Pete Rose's uniform was covered with mud, his brown badge of courage.
"Here," said Rose, standing proudly in the middle of the Cincinnati Reds' locker room and handing his filthy No. 14 to the clubhouse man. "Have this uniform clean for Mother's Day."
It was the Philadelphia Phillies who were cleaned by Rose in the ninth inning of last night's battle between division leaders. won by the Reds 4-3.
Rose's barrelling, rolling slide forced second baseman Jim Morrison into a wild throw to first. That slide not only prevented an inning-ending double play but allowed the tying and winning runs to score as the ball trickled toward the box-seat railing.
"It won't do no good to clean that uniform," cackled the Reds' Joe Morgan. "That young boy (Rose) will just get it all dirty again."
Rose and Morgan were Cincinnati's two coltish heroes in a game that was won by a two-run ground ball to short-stop.
The Phils led 3-2, thanks to Mike Schmidt's three-run/homer in the bottom of the eighth, when the Reds loaded the bases with one out in the ninth.
Morgan fell behind two strikes to tough lefty reliever Tug McGraw, "It was raining, and the first two pitches weren't really strikes," said Morgan, "but the umpire was mad at us.
"I just wanted to make any sort of contact."
Morgan hacked a hard two-hopper right at shortstop Bud Harrelson, a perfect game-ending double-play ball. That is, against any batter except Morgan and any man running from first except Rose.
"Impossible," said Morgan. "It's impossible for me to ground into a double-play on a ball to short. I don't think it's ever happened to me. I've grounded into two DPs each of the last two years, and I know none of 'em was to shortstop."
Harrelson had to hesitate on his shovel pass to second just as every shortstop has to since second basemen are positioned far to their right against the pull-hitting Morgan.
Perhaps Morrison would have been wise to settle for just one out, but the temption to gun Morgan out at first and win the game was just too great. "They had to try," grinned Reds' Manager Sparky Anderson. "How can the pivot man hold the ball on a perfect double play while the tying run scores. No can do."
Rose knew it. And Rose was mad. He had walked to load the bases, but not before a huge controversy. Rose actually struck out on a 1-2 pitch, his attempted check-swing going so far around from the right-handed batter's side that his bat pointed toward the left-field foul pole.
But Rose lashed the bat back with his huge forearms, with a jerk so quick that even the first base umpire, Harry Wendelstedt, ruled "Ball two" on an appeal.
First Baseman Richie Hebner was ejected within seconds for his tirade. Manager Danny Ozark got the thumb minutes later after a prolonged dissertation, concentration on Wendelstedt's eyes and girth.
While Ozark fumed, McGraw played catch on the rainy mound. Then McGraw promptly walked Rose on pitche in the dirt.
Rose slung his bat all the way into the Reds' dugout in disgust at not being able to get hit No. 3,008 and pass Al Kaline.
Rose vented his anger on Morrison in their collision at second. Morrison, who could not have doubled Morgan, anyway, landed on his head. His throw would have within reach of 6-foot-1 first baseman Hebner. But Hebner was gone. Reserve catcher Tim McCarvel, at 5-11, was at first and the ball ticked off the top of his glove as the winning run sped home.
Until Rose and Morgan gave their lesson in inside baseball, this game had just one interesting moment, but it was a beaut.
No often do 35,802 fans call for home run, plead for it, stand and roar in one long ovation for it . . . and then get a 450-foot monster that looks like it will win the game.
With two on, one out in the eight the Reds brought in Doug Bair - in scored on this season in 20 relief endings - to face Schmidt.
When the count reached 3-2, the crowd went nuts. Bair didn't want to pitch. He dawdled on the mound but the noise would not stoy. Finally, he threw. Schmidt's rising liner hit the left-field mezzanine. It might have been enough for victory except for one 3-year-old kid in a muddy uniform.