For the first time in recorded baseball history Pete Rose smiled today after a game in which he had gone hitless.
"A year go this time I never would have believed that a player in my position (then making $190,000 a year) could double his salary in one season," admitted Rose, who signed a two-year contract for close to $400,000 a season Tuesday night.
"Ain't it great we can't see into the future."
The world champion Cincinnati Reds won the first game of the new season today, beating the San Diego Padres and their tarnished star pitcher, Randy Jones, 5-3.
But the game, played in 38-degrees weather after Riverfront Stadium was cleared of three inches of early-morning snow, took second billing to Rose in this hour of his greatest negotiating triumph.
If Rose's lifelong obsession has been collecting hits - 2,762 of them - then his second crusade has been to establish ever higher salary scales, especially for players who are not sluggers.
Rose long ago fullfilled his vow to be baseball's first $100,000 singles hitter. But likely even he never dreamed of a two-year pact worth more than $750,000 for a man who hit 10 home runs and drove in 63 runs last season.
His one-season salary raise is believed to be the biggest given a player by the club he was with the previous year.
Both the Reds and Rose came as close as combatants ever do to admitting that Rose scored a clear decision over management in this salary battle that lasted more than eight months and involved he entire city of Cincinnati in public debate.
"It was a long ordeal," said team vice president Dick Wagner. "But I'm not one to look back. Sometimes you lose, but when you do, you go back and play the next day."
"Maybe I asked for too much," laughed Rose. "Maybe that's why I got it."
Rose's negotiating technique was masterful. He realized that onteh evening before opening day his leverage was greater than before, and perhaps greater than it ever would be again.
Cincinnati fans were so outraged that the Reds would not mee the dephone calls, petitions and even offers to pay Rose's salary. Management reached such a stage of desperation mands of he most popular athlete which it bought a newspaper ad to plead it case.
Today's game was to be the great showdown. The town was full of amateur sign makers: Cincinnati was choosing up sides.
The Reds did not want their opening day turned into a pro-Rose protest demonstration. Rose knew it. He also knew that once the opener passed and the damage of a public confrontation had been done, he would never have as strong trump to play again. And the Reds" front office might be doubly addament about not giving in.
"The only people who are made that I signed," grinned Rose, "are the ones who had to burn their signs.
"I didn't think that Mr. Howsam (club president Bob Howsam) should be ridiculed with signs.'
If the Reds were exhausted by the salary ordeal, so was Rose. "Do I look tired?" said Rose. "You'd be tired and if you'd gone through what I have for the last month . . . people calling me at 4 a.m. 'When ya gonna sign?'"
Just three days ago Rose's brother, David, a Tampa ambulance driver, beat up a fan who was heckling Rose at a Tampa spring training game.
"The guy's yelling, Rose, you bum.'" said Rose. "And he turns around and the guy behind him looks just like me and 50 pounds bigger. Dave just beat the hell out of him.
"That guy's got to ask himself, 'How bad is my luck?' Dave's a paramodic, so he knew just how long to punch the guy and still get him to the hospital in time," said Rose, hamming up the story.
The first person Rose called after signing was his wife, Karolyn, who was playing disc jockey at a motel bar named "Lucy in the Sky."
"First thing she said," laughed Rose, "was 'Betcha gave in, didn't ya.' I told her, Yeah . . . a little.'"
Rose's main concession was backing off from his demand for a three-year contract. It's rough for them to give a guy my age three years at that kind of money," hesaid. "You don't expect to drop off, but who can tell."
Rose hardly had a bright start today, and O-for-4, day with four ground balls that made his .208 Florida average look ominous.
The only Red who did worse was the last two seasons' Most Valuable Player in the National League, Joe Morgan. He booted a ground ball, made a bad throw and allowed a popup to drop for a double. He also colided with right fielder Ken Griffey and knocked him down.
"Worst day I ever had in the field," Morgan said sheepishly after being charged with not one error by a generous hometown scorer. "I'm swinging terrible, too, and I got a bloop double, kinda charmed, I guss."
The Reds were carried today by shortstop Dave Concepcion, who claimed he had never seen snow before, and Cesar Geronimo, who said it was his second experience with the white stuff.
"It was too cold to go out and feel it," shivered Concepcion, who saved two runs with a leaping catch of a line drive, stole two bases and got two hits.
Geronimo, wearing a team's worth of thermal underwear, refused to take underground batting practice ("and hurt my hand?"), but hammered a two-run homer off loser Jones.
Jones, last year's Cy Young winner who is recovering from serious shoulder surgery for damaged nerves, was ineffective in five hard-hit innings.
"My control." said Jones, a pinpoint artist. "You can throw strikes that are still not the proper kind of strikes."
Certainly the sinker, the kind he rarely shows lefties, was a mistake to Geronimo. But Jones also could blame his slow-reacting infielders.Twice he picked runners only to see them escape to the next base and eventually score.
Concepcion, who now has "Concepcion - Super Star" on the back of his locker chair, did it once, and Ken Griffey, who had three hits and is on a power tear, duplicated the escape.
Despite a victory and Pete Rose in hand, plus the applause of 100,000 (many mittened) hands, the Reds' problems have not disappeard.
Johnny Bench missed this game with a reaggravated knee sprain. Ace pitcher Gary Nolan is out of the rotation, probably until May, with a sore foot.
But three good relief innings by unsigned Rawly Eastwick to lock up a victory for popular old Woody Fryman, who fought his own bad control through 5 1/3 innings, was enough to leave the Reds cocky.
Even Ross, "colder than a anybody after O-for-4," could chuckle. "I'll probably get a hit before the year's over," he predicted, looking as happy as a cat with canary feathers between its teeth.