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On This Date in Sports August 26, 1987: Molitor Goes Streaking

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Paul Molitor’s hitting streak ends at 39 games, standing in the on-deck circle as the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Cleveland Indians 1-0 on a walk-off hit by Rick Manning in the tenth at County Stadium in Milwaukee. The streak is the seventh longest streak in major league history and the fifth longest in the modern era. No player has matched the streak since.

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Born on August 26, 1956, in Minneapolis, Paul Molitor was the ignitor for the Milwaukee Brewers. Making his debut in 1978, he became an immediate star, finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting. Molitor played a vital role at the top of the lineup as the Brewers became contenders. In 1982, the Brewers went to the World Series with a power-hitting team. In the leadoff position, Paul Molitor led the American League in runs scored 136. The next few seasons would be difficult for Molitor as he dealt with various injuries before elbow surgery in 1984.

Injuries continued to hamper Paul Molitor in 1987 as he was limited to 118 games, but the streak was a strong statement that he was back on track. The streak had begun right after the All-Star Break, with Molitor getting a hit in four at-bats against the California Angels. As the streak started to gain national attention, some sports writers scoffed the hitting streak was not the big news; the fact that Molitor played in that many consecutive games was the real story. Looking to extend the streak to 40 games as the Brewers faced the Cleveland Indians. Batting leadoff, Molitor was hitless in four at-bats against John Farrell. The game was scoreless at the end of nine innings as Farrell and Teddy Higuera were each at the top of their game. Higuera continued to pitch in the tenth inning retiring the side in order. The Indians called upon Doug Jones to keep the game scoreless in the tenth. Jones hit Rob Deer to lead off the inning. Mike Felder entered the game as a pinch runner and advanced to second base on a ground out by Ernie Riles. After Dale Sveum was intentionally walked, Rick Manning was sent to pinch hit for Juan Castillo. With most fans hoping to see Paul Molitor get another shot at continuing the streak, Rick Manning singled home Riles with the winning run, leading Brewer fans to boo Manning for delivering a walk-off hit.

Over the 39-game hitting streak, Paul Molitor hit .415, raising his average from .323 to .370 at the highest point. Molitor would finish the season with a .353 batting average ranking second in the American League to Wade Boggs of the Boston Red Sox, who ended with a .363 average to win his third straight batting title and fourth in five years.