Pete Rose was in the midst of a shower Friday when he stuck his head out and called to a reporter who had just driven over from the Dodgers' camp in Vero Beach.
"Hey, you know who's a great guy?" the Reds' player-manager said. "Joey DeCarlo."
For a moment, the reporter thought Rose was putting him on. After all, Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda had just found his name in headlines for being friendly with DeCarlo, a reputed associate of the late Mickey Cohen, a bookmaker and an organized crime figure.
But Rose was serious.
"I've eaten at his restaurant, Pips, many times," Rose said. "I haven't been there in a couple of years, but me and Joe Morgan used to go over there. DeCarlo used to wait for us after games and drive us there."
Rose asked about DeCarlo's background. When told that DeCarlo had once been charged with murder, Rose said: "Was he convicted? That makes a big difference."
(The charges were dropped after a mistrial was declared because of a hung jury.)
Rose said that DeCarlo used to sit right behind the visitors' dugout at Dodger Stadium. "Tommy (Lasorda) once told me that (Frank) Sinatra was coming to a game, and I asked him if he was going to sit in DeCarlo's seats. Tommy said DeCarlo was sitting in Sinatra's seats."
When Rose was told how upset Lasorda was about the media coverage, which began with a Sports Illustrated special report on gambling linking DeCarlo and the Dodger manager, he shook his head.
"I don't understand," Rose said. "He (Lasorda) isn't guilty of anything.
" . . . But tell Tommy this: I don't believe he's never bet on a football game. Baseball maybe, but not football.
"Everybody does, don't they? If you don't bet on the Super Bowl, how the hell can you watch it?"
(Lasorda, told later of Rose's remarks, said again that he never bets on football.)
Rose returned to the subject of DeCarlo before leaving the Reds' spring-training clubhouse.
"I wouldn't care if he's underground," Rose said. "To me, he's a nice guy."