Rarely has Pete Rose ever done anything for which he did not get both full and just acclaim.
Few players have mined the lode of their talent so completely. And few have their skills so totally appreciate in dollars and cheers.
Immortality is the itch that great men scratch, sometimes until they bleed. Rose has kept the blisters on his hands blood red for 16 years.
Pete - the only Rose that ever wanted to smell like a man - has perfumed his 3,086 hits with sweat, not toilet water.
Even Rose's flaws have been generously forgiven. Like Reggie Jackson, Rose has camouflaged the lack of a Gold Glove behind a golden tongue. Nothing tops a hard-hitting ham. Thus, Jackson has his "Reggie" bar, Rose has solf drink "Pete!"
Now, however, Rose is in danger of being over-shadowed in one of his finest hours. This exemplar of the baseball spirit is giving his finest sustaned performance at the age of 37, yet it may be undervalued.
If Joe DiMaggio had never played, Rose's current streak of hitting safely in 34 straight games would now be seen in its appropriate glowing light.
However, all hitting streaks are dwarfed and belittled by the Yankee Clipper's 56-game blockbuster, a statistic that makes contemporary players hallucinate if they think about it too hard.
Rose, a student of his game, has always set goals for breakfast, launched on records, and eaten pressure for dinner.
"All the attention doesn't bother me one bit," Rose said yesterday. "Like I been sayin; if I keep hackin' like this, the streak may go on forever."
That answers the hundred-or-so questions real fast.
The Reds' third sacker has a percise sense of the worth of his feat. Rose can cite chapter and verse on the details of all the streakers he is passing.
Even as Rose now stands, his 34-gamer is the longest streak in baseball in 29 years.
"It's harder to keep a streak going these days than it was in the '30s and '40s," Rose claims. "Most of the trends of the game have been against hitting since World War II.
"You see more relief pitchers, more guy with a trick pitch. The slider has been perfected since then.
"Now you've got jet lag and more night games and better gloves. Everything against me," he laughed. "It's a good thing I get to play so many games on AstroTurf it's harder cut a bunt, and that's one of the best ways to keep a streaks going."
Rose's skein already ties Rogers Hornby for the second best in the NL's century of play. If Rose reaches 35 today - and NBC-TV promises to interrupt its Bame of the Week with Rose updates from Montreal - he will have the third longest streak in 56 years.
Roll that on the tongue.
Nevertheless, Rose admits he has only one goal in mind: Tommy Holmes' streak of 37 games for the Boston Braves in the talent-thing 1945 season. Rose has been counting down toward Holmes since before the All-Star break.
Certainly baseball fans could want no more symbolic pairing than Rose and DiMiaggio as the hitting-streak record holders for their respective leagues."
What richer contrast could be concocted than the stubble-chinned Aqua Velva man and icy Mr. Coffee, Rose and DiMaggio are the ultraviolet and the infrared of the specrum of baseball temperament.
DiMaggio - the thoroughbred of ballplayers - means style, adoration and inaccessibility.
Rose - the dogged donkey - has brought dignity to lack of grace, scorns, adoration in favor of learning his fans by their names.
DiMaggio was natural, Rose self-made.
Even in marriage, DiMaggio meant flowers on Marilyn Monroe's grave, while Rose had a finally like the tempestnous one down the block.
Two months ago, Rose and his wife Karolyn separated. Now they are reconciled. "It was my fault," Rose now says apologetically. "She's a good lady. Sometimes I think she's too good for me."
For DiMaggio, the aloof defy, there was always awe. For Rose. Everyman's bowling partner, there is a growing rooting interest.
Charlie Hustle, once booed from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles for his spikes-high style, is at age 37, getting a universal following.
"Pete's the only guy I can think of who could have this happen to him, and not have it cause jealousy," said Reds manager Sparky Anderson.
"On this team, you start off playing fifth banana," says Ken Griffey, familiar with the way chaps named Seaver, Bench, Morgan and Rose own the spotlight. "But it's impossible to resent anything Pete gets."
Even Holmes, the man in Rose's bat sights, says, "I wish him luck. Heck, until two weeks ago, nobody knew I was still alive."
The former Brave outfielder, who played in front of the "Jury Box" bleachers in Braves Field, is now the community relations director with the Mets. "If Pete gets a shot at my 37," said Holmes, "I'll be there. Rose has a lot going for him, but he doesn't have my old fans in the Jury Box."
With the exception of Minnesota' Rod Carew, perhaps no player has all Rose's advantages in maintaining a streak.
Batting leadoff for the powerful Reds. Rose gets to bat five times in a game more frequently than any other player. With Morgan and Peorge Foster following him in the batting order, few pitchers would dream of "working around" Rose at any stage of the game. Better one more Rose single than a huge Red uprising.
In his streak that began June 14 Rose has hit 374 (32 for 139). A dozen times he had opened the game with a hit, while six times he has waited until his last at bat to keep his streak alive. Rose has been harder to strike out this year than ever before - 19 whiffs in 394 at bats.
"It's only the last two days that he hasn't swung great, said Anderson. In those two Philadelphia games Rose needed a two-out-in-ninth bunt and an infield hit to stay alive.
"My kinda secret is that I'm bunting more the older I get," says Rose, who has five bunt hits in the streak. "I haven't lost my speed, and they play me deep at third. I've always been able to bunt, but I've kinda kept it as an ace in the hole." Old age insurance?
"I hate off days, because I might get hit by a train," Rose cracks. "And I hate those hotel rooms on the road, 'cause you can't take BP in 'em."
When Rose got his 3,000th hit in May, he for-warned home plate umpire Jerry Dale to "get out a clean ball, Jerry, 'cause I'm about to put it in the Hall of Fame."
Even if Rose is halted before he reaches Holmes, it will only be a pit stop. Rose, who leads the league in runs and hits, already has his next goal in sight. What can it be?
"I think," grins Rose, "that I'm going to get me another batting title."