Superior eyesight is probably mentioned most often when great hitters are discussed. Babe Ruth had remarkable vision. Every book ever written about Ruth always recalls how the Babe, when hunting ducks with his cronies, would spot the birds on the horizon long before the others in his party were even aware they were in the vicinity. When Ted Williams went through the US Navy's flight school in Pensacola, Fla., in 1943, he reportedly broke all sight records for those who had ever taken a similar examination. Williams was also amazing in how he could read the numbers on the license of an approaching automobile at a distance when a person with normal vision couldn't even distinguish the color of the plate.
One of the things that has come up repeatedly in interviews during Paul Molitor's consecutive-game hitting streak is how well the Milwaukee Brewers' designated hitter has been seeing the ball.
Heading into Tuesday's night game with Cleveland, he had hit safely in 38 straight games and collected two or more hits 19 times. That is the longest such rampage since Cincinnati's Pete Rose hit in 44 straight in 1978, but still about three weeks shy of Joe DiMaggio's seemingly untouchable 56-game streak.
Molitor, whose muscles flow rather than bulge, has always been a contact and not a power hitter. He's one of those players who never quite made it to six feet, has a washboard stomach, and possesses quick but normal-size hands. In 1982 Paul collected more than 200 hits with the Brewers, and on two other occasions he flirted with that mark.
American League pitchers who have had to face Molitor for 10 years still can't figure him out. He's the kind of batter who makes the pitcher come to him, rarely strikes out, and sprays hits to all fields.
More would have undoubtedly been written about his talents before now if he hadn't spent more than 200 games on the Brewers' disabled list during the last four years. Even this year he had to be relieved of his thirdbaseman's fielding duties in mid July because of an injury. The situation dictated a switch to DH.
Molitor has always been one of the game's most versatile players. He could perform anywhere in the infield or outfield and do an outstanding job. Getting moved around never seemed to affect his hitting, either.
``Some guys are just baseball players, and some guys are all-around athletes,'' says Brewers manager Tom Trebelhorn. ``Molitor definitely belongs with the latter class. Even when he's had to be out of the lineup for extended periods because of injuries, he never seemed to need a break-in period to start hitting again.''
Last year the Brewers had a 53-52 record in games in which Paul played, and a 24-32 mark in games when he didn't. He batted .308 with runners on base, tied a club record with three doubles against the Texas Rangers, and once stole home against the California Angels.
In 1941, the year DiMaggio hit in 56 straight games, he used a thick-handled, 36-ounce bat that was 36 inches long. Partway through the streak he sandpapered off some of the weight. Molitor's bat is not only much lighter, but has a handle almost as thin as a buggy whip.
The Yankee Clipper never bunted once in establishing his hitting mark. Molitor, however, kept his streak alive by bunting safely against the Baltimore Orioles in the 31st game of the string. Giants strengthen pitching staff
The San Francisco Giants, engaged in a tight division race with Cincinnati and Houston in the National League West, really helped themselves when they got veteran pitcher Rick Reuschel in a late-season trade with Pittsburgh. Reuschel has the second-best earned-run average in the league.
In Monday night's first start with his new team, he picked up the win by limiting Philadelphia to five hits in seven innings of a 6-1 victory.
Reuschel, 38, switched from power to finesse pitching years ago after experiencing arm problems. His strikeouts usually outnumber his walks 2 to 1, and sometimes his totals far exceed that ratio, as on Monday, when he struck out eight and walked none.
Playing for the cellar-dwelling Pirates was at times a frustrating experience for this pitching craftsman, who lost one game in which he didn't give up an earned run and pitched another in which he went eight shutout innings without being involved in the decision. Monday's victory, which raised his record to 9-6, was his first since he beat the Giants more than a month earlier.