Paul Molitor inevitably left the impression that he could do anything on a baseball field.
At bat, Molitor remained an inexhaustible source of offense. “The Ignitor” is one of only five Major Leaguers to bat at least .300, steal 500 bases and amass 3,000-plus hits. Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Ichiro Suzuki and Honus Wagner are the others. Defensively, he started at least one game at every position except pitcher and catcher during his 21 seasons with Milwaukee, Toronto and Minnesota, spending most of his time at second and third base before mostly serving as a designated hitter toward the end of his career.
Here’s a list of 10 events or achievements that reflected Molitor’s skills:
1. The 39 steps
July 16-Aug. 25, 1987
Molitor sustained a 39-game hitting streak, the seventh best ever and the longest since Pete Rose’s 44-gamer in 1978. Obviously, Molitor compiled some remarkable statistics in this stretch for the Brewers. He batted .415 (68-for-164) with 43 runs scored, a .495 on-base percentage, a .683 slugging percentage, 33 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in 16 tries.
2. Poised for postseason
The bigger the stage, the better Molitor performed. He batted .368 in 29 postseason games, including .418 (23-for-55) in two World Series -- for Milwaukee against St. Louis in 1982 and for Toronto against Philadelphia in '93. His five-hit effort in Game 1 of the ’82 Series remains a record.
3. A higher level
Oct. 16-23, 1993
Molitor truly excelled in this World Series, winning Most Valuable Player honors with Toronto. Of his 12 hits, two were doubles, two were triples and two were home runs. His 10 runs scored matched a Series record. Instead of being relegated to the bench when the Series shifted to Philadelphia, as is the case with most designated hitters when National League rules prevail, the Blue Jays made room for Molitor twice at third base and once at first.
4. Who needs the long ball?
When Molitor drove in a career-high 113 runs, he did so while hitting only nine home runs. Molitor accumulated his impressive RBI total by hitting .335 with runners in scoring position. And he still possessed a power hitter’s authority, collecting 58 extra-base hits.
5. Speedy and smart
A stolen-base threat throughout his career, Molitor reached double figures in thefts in every season but his last. He stole 30 or more bases in five of his first six seasons. Molitor was a perfect 20-for-20 in 1994, one short of Kevin McReynolds’ '88 record, before a labor dispute halted play.
6. Groundhog month
Molitor wasn’t a warm-weather hitter, a second-half hitter or anything like that. He just hit, period. His batting averages, by month, remained consistent: .311 in March-April, .301 in May, .311 in June, .305 in July, .307 in August and .303 in September-October.
7. Only a number
Molitor turned 37 by the end of the 1993 season, when he accumulated 111 RBIs. This made him the oldest Major Leaguer to record triple digits in that category for the first time in his career. He reached age 40 by the end of the '96 campaign, when he hit .341 for Minnesota. His AL-high 225 hits made him the first 40-year-old since Sam Rice in '30 to collect 200 hits in a season.
8. Highest of heights
As steady as Molitor was, he was difficult to match when he reached his peak. He averaged 726 plate appearances, 114 runs and 207 hits per year in this span while posting a .326/.397/.487 slash line.
9. It never gets old
Perhaps you’ve heard of the handful of big leaguers who played across four decades. Molitor is a member of a different yet similar club. He’s among the few to hit .300 in a season in three consecutive decades. He hit .300 or better in 12 seasons overall.
10. It only takes one
Molitor was a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection. He received 85.2 percent of the vote, comfortably exceeding the minimum for induction. He needed 380 of 506 votes and received 431.