A reporter was asking Philadelphia's Pete Rose, between excursions into the batting cage at Dodger Stadium, to comment on the firing of Manager John McNamara at Cincinnati.
''If I'm the owner of a major league club, I'm going to look at two things - my team's won-lost record and its attendance figures,'' said Rose, who played 16 years for the Reds before signing as a free agent with the Phillies in 1979. ''If I don't see hope in either area, I'm probably going to fire the manager, whether he's done a good job in the past or not.
''I think the Reds' problems started several years ago when they got rid of some regulars and didn't replace them with regulars of equal ability,'' he continued. ''Sometimes when you go with too many kids, they can't handle the pressure.''
When the conversation drifted to statistics and Pete's pursuit of Ty Cobb's all time record of 4,192 base hits (he now has more than 3,800), Rose bristled at the suggestion that he's unique because he can remember almost every hit he ever made.
''When you get paid for doing something that involves statistics, then I think it's only natural to keep track of it,'' Pete said. ''It's like a person with bills to pay not knowing how much he's got in the bank. Hitting is my business, and besides, every big league park has a message board now that flashes your batting average every time you hit. Sure I know my stats, but so do most ball players.
''Actually the thing I'm most concerned about when we start a new series with a different team is how the three or four starting pitchers we're due to face have been going their last couple of times out,'' he continued. ''For example, if a pitcher who usually gets the ball over the plate has been having control problems, I want to know about it. It could make a difference in how I do certain things at the plate.''
Comparing the current Phillies with the 1980 world champions, Rose said, ''This year's team has better pitching, and I don't have to tell you how important that is.'' Memories of the Babe
There is a kind of leprechaun quality that surrounds coach Jimmie Reese of the California Angels, at age 76 the oldest man still wearing a major league uniform. Reese is known for two things - his ability to hit fungos just out of reach of the fielders and the fact that as a rookie with the 1930 New York Yankees he roomed with Babe Ruth.
''Ruth had the greatest constitution and the greatest throwing arm (a southpaw) I've ever seen,'' Reese told me recently in the Angels' clubhouse. ''The Babe could stay up all night, every night, and still consistently hit home runs off the best pitchers in the league the next day.''
''Nothing ever bothered Ruth,'' he said. ''Lou Gehrig would go 0-for-4 and the next day he'd be at the ballpark an hour early for extra batting practice. The Babe would go hitless and all you'd ever hear was: 'I'll get those guys tomorrow.' And he did.''
Ruth did most of his pitching early in his career with the Boston Red Sox, but also took the mound a few times for the Yankees. He wound up with 97 big league victories, including three in World Series play.
''People talk about how hard Nolan Ryan throws - well, Ruth had comparable speed and he never got behind on the hitters,'' Reese said. ''The Babe had excellent control. He had two fastballs, one that rose sharply on the hitter and one that he used as a change of pace by slowing up his delivery.
''He also had what some people called a curve, only it really was just a little spinner that he threw as a waste pitch,'' he added. ''Your grandmother could have hit it.''
Asked to evaluate Ruth's outfield play, Reese replied: ''Because he was such a spectacular hitter, the Babe never got the credit he deserved as an outfielder. But as a young man he had range and his arm was so good that no base runners ever tried to take liberties with it. Talk about baseball instincts, Ruth had more than anybody.''
Incidentally, as a first-year infielder in 1930 Reese hit .346 in 188 at bats. This year is his 65th in baseball, dating back to his debut as a batboy with the old Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League. As for the present, he's so popular with the current Angel players that last season they chipped in and bought him a new car. Big year for Harrah
Third baseman Toby Harrah of the Cleveland Indians started the current season hitting in the .400s and actually stayed there for a while. Yet for all the media attention it got him, Harrah might just as well have spent his time striking out. Nevertheless, this is a man who does a lot of things well; who remains in contention for the American League batting title; and who might even have a shot at being named its Most Valuable Player. ''One way you can tell when a hitter is having a good year is the number of opposing pitchers who work around him whenever they can, and Harrah has been getting that treatment all season,'' said Indians' manager Dave Garcia. ''For most of this year, Toby has had the quickest bat in the American League.'' A week full of milestones
When Baltimore manager Earl Weaver was thrown out of the game and then later suspended by American League president Lee MacPhail for striking umpire Terry Cooney during an argument, it marked the 84th ejection and fifth suspension of his career. . .Atlanta manager Joe Torre says the most underrated player on his club is second baseman Glenn Hubbard, a very tough out with runners on base and also a clutch performer when the exceptional play is needed in the field.
If Milwaukee fails to win the American League East, the Brewers won't soon forget four July defeats by Minnesota (the team with the worst record in baseball). . .Last week Willie Stargell hit his 475th career home run, while Steve Carlton got his 275th career win and 50th shutout.