Pete Rose arose before the sun today. At 6:30 a.m., he stood outside the Philadelphia Phillies training complex here -- proving a point and winning a bet.
For yesrs, Larry Bowa has been the first Phil to report on the first day of training camp. The little insomniac shortstop often appeared at the Clearwater gates at 8 a.m. for the 10 a.m. workout.
That was Bowa's hustling, scrappy style, a mode of operation that he proudly admitted he had stolen from his only baseball hero -- Pete Rose.
"I'll be the first Phillie to report this year," Rose said casually a few days ago.
"I bet you won't," answered the feisty Bowa as he, Rose and a couple of other Phils headed for Las Vegas for a final offseason holiday.
Bowa returned from Vegas early just to keep his vow.
Rose called him from the Strip last night at midnight. "You can relax," said Rose to Bowa. "You win. You'll be there before me."
So what happended? When Bowa wandered into the Phils' deserted clubhouse at 7:40 a.m. -- 20 minutes earlier than ever just to make sure -- who was standing by Bowa's locker, in his new Phillie garb, but a red-eyed, grinning Pete Rose.
"Geez, it ain't fair," said Bowa. "He musta got here by 6 a.m."
Well, almost. Rose grabbed an early all-night nonstop flight from Vegas to Tampa -- lnding as Rose put it, 'bout two minutes late at 5:23 a.m.
"I went and changed clothes," said Rose, "then figured I'd wander on out to the park... didn't have nothin' else to do. Got here about 7:30... just a coupla minutes before that crazy Bowa, I guess."
Come again, Pete?
"Rose was here at 6:30 at least," said an amused veteran Phil official. "When the trainer got here to open the palce. Pete was waiting outside."
Since the day Rose signed a four-year, $3.2 million contract with the Phils in December, he has sworn that he would demonstrate to them how to be world champions.
Others might worry about joining a new team and stepping on toes -- big toes like those of Mike Schmidt or Greg Luzinski. Rose simply has assumed that he is the teamhs emotional leader."Don't talk about it, don't think, just follow me," Rose said by his predawn arrival. "I've been there."
"We all kid around," said Rose. "but theseguys know my utmost goal. They know what my message to them is. The damn Phils ain't never won it all in a hundred years, but then I ain't never been here," he joked. "This year, we win it all."
The 37-year-old Rose, of course, was the first on the field, the first in the batting cage and the last man running wind sprints in the outfield after everyone else was long in the shower.
At bat, Rose looked feeble until some of the 2,000 ogling fans (who caused a huge unexpected traffic jam) started teasting him.
"You think you can do better?" snapped Rose, pretending to hand his bat to a fan. "Watch this."
Rose whistled three consecutive line drives into center field. "Three-for-three," grinned Rose. "What's that divide out to?"
"About time," drawled the fan, introducing Rose to Philadelphia's traditional standard of baseball generosity.
"This isn't no $800,000 swing you're seeing today," laughed Rose.
At the end of the workout, Rose ran his outfield sprints in stocking feet while several hundred fans stood on the foul line -- chatting with him, swinging his bat, fondling his glove and even trying on his size-9 1/2 spikes.
"Pete's got real small feet," said an old man who never thought that heaven would turn out to be a pair of smelly shoes.
Naturally, the Phils' acceptance of Rose was total. Rose wouldn't allow anything less. The one Phil with reason to dislike him -- Richie Hebner, who still expects to be traded for a pitcher by opening day to make room for Rose at first base -- has the locker next to Rose.
cPete'll win him (Hebner) over," said one Phil.
As usual on his symbolic, landmark days, Rose's brain was shortcircuiting from an "overload." The Phils wisely strapped a body microphone on Rose throughout the workout.
Rose already has improved the Phils' sullen clubhouse atmosphere, long the most dour in baseball.
"You can come to dinner with me," Rose told one Phil, "but you'll just have to sign autographs all night.
"Hey, Bowa, tell 'em about Vegas," continued Rose. "Before I came here, the conly way Bowa could get his name in lights was to sign lampshades. Now I got him and (Garry) Maddox on the marqUEE OF THE Dunes."
Lest anyone doubt his new allegiances, Rose took a few quick rips at the Cinicinnati Reds.
"I'm not that close to the Reds. None of 'em called me when I signed to wish me well... well, Sparky (anderson) did and Mike Lumm and Bill Plummer. I ain't gonna go out of my way to see those guys. But I'm not gonna bypass them at the dog track, either."
"There were guys in Cincinnati who got mad at me cause I played every day... imagine that," said Rose. "Sparky'd write my name down on the lineup first, then he'd have to think about the rest of them to see who was injured that day. In nine years with Sparky, I was out of the lineup nine times."
Every mention of the Reds costs Rose pain.
"You know to this day I have never gotten to talk to the owner of the Reds about contracts. Louis Nippert owns 89 percent of the team and I've never discussed it with him.
"Dick Wagner (general manager) said, 'You can talk to him, but not about money,'" said Rose. "Well, what the hell else would I have wanted to talk to him about?
"We toured Japan after the season and Sparky and Mr. Nippert were receiving bouquets of flowers at home plate before every game. Then we fly balck and they fire Sparky right away.
"Them Japnese must think we're crazy. They must wonder how we won the war.
"The Reds broke Sparky's heart but theyhre gonna make him a pot of money, just like they did me. All Sparky has to do is read the box scores and listen for the phone to ring.
"Sparky and me might be the two best sellers of baseball. We know how to sell. And the Reds let us both go. Is there a message in there?"
Some in baseball think Rose will get a message he does not wish to hear once he leaves parochial Cincinnati for goldfish bowl Philadelphia.
"The Reds have covered up scrapes for Pete his whole career," said Baltimore General Manager Hank Peters. "He's always been in soem little jam... They've done a good job of protecting his image. We'll see how the Phillies do."
The most recent jam is a paternity suit.
Rose is voluble on all subjects except that suit. Mention it and Charlie Hustle remembers an urgent appointment in the shower.
A 15-year friend of the Roses actually cites the recent suit as a good sign in the often story marriage.
"The suit means that 'the other woman' has given up trying to get Pete away from Karolyn," said the friend. "Karolyn looks on it as an old-fashioned woman-over-woman victory."
Possible evidence of this is that the Orses, separated last summer, are back together.
Today, at least, Rose was too exuberant for any problems.
As he ran in the outfield, Rose suddenly found a huge man grabbing him around the throat. It was the Phils' fitness specialist, Gus Hoefling -- stop-watch in hand -- feeling for a throat pulse to measure players' "recovery time" from exertion.
"I almost swallowed my chaw," Rose said.
"Hey, Gus," teased Bowa, "come put the sleeper hold on Pete. Turn him into an $800,000 vegetable."
"Pete Rose," said Hefling with icy, medical dignity, "has the cardiorespiratory system of a 32-year-old."
"Hear that! Hear that!" bellowed Rose. "Geez, that gives me eight more years..."
Then a thought came to him. "That means," beamed Rose, "Rully Carpenter (Phillies' owner) has gotta go through all this again."