Paul Molitor eased through the back door of the SUV, his knees scrunched hard against the front seat. He didn’t complain, though. Didn’t mention until much later that he’s looking at having both battered joints replaced.
“You have to make sure you don’t have to do them twice,” he said.
It’s not an unusual project for someone who spent the better part of three decades playing baseball at a distinguished level, his legs pounding around base paths and hustling after batted balls from coast to coast.
Nor is it out of the norm for someone who’s creeping up on 60 years old.
It might be painful to comprehend, but Molitor fits both categories.
It’s been nearly 15 years since he retired from the major leagues and 15 years since he last played for the Minnesota Twins, but, no, he doesn’t look like he’ll turn 57 next month.
He has some gray hair and there are deep lines on his weathered face, but Molitor looks more like a guy who regularly bikes 40 miles in a single sitting — something he did as recently as Tuesday — than someone falling apart at the seams.
Molitor, a roving minor league instructor for the Twins, was in the Madison area Wednesday to do one of the things he does best: Celebrate his place in the Hall of Fame legacy and acknowledge his indestructible bond to Wisconsin while not acting like a big deal.
That involved a locally sponsored “Lunch with Legends” at Ruth’s Chris in Middleton, Wis., where Molitor took part in a question-and-answer session with invited guests before signing autographs.
Another meet-and-greet followed back at Warner Park before Molitor sat down for two hours to sign autographs for fans prior to the inaugural Home Talent Classic, sponsored by the Madison Mallards, at the Duck Pond.
Along the way Molitor patiently, humorously answered questions about everything from growing up in St. Paul, with six sisters to his remarkable 39-game hitting streak in 1987 to what his career statistics would look like had he not missed 500 to 600 games due to an assortment of injuries.
As it stands, Molitor, elected to the Hall of Famer in 2004, is the only man in Cooperstown who topped 3,000 hits, had a career batting average over .300, stole 500 bases and hit 200 home runs.
Molitor is divorced and remarried, living in suburban St. Paul. He’s the father of a 9-year-old girl and 6-year-old boy. Molitor notes wryly that he will be 68 when his youngest graduates from high school.
“I want to hang on till then,” he joked.
Another discussion point his day was retired former Green Bay and Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre. He and Molitor share more than the same uniform number, first-ballot Hall of Fame resumes and early-career dalliances with drugs. They also were estranged from their local employers.
Molitor wanted to play his entire career in Milwaukee “like my best friend Robin Yount,” but the cash-strapped Brewers asked him to take a pay cut after the 1992 season while Toronto stepped up with more money and a longer contract. Hurt feelings ensued when Molitor left for the Blue Jays.
After winning a World Series with Toronto in 1993 — earning MVP honors to boot — Molitor finished his career with the Twins.
But not only was Molitor’s number retired in Milwaukee the year after he played his final game — prior to a meeting with the Twins, no less — his bronze Hall of Fame plaque depicts him in a Brewers cap.
Something Favre, the Packers and their fans should consider on the road to toward reconciliation.
“Time has been a good ally,” Molitor said.