In an age that often apologizes for its appetites, even as it states them, Pete Rose is the champion of an old virtue: he knows how to want.

And he knows how to deliver. The Cincinnati Red refugee slapped a bouncing single through the middle with two out in the ninth inning tonight, driving in the winning run in a two-run rally that beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-4.

It brought his new team, Philadelphia, a three-game series sweep and a club-record 11th April victory.

Beneath the tinted sunglasses, the gold wristwatch and the diamond pinkie ring, Rose is on fire-again.

This man, who should be glutted on the world's sweet favors, is, if possible hungrier than ever. That pernicious gout of the will that erodes the initiative of other aging millionaire athletes cannot touch Rose.

In his Philadelphia Phillies locker, wedged beneath hand-tooled dress pumps elegant enough for Fred Astaire, lie telegrams, messages and phone numbers: the litter of celebrity.

Rose burrows through them as though they were confetti. Where the hell, he wants to know, are his tobacco and pine tar?

His face is fresh as a kid's these days, not haggard as might be expected from his year-long media-and merchandising siege. Rose's salvation in the midst of numbing overexposure is his almost-religious baseball code: justification by works.

"New town, new identify," he says with a wink, as though a Rose could charge its fundamental color. "I've gone from batting first and playing third to batting third and playing first . . . yeah, how 'bout that."

Because, at heart, Rose is the world's biggest 12-year-old bubblegum-chomping baseball card memorizer, he understands the measuring sticks by which he is judged with total acceptance.

Others players loathe and fear evaluation. Rose eats it up.

Rose has uncanny rapport with writers and a rare hold on imaginative fans because he is constantly composing the tale of his baseball life in his own mind.

Because he accepts the classical standards of excellence handed down by his traditionalist sport, Rose is invigorated by what is most difficult: the pursuit of 3,000 hits, the pressure of a long hitting streak, a transcontinental contract battle for millions.

Or bringing the Phillies their first world championship after a history of failure as old as the century.

As always, Rose had found a way to meld his twin goals: team success and personal credit. He remains the ultimate unselfish glory-seeker, a role only possible in baseball, the individual team game.

Rose's current projects are legion: learn to play first base, master batting third, teach Larry Bowa to draw walks, show the rich and lackadaiscal Phils how to hustle and hate.

Playing first is Rose's treat-pure candy. He looks as nimble and aggressive for a first baseman as he appeared cast in bronze by hot-corner standards. He may soon merit a Gold Glove, instead of his traditionally disguised iron mitt.

Three men have tried to sacrifice bunt towards Rose: result-two forceouts at third and a first-second-first double play.

A Rose double play off a bunt inspired reliever Ron Reed Tuesday night against Los Angeles.

"I found myself talking to myself after that play," Reed said. "If he's going to play that hard behind me, I'm gonna bust my butt a little more."

Rose tries to hide how much he loves the challenge of batting No. 3. He lets the impression persist that he is willing to sacrifice his chances for a 10th 200-hit season (passing Ty Cobb) if he can help the team-good public and locker room relations.

Actually, for years Rose has had the leadoff man's fixation of proving he can "bat in the heart of the order" it is his biggest unrealized proof of all-round greatness.

"I may not be a stranger, but I've always been a power hitter," Rose said proudly, reiterating a point he has made for years. "I had 61 extra-base hits last year (a career high). I drive the ball . . . up the alleys, in the corners. I hit the ball everywhere. I led the league in total bases once . . . that 's power, even if it's not home runs.

"If I get close to 300 total bases this year, and I usually do, then I'm gonna have to have some ribbies (runs batted in), ain't I?"

Rose also is laying a trap, becoming selective in his old age with 15 walks in his first 15 games. If 200 hits may be inaccessible, then Rose will adjust priorities.

"The only way to hit home runs is to pull the ball," he said. "And the way to do that is to wait for pitches to pull. With (Greg) Luzinski and (Mike) Schmidt up after me, they're going to get tired of pitching me cute if I keep walking. They got to come in my kitchen sooner or later."

Against the Dodgers this week, he walked in four of his first seven at bats. In the eighth trip, Charlie Hough ventured into the kitchen. Rose took him into the upper deck.

So far, however, Rose-although hitting .300-has been averanxious in his new spot, stranding 17 runners, going one for 12 with men in scoring position with fewer than two outs. No regular third hitter has fewer RBI than his five.

Apprised of the dubious stats, Rose made it obvious he hopes to stay where he is.

"Well, our record is 10-2 since I moved down (to bat third)," he said. "It must be helping the team. You know, it makes other guys (Bake McBride and Bowa) comfortable, too, since they can bat first and second.

"I don't have to drive in 100 runs to help us win."

Rose's help is obvious everywhere. Bowa, for instance, has eschewed walks for years-preferring to pursue his hero Rose in the chase for the hit title.

Last year, the club's owner and manager asked Bowa firmly to walk more-he drew 24 passes in 156 games.

This spring, Rose told Bowa, "Ya know, runt, ya oughta draw more walks, like I do." Bowa now has 11 walks in 15 games.

Rose may even bring the nonchalant Phils the gift of fire.

On Monday, Dodger pitcher Andy Messersmith-recovered from a shoulder separation-ran out a bunt toward Rose. Rose smashed him in the shoulder with a legal but rough two-handed tag.

Messersmith cursed Rose from a judicious distance. Rose cut that distance and went nose-to-nose until the two were separated.

"Pete's not afraid to show his intentsity," Bowa said. "If I get a hit, he'll pump his fist coming to the plate. We've never had anything like that. I used to do a little of it and the guys would say, 'Pipe down, son. You're too aggressive.'

"Now a Hall of Famer is doing it. It's gotta rub off."

If Rose, bearer of baseball fire, can play Prometheus to a club that has been so long in darkness, he finally will have proved, conclusively, that Charlie Hustle can do anything. CAPTION: Picture, Pete Rose