Long after the game was over, the streak was over, the crowd of 31.159 stood in Atlanta Stadium chanting "Pete Rose, Pete Rose."

It had to end the way it did.

Rose stalked to bat with two out in the ninth inning to try to keep his 44-game hitting streak - equaling the longest in history - alive and breathing.

But Gene Garber, the submarining relief master of the Braves, flashed a 2-2 fast ball over Rose's flaying bat and The End has arrived.

On a night when the lowly Braves got 21 hits in a 16-4 triumph - every cheap bloop and seeing-eye grounder finding a hole - Rose smashed the ball on the nose twice and got nothing.

The men who will go dawn in basewball history for stopping Rose were rookie starter Larry McWilliams and the veteran Garber, each of whom retired him twice on his none-for-four night. Rose also walked to lead off the game and scored a run.

McWilliams will go down as the thief, Garber as the stopper.

In the third inning Rose hit a shit back through the middle that McWilliams stabbed at and snagged unconsciously. In the seventh, off Garber Rose hit a bullet directly at third baseman Horner.

Though the center-field telescreen told the crowd to chant "Geno, Geno" after Rose'streak and the game ended simultaneously on his final strikeout, the throng instead thundered "Pete, Pete" until Rose, dressed in a red T-shirt, emerged to take a bow - his quest marvelous, if incomplete.

For the first time in his steak, Rose talked last night before the game about The End - perhaps a sign that he felt he had gone about as far as he had a right to.

"It's going to end, but it's not going to be the end of the world," said Rose, who maintained all along that Wee Willie Keeler was his realistic goal, Joe DiMaggio merely his determined hope.

"I really bore down in game No. 25. I thought it would really be nice to go to the All-Star Game with a 25-gamer.

"That All-Star Game has made it all a lot easier by breaking things up. I just feel like I'm on a 19-game streak after the break, rather than 44.

"You know," he winked, "you gotta find ways to trick yourself, to take the pressure off."

There, at last, was that word pressure, even from the exuberat Rose,

"Sure, when I go O-fer I'll be let down. But no way I'll be sad.

Rose's bonus pleasure in the steak has been the way "it seems to be helping a lot of people other than me."

In first place on that "Thank you, Pete" list is Atlanta owner Ted Turner, who licked his chops as crowds of 45,007 and 31,159 arrived the last two nights, instead of the otherwise expectable less than 20,000 combined.

Turner sought out Rose in the Red clubhouse, grabbing his hand and saying, "Pete, you've made more money for my club than any of my players . . . What about a bonus?"

Rose's eyes grew big and he said, "Shhh . . . you're in enough trouble with the commissioner already."

"Well, what can I do for you?" asked Turner, half facetious.

"First pitch," said Rose mischievously, his hand letter-high, "a fast ball right there."

But Rose saw precious few fat pitches from Turner's boys last night.

His first three times up. Rose faced the kind of hurler he hates most - an unknown one.

"All I know about him is he's tall." Rose said of lanky Brave southpaw Larry McWilliams, who was taking a major league mound for only the fourth time in his career.

Rose's goal was to "get as much out of my first at-bat as I can . . . hopefully I'll get to see all his pitches that time. Then I can make some plans."

Rose's hard luck started on his first swing of the night - a wicked liner to right. The crowd rose, but Rose did not, knowing the drive would slice foul, as it did by six feet.

Rose drew eight pitches that trip, finally walking on a 3-2 serve and scoring eventually on a ground out.

The blow that set the mood for this night, and made every Rose moment after it bristle with tension came in the third inning. Now Rose had seen the whole McWilliams repertoire. He smashed the first pitch on a line back through the pitcher's box, about four feet to McWilliams glove-hand side.

The crowd knew instantly that the ball was a pure Rose hit - the sort of whistler that has zoomed past hurlers untouched for 16 years and which Rose says is the staple of his attack.

"If they stationed a 10th man behind second, like in softball, I'd be a .260 career hitter," Rose jokes.

But this blue-dart comebacker was no joke. McWilliams, with the reflexes and pure heart of ignorant youth, stabbed at the ball as it was whizzing past.

Lo, the ball stuck in his glove at the last instant.

The crowd gasped, but not as much as McWilliams, who fell backward from the force of the line drive, caught himself with two hands to the grass, then held the dastardly glove high.

Rose stood stunned, neither foot ever leaving the batter's box. Twice before in the last week. Rose had seen his liners grabbed by infielders before he could budge. Both times he has saucily flipped his bat like a baton, caught the fat end, and popped a defiant wad of bubble gum.

This time Rose stood at the plate and applauded McWilliams, clapping his hands at least four times. Then, slapping his batting helmet (in right hand) with his left, he trudged to the dugout.

The moment of crisis throughout Rose's streak has been the moment when he head back empty-handed after two plate appearances. Then the pressure leaps forward.

Before any game, Rose is a 79 percent favorite to get a hit. But after two hitless appearances the odds change and suddenly Rose is more likely to go hitless for the night than to get his safety.

Nineteen previous times in this streak Rose had faced and beaten this midining shift of odds from favorite to underdog.

In the top of the fifth, leading off, Rose got ahead in the count, but chopped an easy ground out to short, one of his few weakly hit balls in a week.

From the beginning of his steak, Rose hit almost exclusively line drives and hard grounders, with an occasional long fly. In 198 plate appearances in 45 games. Rose hit just one popup to the infield - an astounding statistic.

In those 198 trips, Rose had just three strikeouts, one popup, 12 walks. All the rest were strokes that had a chance of finding a hole or an outfield gap.