Editor's note: Today's edition of Today in Brewer History covers one of the defining moments of the 1987 team, and as such we've invited a special guest to cover it. Rob Peterson covers the 1987 Brewers for PastKast , Brewers1987.com and @TweetsFrom1987.
My high school football coach had one of those classic Midwestern faces that at one point in his life probably looked as if it were chiseled out of granite. He once had a full head of hair. I'm sure someone other than his mother or another relative thought he was handsome.
That time had long since passed. He now had jowls. He had lost most of his hair, which retreated on his head like a naughty puppy hiding under a couch.
But his voice was probably with him his whole life and it was distinctive. He had a voice like a tornado siren with a lisp. If you watched him speak, his tongue slid back from under his top teeth like a magician trying to yank a table cloth from underneath a setting of fine china. He was Sylvester the Cat with a whistle. We only listened to him because he was our coach.
Now, on this August morning in 1987 we were screwing up in practice. He was about to blow his top and knowing him as well as we knew any adult, he planned to impart a life lesson at the same time.
"You take care of your teammates," coach roared.
We rolled our eyes.
"You rely on your teammates," coach continued. "Did you see what Paul Molitor did last night?"
Follow the jump for the rest.
Our ears perked up and sideways idle chatter stopped. I don't remember the first time he had yelled at me. And I don't remember the last. But I remember this one time, clearly and distinctly.
All of us in Milwaukee had been captivated by Molly's historic hitting streak, and were more amazed by it than the season-opening 13-game win streak. We hung on every at bat. If we couldn't get to County Stadium for the game -- and people were going in droves -- we'd listen to Bob Uecker on WTMJ. If the game was on the road, we'd turn on Channel 18 and listen to Jim Paschke.
Paschke, the Crew's first year TV play-by-play man, got to call the most dramatic moment of Molly's streak. It came in Baltimore as a lot of dramatic Brewers moments seemed to ('82 clincher, Nieves' no-no). On August 14, Molitor was hitless going into the ninth inning. One pitch into his final at bat, Molitor smashed a solo shot into the left field stands off Tom Niedenfuer. It was the third and final time Molitor would extend his streak in his final AB. The Brewers would lose the game, but Molly's streak lived on at 28 games.
To a lot of us, that was most important thing.
It would thrive for another 11 games until it reached 39. And that's where it would end at 39 on a cool August 26 evening against the Cleveland Indians, their rookie pitcher and with Molitor standing on deck as pinch runner Mike Felder scored the winning run in the bottom of the 10th.
During the streak, Molitor had always said that winning was the most important thing. He knew what the streak meant to his teammates and to the fans.
He knew that it would eventually end. And when it did, Molly handled it with class. He had gone 0-4 against a pug rookie named John Farrell. But when Felder crossed home plate, Molly gave him a hug and then rushed to congratulate pinch hitter Rick Manning. Most of the 11K-plus at County Stadium booed.
"That's the first time I've even seen that in baseball, especially at home," Manning told the Journal.
Then again, Manning was accustomed to breaking hearts in the major leagues. There's the famous story of Manning, who was convalescing in Cleveland after an injury, stealing Dennis Eckersley's wife while Eck and the Tribe were on the road. In 1983, the Brewers acquired Manning in exchange for local hero Gorman Thomas, who allegedly got super soused, then went on Channel 4 and gave the slurriest, sloppiest TV interview ever. If the Intertubes had existed in the public domain back then, the tubes would have melted.
And there Manning was again, stealing the glory from another local hero, Molitor, who had captured the attention not just of Brewers fans, but of the entire the nation. He was 17 short of tying and 18 shy of passing the great Joe DiMaggio. How could Manning deny Milwaukee this story and its glory?
There's a picture on A1 of the Milwaukee Journal's sports section. Molitor is in the middle, his now-retired No. 4 easily visible, as is Molly's left hand, which is on Manning's behind in a friendly, athletic atta-boy acknowledgment.
"Did you see who the first player was to congratulate Manning?" coach asked rhetorically. We knew. We had all seen the highlights.
"Molitor," coach said, answering the question he asked.
Molitor had his four chances to get to his streak to 40, but he didn't succeed as he had in the previous 39 games. And when the team won, Molitor was happy for the guy who scored the run, for the guy who got the hit and for the pitcher, Teddy Higuera, who won the game by going all 10 innings while only giving up three hits.
This was the lesson coach wanted to impart about teammates, cohesion, winning and class. There were more important things than individual glory.
We thought it sucked the streak stopped that night. We hated that it was Manning who "stopped" it. We were tired of life lessons but not yet tired of life. We were 17. At that age, you're usually in it for yourself and you think you will last forever. We believed Molitor's streak -- he hit .415 with seven HRs and 33 RBI -- could last forever.
But what did we know?