Rollins' pursuit of DiMaggio ends at 38

PHILADELPHIA -- Jimmy Rollins embraced the spotlight,
welcomed the challenge and oozed confidence.

Every year -- except this one -- since his rookie season in 2001,
Rollins told his younger brother, Antwon, he was going to break Joe
DiMaggio's major league record 56-game hitting streak.

Well, 38 down, 57 to go.

Rollins' pursuit of DiMaggio's 65-year-old record ended Thursday
when he went 0-for-4 in Philadelphia's 4-2 loss to St. Louis,
snapping a 38-game hitting streak that stretched over two seasons
and caused some debate.

"I had a chance to do it and I came up short," Rollins said,
flashing his trademark smile. "I still have another chance. I have
a lot of games left."

A three-time All-Star shortstop for the Phillies, Rollins
usually backs up his swagger on the field. He grew up in Oakland
idolizing Rickey Henderson, one of the best leadoff hitters in
history and the career stolen base leader.

Henderson never doubted his abilities during an outstanding
career. After breaking Lou Brock's career steals record on May 1,
1991, Henderson proclaimed himself "the greatest of all time."

Rollins has a similar attitude, though he's never been
considered a showboat.

"How am I going to be regarded? I have no doubt that I'm going
to be regarded as one of the best shortstops ever," Rollins said
in spring training.

Since making his first trip to the All-Star game as a rookie,
Rollins has been overshadowed by bigger-name shortstops such as
Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Miguel Tejada and Nomar Garciaparra.

While the hitting streak brought Rollins national attention,
manager Charlie Manuel said he already belonged in the same
category with Jeter, Tejeda and others -- Rodriguez and Garciaparra
have moved to other positions.

"Jimmy sits there with those guys," Manuel said. "Jimmy, when
his offense is up there, is tremendous. He does everything
defensively you can ask of a guy."

Though no one can dispute that Rollins hit in 38 consecutive
games, some argued it wouldn't have been a record if he passed
DiMaggio because his streak started last year.

DiMaggio accomplished his feat in the same season in 1941. The
major league marks for longest hitting streak in one season and
longest hitting streak spanning two seasons are separate records.

DiMaggio holds both with his 56-game streak, but there is a
difference in the NL records: Pete Rose (1978) and Willie Keeler
(1897) share the NL mark at 44 games. However, Keeler got a hit in
his final game of 1896, so his run of 45 games overall was the
first record Rollins could've eclipsed.

"Everything has got to end in one season," Braves manager
Bobby Cox said. "But it's still a streak."

Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who had a 21-game streak for the New
York Giants in 1954, watched Rollins reach 38 on Wednesday night.

"It's OK," Mays said of the streak. "That's not my game. I
didn't play ball for one streak. What you do in one season has
nothing to do with the next season. Home runs are counted in one
season. But he's continued it on, and it wasn't his fault when he
started it. If it's not in one season, it doesn't mean much, but it
means a heck of a lot to the guy who's done it. I wish I knew him
better. He's a good player."

Some thought Rollins had a tougher task because he had to wait
six months between games, and cold weather early in the season
makes it difficult for hitters. Rollins hit just .227 over the past
two Aprils.

"I think it will be almost a little bit more special if he ends
up going as far because of the layoff," Cardinals shortstop David
Eckstein said before the streak ended.

St. Louis manager Tony La Russa certainly was impressed.

"It's tough enough to get one base hit in the big leagues," La
Russa said.

Rollins needed a hit in his first 20 games to tie DiMaggio. The
last player to start a season with a 20-game hitting streak was
Steve Garvey, who hit in 21 straight for the Los Angeles Dodgers in
1978, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

A statistician at Elias compared Rollins' chase to Roger Clemens
holding the career and single-season records for most consecutive
wins by an AL pitcher. Clemens won his last 15 decisions with
Toronto in 1998 and his first five with the New York Yankees in
1999, giving him the overall AL record with 20 straight wins. He
set the AL's season mark with 16 victories in a row in 2001 with
the Yankees.

Orel Hershiser finished the 1988 season with 59 straight
scoreless innings, breaking Don Drysdale's major league record of
58. He would own the longest streak over two seasons except he
allowed a run in the first inning of his first start in 1989.

Rollins' season-ending 36-game hitting streak was the
ninth-longest over one season in big league history, and the
longest in the majors since 1987, when Paul Molitor hit safely in
39 consecutive games. His 38-game streak is the eighth-longest
overall. The old Phillies franchise record of 31 was set by Ed
Delahanty in 1899.

Ty Cobb (1911) had a 40-game hitting streak, George Sisler
(1922) hit in 41 straight and Bill Dahlen (1894) reached 42. Only
Rose, Keeler and DiMaggio had longer streaks than that trio. Each
of those players except for Rose and Dahlen are in the Hall of

"It was something that fell upon me. It was a blessing to be a
part of," Rollins said.

The streak began when Rollins hit a ninth-inning double against
the Giants' Brian Cooper on Aug. 23. He hit .379 (61-for-161)
during the last 36 games, nearly helping Philadelphia make the
playoffs. The Phillies finished one game behind NL wild-card winner
Houston and two games behind NL East champion Atlanta.