Rollins’ hitting streak ends at 38


PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Jimmy Rollins embraced the spotlight, welcomed the challenge and oozed confidence.

Every year – except this one – since his rookie season in 2001, Rollins told his younger brother, Antwon, he was going to break Joe DiMaggio’s major league record 56-game hitting streak.

Well, 38 down, 57 to go.

Rollins’ pursuit of DiMaggio’s 65-year-old record ended Thursday when he went 0-for-4 in Philadelphia’s 4-2 loss to St. Louis, snapping a 38-game hitting streak that stretched over two seasons and caused some debate.

“I had a chance to do it and I came up short,” Rollins said, flashing his trademark smile. “I still have another chance. I have a lot of games left.”

A three-time All-Star shortstop for the Phillies, Rollins usually backs up his swagger on the field. He grew up in Oakland idolizing Rickey Henderson, one of the best leadoff hitters in history and the career stolen base leader.

Henderson never doubted his abilities during an outstanding career. After breaking Lou Brock’s career steals record on May 1, 1991, Henderson proclaimed himself “the greatest of all time.”

Rollins has a similar attitude, though he’s never been considered a showboat.

“How am I going to be regarded? I have no doubt that I’m going to be regarded as one of the best shortstops ever,” Rollins said in spring training.

Since making his first trip to the All-Star game as a rookie, Rollins has been overshadowed by bigger-name shortstops such as Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Miguel Tejada and Nomar Garciaparra.

While the hitting streak brought Rollins national attention, manager Charlie Manuel said he already belonged in the same category with Jeter, Tejeda and others – Rodriguez and Garciaparra have moved to other positions.

“Jimmy sits there with those guys,” Manuel said. “Jimmy, when his offense is up there, is tremendous. He does everything defensively you can ask of a guy.”

Though no one can dispute that Rollins hit in 38 consecutive games, some argued it wouldn’t have been a record if he passed DiMaggio because his streak started last year.

DiMaggio accomplished his feat in the same season in 1941. The major league marks for longest hitting streak in one season and longest hitting streak spanning two seasons are separate records.

DiMaggio holds both with his 56-game streak, but there is a difference in the NL records: Pete Rose (1978) and Willie Keeler (1897) share the NL mark at 44 games. However, Keeler got a hit in his final game of 1896, so his run of 45 games overall was the first record Rollins could’ve eclipsed.

“Everything has got to end in one season,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “But it’s still a streak.”

Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who had a 21-game streak for the New York Giants in 1954, watched Rollins reach 38 on Wednesday night.

“It’s OK,” Mays said of the streak. “That’s not my game. I didn’t play ball for one streak. What you do in one season has nothing to do with the next season. Home runs are counted in one season. But he’s continued it on, and it wasn’t his fault when he started it. If it’s not in one season, it doesn’t mean much, but it means a heck of a lot to the guy who’s done it. I wish I knew him better. He’s a good player.”

Some thought Rollins had a tougher task because he had to wait six months between games, and cold weather early in the season makes it difficult for hitters. Rollins hit just .227 over the past two Aprils.

“I think it will be almost a little bit more special if he ends up going as far because of the layoff,” Cardinals shortstop David Eckstein said before the streak ended.

St. Louis manager Tony La Russa certainly was impressed.

“It’s tough enough to get one base hit in the big leagues,” La Russa said.

Rollins needed a hit in his first 20 games to tie DiMaggio. The last player to start a season with a 20-game hitting streak was Steve Garvey, who hit in 21 straight for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1978, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

A statistician at Elias compared Rollins’ chase to Roger Clemens holding the career and single-season records for most consecutive wins by an AL pitcher. Clemens won his last 15 decisions with Toronto in 1998 and his first five with the New York Yankees in 1999, giving him the overall AL record with 20 straight wins. He set the AL’s season mark with 16 victories in a row in 2001 with the Yankees.

Orel Hershiser finished the 1988 season with 59 straight scoreless innings, breaking Don Drysdale’s major league record of 58. He would own the longest streak over two seasons except he allowed a run in the first inning of his first start in 1989.

Rollins’ season-ending 36-game hitting streak was the ninth-longest over one season in big league history, and the longest in the majors since 1987, when Paul Molitor hit safely in 39 consecutive games. His 38-game streak is the eighth-longest overall. The old Phillies franchise record of 31 was set by Ed Delahanty in 1899.

Ty Cobb (1911) had a 40-game hitting streak, George Sisler (1922) hit in 41 straight and Bill Dahlen (1894) reached 42. Only Rose, Keeler and DiMaggio had longer streaks than that trio. Each of those players except for Rose and Dahlen are in the Hall of Fame.

“It was something that fell upon me. It was a blessing to be a part of,” Rollins said.

The streak began when Rollins hit a ninth-inning double against the Giants’ Brian Cooper on Aug. 23. He hit .379 (61-for-161) during the last 36 games, nearly helping Philadelphia make the playoffs. The Phillies finished one game behind NL wild-card winner Houston and two games behind NL East champion Atlanta.