Molitor began as a shortstop, then moved to second base when Robin Yount returned from a brief retirement. He made his MLB debut in 1978, playing in 125 games and hitting .273 with 6 home runs, 45 RBI and 30 stolen bases. In 1981, he spent time at center field and right field to avoid the injuries associated with infield play. Molitor was moved to third base before the 1982 season. Molitor was part of a young Milwaukee Brewers team that lost the 1982 World Series in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals. Molitor batted .355 during the series. In Game 1, he had five hits, a World Series record. During the 1982 season, he hit .302 and led the American League (AL) with 136 runs scored.
Molitor struggled with injuries for much of his early career, being placed on the disabled list six times between 1980 and 1986. In 1984, Molitor struggled with elbow problems, played in only 13 games and ultimately underwent surgery in an attempt to salvage his career. He played in 140 games in 1985, hitting .297 with 10 home runs and 48 RBI. He followed that with a .281 average, 9 home runs and 55 RBI in 1986. That year he suffered a hamstring injury, returned for a few days, then reinjured it. He played in 105 games that season.
Molitor attracted national media attention in 1987 during his 39-game hitting streak. Near the end of the streak, columnist Mike Downey wrote that “the amazing thing about Paul Molitor’s recent bat-o-rama is not that he has hit in 33 straight games but that he has played in 33 straight games.” The streak ended with Molitor in the on-deck circle when Rick Manning got a game-ending hit to beat the Cleveland Indians on August 26, 1987. Fans booed Manning for driving in the winning run and thus depriving Molitor of one last chance to reach 40 games. The streak stands as the fifth-longest in modern-day baseball history, and remains the longest since Pete Rose’s 44-game hit streak in 1978.
Molitor’s lifetime statistics include 2,683 games played, 1,782 runs scored, 3,319 hits, 234 home runs, 1,307 runs batted in, a .306 batting average, and 504 stolen bases. His 3,319 hits rank him ninth all-time. In addition, he batted .368 in five postseason series, and was an all-star seven times. Molitor recorded these statistics while missing nearly 500 games due to various injuries throughout his career. In 1999, Molitor ranked No. 99 on The Sporting News’ list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and he was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. Molitor was elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999.
On June 11, 1999, the Brewers retired Molitor’s uniform number 4. During the ceremony at Milwaukee County Stadium, Molitor announced that if he went into the Hall of Fame, he would do so as a Brewer. On January 6, 2004, he was elected to the Hall in his first year of eligibility, with 85.2% of the votes. True to his word, he joined Robin Yount as the only Hall of Famers to be depicted on their plaques with Brewers caps. At the time of his induction, Molitor was the hitting coach for the Seattle Mariners.
Molitor is one of four players in major league history with at least 3,000 hits, a .300 lifetime batting average, and 500 stolen bases. The other three are Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, and Eddie Collins, none of whom played the game beyond 1930. Molitor is the only player ever to accomplish those feats and hit at least 200 home runs. Molitor is also the first player in World Series history to have at least two home runs, two doubles, and two triples in one series (1993).
Smallthoughts: Old school Tuesday salutes …Paul Molitor…the ignitor.
April 7, 1978 for the Milwaukee Brewers
Last MLB appearance
September 27, 1998 for the Minnesota Twins
Runs batted in
Milwaukee Brewers (1978–1992)
Toronto Blue Jays (1993–1995)
Minnesota Twins (1996–1998)
Career highlights and awards
7× All-Star (1980, 1985, 1988, 1991–1994)
World Series champion (1993)
World Series MVP (1993)
4× Silver Slugger Award (1987, 1988, 1993, 1996)
Milwaukee Brewers #4 retired
Major League Baseball All-Time Team
Baseball Hall of Fame
85.2% (first ballot