Needless to say, the commissioner's office was not amused.
A few days earlier, that same parking lot was abuzz over a much bigger and far-reaching news development.
"You're in Plant City, and it's in the middle of nowhere," says reliever Kent Tekulve, who commuted from nearby Lakeland each day with Rick Mahler. "You usually had all the parking spaces in the world. But we drive in one morning, and it's filled with satellite trucks. We're like, 'What the hell is going on?' That was the first any of us had heard about the investigation or any of that stuff. It just came out of the blue."
The reports were clear that Rose, dressed in a shiny green suit, had met in New York with commissioner Peter Ueberroth, commissioner-elect A. Bartlett Giamatti, chief operating officer Ed Durso and Vincent, then the incoming deputy commissioner. But the details were sparse.
"One guy is leaving, and another guy is coming in," Rose told reporters upon his return. "They wanted to ask me my advice on a couple of things."
When asked about a New York Times report that he had been a betting partner in a $265,669.20 Pik Six payoff at a northern Kentucky racetrack, Rose denied gambling had been discussed at the meeting.
But the rumors gained momentum, and from the moment "Sports Illustrated" published a story in late March revealing Pete had bet on baseball, revelations began to come out regularly -- with bombshells and inflammatory rumblings emanating from outlets in and beyond Cincinnati.
One day, the Dayton Daily News reported Rose had sold the bat and ball he used when he passed Cobb on the career hit list. Another report said Pete had spent $100,000 a day betting on Thoroughbreds and had incurred nearly a half-million dollars in gambling debts when he left the Reds to play for the Phillies in 1978.
The mood around the team constantly shifted. On Opening Day at Riverfront Stadium, Paul O'Neill went 4-for-4, the Reds beat the Dodgers before a crowd of 55,385, and Rose received the loudest cheers from fans, many of whom carried signs on his behalf. "Free Pete," one said.
A week later, Rose vehemently denied he had a betting problem and said his association with Tommy Gioiosa, Paul Janszen and other friends with gambling ties and/or criminal records was limited strictly to lifting weights together at Gold's Gym.
"I keep hearing this bull about how I'm a chronic gambler or something," he said, seemingly incredulous.
Eventually, each day brought a grim, foreboding sameness for me and my fellow beat writers -- Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News and Michael Paolercio of the Cincinnati Enquirer -- as we juggled covering the team and chasing investigation-related news. ESPN and CNN weren't nearly as prominent on the landscape then, so most of the attention came from the three major over-the-air networks, which popped in sporadically to follow Rose. Anticipation of a tipping point in the coverage began ratcheting up after special counsel John Dowd submitted a 225-page report to Major League Baseball in May, and everyone tried to guess where it would lead.