Baseball; Rose's hitting countdown

Sometime in June, Philadelphia's Pete Rose is expected to become the third most prolific hitter in baseball history. (The possible players' strike, which looms on the horizon this weekend, could alter that timetable unless new developments delay the strike deadline 30 days.)

Rose began the season needing 74 hits to surpass Stan Musial's total of 3,630 , and has collected 53 so far. Ty Cobb is No. 1 on the list with an almost unreachable 4,191 hits to Aaron follows with 3,771.

As sharp as Pete's batting skills are, his memory may be sharper. He vividly remembers Musial's last game, for example. "It was the last game of my rookie season [1963]," he recalls. "Stan got two hits in that game. I was a second baseman and one hit was to my right, the other to my left. Gee, if I had any range then, I'd only need 72 hits now." There have been few players more adaptable than rose, who has been a starter on the National League All-Star team at four positions (second and third bases and right and left fields). Pete could out-distance fellow four-position stars Musial and Aaron by securing a betth at first base, his current assignment. That's much easier said than done, however, since the Dodgers' Steve Garvey has had a lock on first the la st four years.

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