Paul Molitor finished his Hall of Fame career with 3,319 hits, which currently ranks 10th most all time.
Yet despite Molitor’s prowess at the plate for 21 big league seasons, the St. Paul native and current Minnesota Twins coach never had much success in All-Star Games. Molitor has just one All-Star hit on his resume.
In fact, most of Molitor’s seven All-Star appearances were a bit unusual.
"Not to get too long-winded, but my All-Star experiences were pretty weird," Molitor said. "It was very rare when I played a position in the All-Star Game that I was playing that particular year."
That included the 1985 All-Star Game in Molitor’s home state when the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome hosted the midsummer classic. It was the first time Molitor actually played in an All-Star Game — he was injured when selected in 1980 — and it came in his eighth season in the majors. In that 1985 game, Molitor wound up playing center field, a position he hadn’t played since 1981.
In the 1991 All-Star Game in Toronto, Molitor entered the game as a pinch hitter but didn’t even have an at-bat — he reached on catcher’s interference in his only trip to the plate. He later was moved to third base, where he hadn’t spent a single inning all season.
"It was always kind of strange," Molitor recalls. "I think I ended up with like seven or eight All-Star at-bats and one hit."
Indeed, Molitor was 1-for-8 in his seven trips to the All-Star Game. He had several other adventures along the way, including a ball he misplayed in center field during the ninth inning of the 1985 game at the Metrodome that resulted in a two-run ground-rule double for the National League. Playing first base in the 1992 All-Star Game in San Diego, Molitor committed an error.
That game was also the only time Molitor got a hit in his eight All-Star at-bats, and he did so off Atlanta pitcher John Smoltz. Even though Molitor never had the greatest success in All-Star Games, he still has fond memories of each event.
"They were all really, really fun. I didn’t play enough of them to where I felt like it ever got old," Molitor said. "I was always elated to be selected. I tried to enjoy every experience that I could. I don’t know if I should have been in less or should have been in more. Maybe a couple I went when a team only had one player and maybe I shouldn’t have gone, and maybe I had some where I thought I should have gone and I didn’t go."
The 1985 All-Star Game was particularly special for Molitor as it not only was the first time he actually played in a midsummer classic, but also he got to do so just miles from where he grew up. Adding to it was the fact that two other St. Paul natives — fellow Hall of Famer Dave Winfield and former Twins pitcher Jack Morris — also played in that game in 1985.
Molitor still has a picture in his office at Target Field of the St. Paul trio. Morris wound up taking the loss for the American League in that game, while Winfield went 1-for-3 for the AL.
"To share that with those guys, you think of three kids from St. Paul that grew up not too far apart from each other and coming together like that, that’s a baseball rarity," Molitor said.
Molitor’s All-Star experiences didn’t stop after he retired in 1998. He went on to manage Team USA in the Futures Game in 2002 in Milwaukee, where he spent most of his Hall of Fame career. Among the players he managed that game: Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, and Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford — all before they’d made it to the majors. The World roster that year included the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and former Twins first baseman Justin Morneau.
While the Futures Game was still a relatively unknown event that year — it began in 1999 — the Home Run Derby was well-established, having first taken place at that 1985 game in Minneapolis. When the Derby came to Miller Park in 2002, Molitor enjoyed watching the show put on by the league’s top sluggers.
"They almost hit the retired numbers," Molitor said. "I was kind of happy. Every time they hit them, luckily I could see my number up there. It got a little extra air time."
Now Molitor will get to see the All-Star Game come back to his home state, and his home ballpark. After finishing his career with the Twins, Molitor eventually moved to the role of bench coach for Minnesota from 2000-01 and then spent 10 years as a minor-league coordinator before Twins manager Ron Gardenhire added him to the major-league staff this year.
Having already been a part of one All-Star Game in Minnesota, Molitor knows how special the event is for the state.
"Part of the amazing part of it is it just doesn’t seem that long ago when they made the announcement that we were getting the game," Molitor said. "To think that we’re on the precipice of that happening, it’s just amazing how quickly it’s come. . . . When you’re from Minnesota and you get to host a big event like that, you feel a little pride."