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  Mon, July 26, 2004


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Dynamic duo deserving
Hall of Fame did right thing
By BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

New Baseball Hall of Fame inductees Paul Molitor, left, and Dennis Eckersley hold their plaques after induction ceremonies on Sunday, July 25, 2004, in Cooperstown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jim McKnight)

How sweet was Paul Molitor's swing?

When John Olerud made his run at .400 in 1993, stories were written how Ted Williams admired Olerud.

"I like Olerud's swing, but the guy I really like is Paul Molitor ... I look at him, I see Joe DiMaggio," Williams said later in 1993.

Williams is the last man to hit .400, accomplishing the feat in 1941.

Before speaking to the masses at his induction into the Hall of Fame yesterday at Cooperstown, N.Y., Molitor told of a banquet after the Blue Jays won the 1993 World Series.

Williams was there and dashed away from DiMaggio to tell Molitor the same story, which embarrassed Molitor.

Today, Molitor's plaque is in the same hall as Williams and DiMaggio.

There were 15,000 fans attending the induction of Dennis Eckersley and Molitor, most wearing Oakland A's, Boston Red Sox and Milwaukee Brewers caps.

Molitor played 21 seasons: 15 with the Milwaukee Brewers and three each with the Jays and Minnesota Twins. He was one of three players to register 3,000 hits, 600 doubles and steal 500 bases, joining Hall of Famers Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner.

SIGNED BY BREWERS

"Paul's hands were so quick, his head so still, you could set a glass a water on his head, he'd swing and wouldn't spill a drop," said Bill Peterson, Molitor's American Legion coach.

Molitor attended the University of Minnesota, under coach Dick Siebert. He was signed by Brewers scouts Tony Siegle and Dee Fondy but he was not a Hall candidate from the start.

"First spring (coach) Frank Howard asked me if the scout who signed me was drunk when he saw me," Molitor said.

After the 1992 season, Molitor left the Brewers as a free agent and signed with the Jays.

"I'd like to thank Paul Beeston (then president) and Pat Gillick (then general manager) for bringing me in to help the Jays defend their title," Molitor said yesterday. "They brought me in to fill Dave Winfield's shoes and we won on Joe Carter's home run. I'd like to thank the fans of Toronto, who showed up four million strong in 1993."

That season, Molitor became the oldest to hit 20 homers and drive in 100 runs for the first time. Inside the the Hawkeye Grill at the Otesaga Hotel where Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth used to argue, former Twins star Kirby Puckett stood up and sang Louie Armstrong's What a Wonderful World on Saturday night. Molitor followed, singing Bruce Springsteen's Glory Days.

Molitor thanked his first wife Linda, their daughter Blaire, son Joshua in Toronto, his second wife Destini and mentioned his late parents.

"Didn't matter whether it was VFW games, university or in the majors, you could never find (my mother) at the park," Molitor said. "She'd stay in the car, hide behind a tree. I'd leave tickets in the family section and she'd sit down the line. It was like playing 'Where's Waldo?' "

Molitor broke down speaking of his father and saying the last words they exchanged were: "I love you."

Also honoured yesterday were Murray Chass of the New York Times and San Francisco Giants broadcaster Lon Simmons.

"I drove in here, saw all the Hall of Famers and thought I was in a wax museum," Simmons joked. "And Dennis, stop taking the ugly pills ... they aren't working."

Eckersley, long locks flowing, entered games like D'Artagnan of the Three Musketeers, there to save the day.

"I can't believe I'm up here on the same stage with my boyhood idols Juan Marichal and Willie Mays," Eckersley said, who in 1989-90 combined to walk just seven while striking out 128 and saving 81 games.

"I had a major battle with alcohol. I wouldn't have (beaten) it had I not gone to Oakland," Eckersley said of the 1986 deal which sent him from the Chicago Cubs to Oakland. "My life was spiralling out of control."

Eckersley won that battle, and last night he and Molitor went to a members-only Hall of Fame dinner. They belonged.