Molitor: Seeing retired number 'sends goosebumps'
Hall of Famer takes in Miller Park as member of Twins coaching staff
MILWAUKEE -- It's been 15 years since the Brewers retired Paul Molitor's No. 4, but he still gets goosebumps seeing his name and number hanging from the rafters.
Molitor returned Monday with the Minnesota Twins, for whom he's in the first season of a second stint as a coach. It was his first working visit to Miller Park since he served as Mariners hitting coach in 2004.
"It's always going to rekindle a very positive chapter of my life, living here basically full-time for 15 years," Molitor said. "A lot of really good friendships and a lot of really good memories. Obviously, there's been major changes, from ownership to personnel -- other than 'Ueck.' He's the mainstay."
Bob Uecker was already a fixture on the Brewers Radio Network when the Brewers made Molitor the third pick in the 1977 Draft. He was in the big leagues the following year because of an injury to Robin Yount, and went on to play the first 15 of his 21 Major League seasons in a Brewers uniform. When Molitor was inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004, he was the second player (behind Yount) to enter wearing a Brewers cap.
Molitor's early returns to Milwaukee, first with the Blue Jays and then the Twins, were somewhat acrimonious because of circumstances surrounding his free-agent departure in 1992. But he has been embraced in the city since his number retirement ceremony in June 1999, appearing from time to time at Brewers events.
Today, Molitor's name and No. 4 hang high above right field at Miller Park, next to Uecker and Yount. Similar odes to Hank Aaron, Rollie Fingers and Jackie Robinson are in left field.
"It still kind of sends goosebumps down your spine to have the organization recognize you in that fashion with the other elite players who have the privilege of being up there," Molitor said. "You watch Brewers highlights and when someone hits a majestic home run, they usually catch the names in the background.
"Last year, one of our young players, Pedro Florimon, going out on the field here for the first time, he looked up there and asked one of the coaches, 'Molitor? Paul Molitor? He played?' So it gives you an idea of the generation to generation and how things change. It's a good humbling thing. Certainly it's an honor to be up there."
Uecker was on hand Monday, of course, and so was former longtime teammate Jim Gantner. Among the others excited to reconnect with Molitor was Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez, who says he was a Molitor fan growing up and worked with Molitor in Spring Training after Minnesota acquired Gomez in a trade.
"We were always talking about stealing bases and hitting," Gomez said. "Every time I had an opportunity to talk to him about my game, he always helped me. Rod Carew, too. It's not every day you have the opportunity to talk to a Hall of Fame guy. You always pay attention to what they say.
"When I was a kid, I watched Paul Molitor play. He was one of my heroes, I would say. In the Dominican, they know about him because he's good. My dad was a big fan of his, too."
Does Molitor remember much of their interaction?
"Actually quite a bit," Molitor said, "because when he came over, it was probably the biggest name in that [Johan] Santana trade and we heard so much about his athleticism. [The Twins were] hoping we could be the organization to help him harness it. I remember telling people early who asked me about him that this guy has star potential written all over him, it's just going to be a matter of whether he's going to calm himself down. As a young player, he was just so hyper in the batter's box.
"Not that he doesn't still have that high-energy persona, but he's figured it out in many ways. It took a little bit longer than maybe people thought it might, but it doesn't matter, because now he's one of the best players in the game."