CINCINNATI — Pete Rose talks about the hit as if it's just another day at the ballpark.
"The closer I get to the record, there's not going to be pressure," Rose says of chasing Ty Cobb's 4,191 alltime career hits. "If I go into the last game of the season needing six hits, then there will be pressure. The closer I get to the record, the more revved up I'm going to get."
He must be revved up.
Already scores of reporters and photographers have descended upon this river city, where fans scream "Pete! Pete!" the moment he sets foot on the field at Riverfront Stadium.
It would unnerve many players. Not this one.
"It's fun," says the Cincinnati Reds' 44-year-old player-manager.
To understand Peter Edward Rose is to know he thrives on being center stage every time he steps up to the plate.
"Pete is the best pressure ballplayer I've ever played with or against, and that's the highest compliment I can give," said former teammate Mike Schmidt of the Philadelphia Phillies.
"He's probably been the center of attention in more memorable moments than any player in history. He doesn't get a hit every time, but he's been in so many situations that he has no fear of failure."
That's how Rose has approached his impending date with baseball history--without fear that fate might throw him a curve and keep him forever in Cobb's shadow.
"I've never dreamed about it. I've never worried about it," Rose said recently. "If you get hurt, buddy, you get hurt. That's all there is to it, and with the career I've had, why should I worry about getting hurt?"
Catching Cobb isn't the only pressure Rose has faced this season. Being the Reds' manager alone is enough to keep him busy.
Rose, who began his career with Cincinnati 23 years ago, is at least partly responsible for boosting game attendance and the Reds' rise in the National League West standings. They finished fifth last year, 22 games under .500 and 22 games back of division winner San Diego; they headed into Labor Day weekend this season in third place, seven games over .500 and 8 1/2 games behind Los Angeles.
Rose seemed to have the team and not Ty on his mind the other night after the Reds beat Pittsburgh 6-0--and he got a hit.
Asked whether he could get enough hits to break the record during a weekend homestand, Rose replied, "I don't know. If we win 6-0 every night, I don't care."
While Rose bounced from interview to interview, teammates marveld at his ability to handle the attention. Nevertheless, second baseman Ron Oester, for one, thinks the distractions are slowing down Rose's chase.
"I think he would be hitting better if it was over with," Oester said. "He's getting up early in the morning and doing interviews with every magazine in the nation and most of the newspapers. I couldn't put up with it."
Rose, a native of Cincinnati, has said he wants to get the record-breaking hit in his hometown, but he has never indicated he would bench himself on the road to make that happen.
The Reds open a three-day stand in St. Louis Monday night, and Rose already is joking about the chance that No. 4,192 will be hit there.
"You'll see how good a hitter I am in St. Louis," he said. "I'll just keep ticking off fouls until they walk me."