Hit Man

Paul Molitor may have been one of the greatest batters to never win a batting crown. In 1993 his .332 mark finished second to teammate John Olerud (.363) and ahead of another teammate, Roberto Alomar (.326). A list of post-WW2 players to post a .300+ batting average, 3,000+ hits, and 500+ stolen bases consists only of Molitor and Ichiro Suzuki. Historians that want to hearken back to the deadball era only add three more names to the list: Eddie Collins, Honus Wagner, and Ty Cobb.

Molitor is often thought of as a brittle player that was frequently held out of the lineup by physical ailments. While it is true that he missed nearly a quarter of the scheduled games between his debut and appearing in the 1993 Finest checklist, his position as a lead-off hitter still left him with only two seasons with fewer than 450 plate appearances.

If one were to magically imbue Molitor with Ripken-esque longevity and assume he continued performing as he did across every scheduled game in his 21 year career, Molitor would end up with 4,208 career hits, coming within a few dozen of all-time leader Pete Rose. Molitor actually wrapped up his career with a higher batting average than Rose, as well as greater odds of getting doubles, triples, and home runs per plate appearance.

Molitor wasn’t just about hitting, he was an excellent baserunner. His batting average on balls in play stood 20 points higher than his overall average, a testament to how difficult it was to throw him out on the basepaths. He stole second, third, and home in the same inning of a July 1987 game and is the last guy to have double digit steals of home plate across a career.

I added this Molitor card to my refractor set at the same time I picked up cards of Mike Piazza and Brett Butler. The card was part of a run of mostly medium grade (near mint) cards of big names that became available at prices too attractive to ignore. This copy is off-centered, though not as badly as the picture would indicate. That lopsided look is a reflection of a badly done cropping job in my image editing software. The case is heavily scratched, something that came across in the scan of the card’s back.