diego Padres were kidding Rose about being a singles hitter. "Hey, I got a Rolls-Royce," Rose said. "They pay me big money to set the table for the big boys. I could hit maybe 20 homers a year [he has 156 lifetime], but I'd have to pull the ball, and that's not me. People don't understand that I do try to hit with authority. Some of my happiest memories are of homers—the one off Jim Palmer in the 1970 World Series against the Orioles, Catfish Hunter in the 1972 Series against the A's, Harry Parker in the 1973 playoffs against the Mets. I'm eighth on the alltime total-base list, and I'm closing in on a thousand extra-base hits. You have to be aggressive."
And adaptable. Over the years Rose has moved from second to left to right to left to third to first. As a second-place hitter he's often obliged to take pitches that he'd normally swing at. And he's energetic, to put it mildly. Last week he could be seen hitting grounders to infielders, taking the lineup card out to home plate, dispensing advice by the hour and talking animatedly to friend and foe. "How you doing, legend?" asked the Dodgers' Mark Belanger. "I can't tell you how much he's helped me," says Dernier. Not for nothing was Rose selected captain of the 1982 National League All-Star team, the 16th time he's made the squad.