162-GAME HIT STREAK: LEMON IS ON HIS WAY

He will be hitting and hitting and he will never stop. It will be September and Mr. Chet Lemon will have hit in every game.

“Are you worried about today?” a reporter from Sports Illustrated will ask him, pushing to the front of the media mob. “What if today is the day your streak finally ends?”

“Gosh, I don’t know,” Lemon will say, banging the dirt off his spikes.
“Yesterday you asked me that, and I got two hits, and the day before you asked me that and I got three hits.”

He will be the unbelievable story of the year. Chet Lemon. Hot bat. Came out hitting in the first game of the season and just refused to stop. He will have passed Paul Molitor and passed Pete Rose and passed Joe DiMaggio.
“Streak” will be too weak a word. He will be going for the Clean Sweep. A hit in every game. Hot, hot, hot.

“How has all this hitting changed your life?” a reporter from CNN, standing on a ladder, will ask him. “What’s different about baseball for you now?”

“Well, I seem to say hello to a lot more of the first basemen,”‘ Lemon will say, adjusting his cap. “Other than that, nothing special.”

Would this be too funny? Would this be too much? Chet Lemon, the notoriously slow-starting batter? Chet Lemon, the guy who was known for his fielding all these years? That Chet Lemon? A hit in every game? Would that be too much?

“WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOU HAD SOMETHING SPECIAL GOING?” a reporter from
“60 Minutes,” hanging out of a helicopter, will scream to him. “WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOU WERE ON THE CUTTING EDGE OF HISTORY?”

“Where? . . . ” Lemon will say. Keep the $100 bills coming

Would this be too funny? Chet Lemon. Still hitting in September. Well. Why not? Isn’t this the time for such speculation? The beginning of the season? The time when sluggers hit .600 and pitchers have 0.00 ERA’s and some guys hit in every game of the year?

Hasn’t Lemon done that so far? Nine games played. A nine-game hitting streak. He began the season in Boston with a triple, and followed with a single, and now he has 12 hits, including two on Saturday (batting average
.343), and he just keeps going. He has to stop, sooner or later.

Then again.

Maybe he doesn’t.

“What’s been the most memorable moment so far?” a reporter from the Wall Street Journal will ask, speaking through a megaphone.

“Well, let’s see,” Lemon will say, slipping the red donut weight around his bat, “I liked the 100th game. The fans threw $100 bills. And the 119th. That was when they tried to intentionally walk me four times — but I sneaked out in Lou Whitaker’s uniform and hit a double. That was fun.”

“Did Lou want credit for the hit?”

“No, just a few of the $100 bills.”

A hit in every game. The most perfect of perfect seasons. Fans will come to Tiger Stadium with bags of citrus fruit. All Cokes will be served with a slice of lemon. All beers will be served with a slice of lemon. All hot dogs will be served with . . . well, you know.

Lemon’s famous frayed glove will become the baseball rage: kids will leave their new gloves in the driveway and beg their fathers to run over them with the station wagon. All through the country, center fielders will be switching to right field.

“Did you know this would happen?” reporters will ask Tigers manager Sparky Anderson. “Is that why you switched Lemon to right field this season?

“Boys, boys,” Sparky will chuckle, leaning back, smoking his pipe. “Of course.” No time to relax at nine

A hit in every game. Why not? Someone ran the idea by Lemon after the Tigers’ 4-2 victory Saturday.

“One hundred and sixty-two in a row?” he said, laughing. “Well. I guess I better bear down, huh?”

Bear down. Sure. Already he is among just a half-dozen guys still alive in the chase. One by one they will fall. Lemon will go on. Hot, hot, hot.

Soon the video people will be here, capturing it all with a camera. Soon the people from Life magazine will be here, chronicling the whole crazy ride.
“THE DRIVE FOR 162!” the story will read.

Hot, hot, hot.

Wherever he goes, he will be trailed by cameras and microphones and soothsayers and gypsies. Lemonade will become the team drink. Lemon Pledge will become the team furniture polish.

“Chester, what is your favorite color?

“Chester, what is your favorite drink?”

“CHESTER! CHESTER! CHESTER!”

“Excuse me, fellahs,” he will say, with his impish grin, “I have to hit now.”

It will be the most incredible achievement in baseball history, the streak to end all streaks, the story to end all stories, a hit in every game. Chet Lemon, Mr. Hot Bat. Hot, hot, hot.

Unless he doesn’t get a hit today.

Which could happen.

I suppose it could happen.

Hmmm.

Did you know Mike Henneman hasn’t given up a run yet this season. . . .

Mitch Albom will sign copies of ‘The Live Albom’ today from noon to 1:30 at Community Newscenter, 1301 S. University, Ann Arbor, and from 2:30 to 4:30 at Little Professor Book Center, 37115 Grand River, Farmington.

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