Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
In Shea Stadium, where fans once threw bottles at his head, Pete Rose stood at home plate Monday night and heard 35,939 chant, "Let's go, Pete."
With "chills running up my back and kinda an unusual feeling in my stomach," Rose responded to the unexpected chants by lashing a seventh-inning single to left field to tie Tommy Holmes' National League record of hitting in 37 straight games.
"I just couldn't believe it," said Rose, who singled in the seventh and ninth innings, scoring both times in Cincinnati's 5-3 victory over New York. "I wsh I coulda shook hands with every one of 'em."
Rose's rifle shot to left field off met righthander Pat Zachry came at a time when it was possible that Rose - 0 for 3 at that point - might not get another at bat.
The crowd here, which has booed and taunted Rose ever since his 1973 fight with ex-Met Bud Harrelson, had given the Reds' third baseman several three-quarter standing ovations, mixed with boss, earlier in the game.
But in the seventh, with his streak perhaps on the line, the New Yorkers showed their class, booming out their spontaneous "Let's go, Pete" even though the game was tied, 2-2.
"You'd think I'd have to drop dead to get a standing ovation here," grinned Rose. "I think all these people who threw things at me have retired from baseball."
As has been his custom throughout his streak, Rose's hits were at the heart of a Red victory. This one pulled the Big Red Machine within one game of the first-place San Francisco Giants.
Rose scored on singles by Mike Lum and George Foster to put the Reds ahead, 3-2, in the seventh. With the game retired, 3-3, in the ninth, his leadoff single - a vicious liner to left off Skip Lockwood - was followed by Lum's game winning homer to right.
"I was swinging at every pitch with him," said the dapper Holmes, the former Boston Brave who is now the Mets' community relations director. "I want to thank Pete. Because of him, about 50 million people who never heard of my streak have learned my name."
As Rose stood on first after his record-tying hit, he was given a three-minute standing ovation.
"Tip your hat, Pete," said first baseman Willie Montanez, "or we'll be here all night."
"But every time I tipped it," said Rose, "they cheered louder.
"You know, I've really got these New York fans confused. Earlier this year I hit three homers in one game against 'em.
"The people stood up after that last homer and clapped and booed at the same time. They didn't know whether to wind their nose or scratch their watch."
Last night those Mets fans, like many around the country, finally made up their minds about Rose. He is a national baseball treasure to be relished at age 37.
The man enjoying Rose's streak most is Rose.
"People been saying that I'm old," he said slyly. "They forgot to tell me about it."
Roses's brain was abuzz in his moment of glory last night. "I'm not worried about getting stopped," said Rose, who will face Craig Swan (2-5, 2.48 ERA) in tonight's game. "I gotta get moving or that damn Jackie Clark (Giant outfielder currently on a 25-game hitting streak) is gonna be all over my tail."
Clearly, Rose has his eyes on Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, the mark often cited as the record least likely to be broken in all of American sport.
"I'm lucky that there are guys with hitting streaks of 40, 41, 42 and 44," said Rose, a student of all statistics. "It's easier when you've got a record to tie or break every day.
"Man, it's tough to look all the way up from 37 to 56 at one time."
The Elias Sports Bureau reports that Rose (based on career performance) has a 79 percent chance of breaking Holmes' 33-year-old mark.
Elias quotes Rose as 1 to 8 to break Willie Keeler's 44-game streak in 1897 (second longest in history), and makes him 1 to 157 to break DiMaggis's record.
Interstingly, Rose and Holmes both batted 156 times in their streaks with Holmes having the advantage in hits (66 to 58), runs produced (75 to 38) and total bases (110 to 69).
Elias, in its statistical orgy, points out that a batter hitting .267 (as Rose was on June 14) is a 75,000-to-1 shot to go on a 37-game hitting streak.
One man not delighted by the night's doings was Zachry, a bearded, Abe Lincoln lookalike.
Before the game he generously said, "Pete tried to take care of me as a rookie (with the Reds). He used to watch my dog for me, but the dog kept getting hair allover his Rolls, Royce."
After Foster's single finished Zachry he kicked the dugout steps in anger and suffered contusions of the big toe. He was taken to a New York hospital for X-rays.
"That proves he wasn't throwin' me no cookies," snapped Rose, who is extremely touchy on the subject of pitchers offering him fat tosses. "Yeah they're layin' 'em in there for me . . . with curves and swerves and mustard and even a little grease on 'em."
Holmes, sitting in the Shea mezzanine, showed mixed emotions toward Rose's attempt to supplant his only major record.
"If it were any kind of guy but someone like Rose, I'd hate the guy's guts," admitted Holmes, a feisty leadoff man who hit and played much like Rose. "I'm not rooting for him and I'm not rooting against him . . .
"I've got a lot to thank Pete for. But I'm not exactly hoping he turns me into one of those trivia questions. If Pete gets to 55 games, you asked Joe D if deep in his heart he's saying 'Go, Pete.'"