MILWAUKEE, AUG. 26 -- An incredible story had an incredible ending tonight as Paul Molitor's 39-game hitting streak, the fifth-longest this century, was stopped by a pitcher making his second major league start.
From the beginning, Molitor had said he was emotionally, physically and psychologically prepared for his streak to end and that, when it did, he'd accept it.
Was he prepared for rookie John Farrell to do it? Was he prepared for a pinch-single by a teammate to keep him from getting a last chance?
With Molitor on deck, teammate Rick Manning singled to center with one out in the 10th inning to score Mike Felder and give the Brewers a 1-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
Molitor was the first to congratulate Manning, and was later mobbed by teammates. Then, seconds after he disappeared into the dugout, the crowd of 11,246 called him back on the field for a curtain call, one last chance to say thanks.
"It was an emotional night," he said. "To be called out on the field and see my family over there, it kind of reminded me of everything that has happened the last few weeks. I thank God for the opportunity. In a lot of ways, I'm disappointed. I really felt a lot of confidence day in and day out. But it'll be a relief, too."
He said he hoped to get away from distorting priorities "because the home team isn't supposed to win an extra-inning game and hear the crowds go silent. I said I hoped it would end in a victory, and it did.
"It's been a great experience, and it's something I'll always be thankful for. I'm fortunate to have one of the five or six longest streaks of all-time, and I'm glad I could step front and center for a while and also contribute to the ball club. I'm sure someday when I look back on this it'll be one of the top moments in my career."
He said his 39-game streak had given him an even greater appreciation of Joe DiMaggio's seemingly untouchable 56-game streak of 1941.
"To do this and still come up 17 short of him," Molitor said, "reconfirms his greatness."
It was an odd cast of characters thrown together on this cool, damp final night for one last bit of baseball history. One was Farrell, who, at 25, is one of the Indians' brightest young prospects.
And what he did tonight may live with him as long as any 20-victory season. Staying mostly with a 90-mph fastball, Farrell handled Molitor almost routinely four straight times, striking him out in the first inning and getting him on grounders in the third, sixth and eighth.
Molitor did reach base in the eighth, but only because first baseman Pat Tabler bobbled third baseman Brook Jacoby's throw. Tabler was given an error, and TV replays clearly supported that.
Oddly, Molitor had been the first big league hitter Farrell ever faced. That was last week in Cleveland when Molitor singled.
Another in the cast was Manning, 32, once one of the best center fielders in the game. He has now taken a reserve role behind young players such as Rob Deer and Glenn Braggs, and tonight got only his 86th at-bat.
When he lined reliever Doug Jones' fastball into center and saw Molitor coming to greet him, he said: "I'm sorry it had to end this way."
Molitor answered, "Sorry? What for? Congratulations yourself."
So in what could have been a sticky situation -- a player trying to make an out in a tie game -- everyone did his job properly.
"It's definitely a great feeling," Farrell said, "but my first goal was to win the game. That's what we were all trying to do. If the streak ended, too, that would be a feather in our cap. I give him a lot of credit. He's a class act. After his fourth at-bat, he ran by and said, 'Good job.' "
Farrell's game plan had been the same as Ken Schrom's the night before. He fed Molitor fastballs, although he did get him to lunge at a change-up in the eighth.
"I just wanted to stay aggressive," he said. "If I stayed ahead in the count, I figured I had a chance to make him hit my pitch."
Molitor's last chance was in the eighth, and as he came up the crowd cheered loudly. Indians Manager Doc Edwards had said he would put Molitor on if the situation dictated, and, now, he had that option.
Juan Castillo had bunted Dale Sveum into scoring position with two outs in the scoreless game. Walking Molitor would have set up a force. But it would have brought up Robin Yount, almost as hot as Molitor.
"I could have played the percentages, but the percentages were running out," Edwards said. "With those two, it really doesn't matter."
He gave Molitor his chance. Farrell threw a low fastball, then another for a strike. Then Molitor hit a change-up softly to Jacoby.
"That was a weak swing for the last chance," Molitor said. "He'd thrown me a lot of fastballs and got me leaning on that change-up. I just lunged at it."
Farrell was brought up Aug. 18 to replace injured pitcher Sammy Stewart. He was the Indians' second-round draft pick in 1984 and, although he remains one of their best prospects, his credentials aren't impressive.
He came up with a 24-41 career record, and had been 6-12 with a 5.83 ERA at Class AAA Buffalo this year. But in his first major league start last week, he beat the Detroit Tigers on a six-hitter, allowing two earned runs. He started tonight because Rich Yett twisted an ankle.
In the Milwaukee clubhouse, Manning was asked a dozen times if he felt funny about winning a game but losing Molitor an at-bat.
"It was a very strange feeling," he said. "We knew sooner or later it was going to end. He had his four chances. It's the first time I ever got booed for a game-winning hit. It wasn't tough in my mind. My job is to get a base hit."