The irrepressible Pete Rose, currently in pursuit of one of baseball's coveted records, did some fancy footwork in another arena here Friday.
Rose, the Cincinnati Reds' player-manager, spoke at an awards luncheon held by the Associated Press Sports Editors at a hotel complex near Cincinnati. And when Rose speaks, whether it be in a baseball clubhouse or a hotel ballroom, the sports media listen.
Rose began his wide-ranging talk by saying: "I feel kind of funny here. Everybody in the room has been to college. I guess that's OK, though, because I almost bought one one time."
Then he was off and running, diving head-first into any and all baseball topics as he does upon arrival at third base on a close play.
On his chase of Ty Cobb's record for most hits in a major league career, a record 4,191 that he will break with just 45 more:
"I'll get it. We all know that. I'm not worrying about it or thinking about it on a day-to-day basis. I've got 45 to go. I can't do that tonight. Well, we are playing a doubleheader. . . ."
On Cobb's legendary baseball intelligence:
"Cobb playing in Detroit was like God playing in heaven. Even when he did something wrong, he handled it right. One time, he was on first and a teammate hit a line drive to right. The right fielder caught it and doubled Cobb off first.
"Now, he knew he'd be in big trouble, going back into the dugout. So he got up, dusted himself off, and sent the first base coach into the dugout, telling him he'd take over for him for the rest of the inning."
On Cobb's legendary mean streak:
"They didn't have a batting cage for batting practice in the old days at Yankee Stadium. So Cobb went and sat down in the Yankee dugout one time while waiting for the Yankees to finish batting practice. Along comes one of the Yankees, sees him sitting in the wrong dugout and says, 'Hey, Cobb, what in hell are you doing in here.'
"Cobb doesn't say anything. He just waits for all the Yankees to get done and go back to their dugout, then he strolls up to take batting practice and hits the first 15 pitches right into the Yankee dugout."
On the possibility of a baseball strike this season:
"I just think the people on both sides are too smart to let that happen. What I'd do is lock both groups in a room and not let them out until they had it settled. I don't understand a lot of this stuff. They negotiate for a day or so and then they break up for two weeks. What in hell are they doing the rest of the time?"
On today's new breed of player:
"I guess I just don't always understand. Like some of the pitchers. They get a kink in their arm and they think it's malignant. I don't understand these guys who won't talk to the press. I mean, I figure that, in 23 years of talking to the press, you guys have made an awful lot of money for me.
"I don't think athletes in general have as much fun as they used to, and it's probably because everybody knows their salary and the pressure from that becomes too great."
On player salaries:
"I remember when I started in the minors, and they said they'd pay me $400 a month. I thought I was Jesse James. I thought I was stealing money. I mean, they were going to let me play baseball and pay me.
"Pretty soon, I was making $12,000 a year, and then $12,000 a game. And you know what, I was still having just as much fun as when I made that $400 a month.
"When I left Cincinnati and went to Philly, I went for half the money I could have gotten other places, particularly in Atlanta, for Ted Turner. But money wasn't what I wanted. I wanted to go to the team with the best shot at the World Series."
On his negotiations with Turner, the Braves' owner, before he picked the Phillies:
"My agent and I started going around and we're on the plane to Atlanta and he says to me, 'One of the problems we will have is that I really don't know what to ask for when we talk to these people.'
"So we go in to see Turner, and we say that we really are kind of embarrassed because we don't know exactly what to ask for or where to start. And Turner says, how about a million a year for four years.
"Well. . . . A million a year for four years! We leave and my agent leans over to me and says, kind of quiet, 'Pete, this might not be so hard after all.' "
On Turner's counter offer, after Rose had picked Philadelphia:
"He calls up and he says that he will match whatever Philly bid, and add $100,000 a year for every year of my life, starting the year I retire. I never thought much about that one, though. Hell, knowing that s.o.b. Turner, the day after I quit he'd have me assassinated."
On the current drug controversy in baseball:
"I get high by putting a uniform on. . . . (Then in response to a reporter's question). Do I mind being drug tested? Do you mind? You wanna go to the bathroom with me and we'll do it together?
"I really don't understand this thing where the front office people will be tested. What difference does that make. They aren't gonna play? Who cares?
"I don't really talk much about stuff like drugs and strikes. I don't know much about that. So ask a question about baseball, will ya."
On his concepts of discipline, now that he is a manager as well as a player:
"Like after a game, when we've got to get on a plane and fly to, say San Diego, as we will after the series here with Atlanta. I'm not a tough disciplinarian. These guys are adults. I'll put two cases of beer on the plane. That's 25 players and 48 beers. How drunk can they get on that?"
On baseball, compared to other jobs in life:
"I think I'll get in the Hall of Fame, and when you think about that, what I will have done for that honor is get three hits every 10 times at bat. That's all. If I'm an architect, I build 10 bridges, and only three work, I'm in pretty bad shape."
On his reputation as an all-out hustling player every game, leading to his nickname of Charlie Hustle:
"Why do I slide into base head first? Well, it's the fastest way to get there. It's also probably the safest. Plus, you usually get your picture in the paper the next day.
"Why do I always run all out to first base? One reason. We were playing the Cardinals in St. Louis years ago. I was at bat with two out in the ninth and they're leading, 8-0. I hit a one-hopper to the pitcher, Ray Sadecki. I take off as fast as I can go, Sadecki throws the ball high to first. While the first baseman is up in the air I hit the bag and am safe at first. We then score nine runs to lead, 9-8.
"And I've never forgotten that. Never. Especially since Lou Brock hit a two-run homer in their half of the ninth to beat us, 10-9."
And so it went, as Rose finished speaking 35 minutes past the time he had said he would have to leave.