All Pete Rose needs is a sharp thorn to stick under his own saddle.
After getting his 3,000th hit in May, Rose went into an awful slump, his precious batting average slipping to within one out of dropping below .260.
Was that glorious rush to the 3,000th hit, complete with a five-hit, three-homer game just days before the beginning of the end for Charlie Hustle?
"I was exhausted," said Rose. "So I decided it was time to take some extra batting practice."
That is perfectly Rose logic.
Yesterday Rose crashed three hits in Cincinnati's 8-2 victory over San Francisco, running his current hitting streak to 25 games - longest in the majors this year. In the streak, he is 41 for 105.
Rose, feared dead less than a month ago, chuckled by his locker.
"Hey, you think this old man's got another batting title left in him?" asked Rose. "I think so.
"This hitting streak might go on forever if I keep swinging like this. Joe DiMaggio may have to send me one of them congratulatory telegrams."
Statistical wizards tried to decide how far Rose was from the modern National League hitting streak record. No one knew, offhand.
"Thirty-seven games," said Rose immediately, out of the side of his mouth, "by Tommy Holmes (1945). I got 12 to go."
Rose's desire for goals is insatiable. When his average reached .260, he shamed himself by thinking of what it would be like to lead off the All-Star Game for the National League and "see 'em flash some damn .259 next to my name."
Rose had a bunt single, two clear line singles to center and a sacrifice fly yesterday. He was the fulcrum in the Reds' two big rallies. Once Rose even brought himself home by harassing a pitcher into a balk.
But there was solace. Standing on first base, preparatory to sprinting first-to-third with a nose-first dive, Rose did a little long division in the eight inning.
"I'm up to .303," he said. "No bad. I can live with it until after the All-Star break. It's a lot better than a month ago. Gee, I'd look out there and it seemed like the umpires had gloves on."
Rose was the whole story of today's win the Reds dearly needed to sit three, rather than five, games behind first-place Giants.
When Rose came to bat in the sixth, Giants leading, 2-0, he was thoroughly disgusted.
The Reds had one hit off Ed Halicki - his, naturally. And one loud out - his, of course.
"I wanted to shake up Halicki, maybe, and wake up the crowd (37.966)," said Rose, who was plotting a bunt.
"Aw, look at those first-ball hitters," said Rose to Giant catcher Marc Hill, after Cesar Geronimo had opened the inning with a one-pitch out.
"I was trying to get him to call a first-pitch curve, 'cause that's easy to bunt," said Rose. "I figured if I cussed Cesar a little, Hill would call the pitch Halicki controls the best so he'd throw a quick strike. That's a curve ball."
Rose got his curve, bunted, and beat it out without a throw. He dashed first-to-third on Ken Griffey's single. He faked Halicki into a balk with a mini dash toward home to get the first Red run.
The dam, and Halicki's nerves, were broken. He walked Joe Morgan and George Foster, loading the bases. Reliever John Curtis got Dan Driessen to rap a possible double play ball, but first baseman Willie McCovey only waved at the bouncing two-run single that put the Reds ahead to stay, 3-2.
In the next inning, Rose arrived at the plate with the bases loaded and none out. "In the last seven weeks I've come up with a man on third and less than two outs just one time," said Rose, who knows such things. 'Man, how can I drive in runs when I never get up in 'Hitter's Paradise'?"
With the infield drawn in, Rose could have tried to slap an average building hit. He could also have risked a rally-killing ground-ball double play.
"Lord," said Rose, "that's no time to try for a line drive. Gotta uppercut it. Gotta hit a deep fly and get that fourth run home. That's not 'team' baseball. That's just baseball."
So Rose, the epitome of baseball in his time, hit his sacrifice fly - just far enough so the man on third could score and the runner on second could advance to third.
"See the guy on second take third?" interrogated Rose. "Foster drove him home with another sac fly. So my fly really scored two . . . well, you could say that. Anyway, it don't show in no box score, but that's how the game is played."
Thank you, Prof. Rose. And watch out, Tommy Holmes. Something with 3,000 hits and a thorn under itssaddle is gaining on you.