Guerrero’s 31-game hitting streak electrified baseball

Written by: Janey Murray

The blast on Aug. 26, 1999, marked Vladimir Guerrero’s 32nd home run of the season – an impressive feat by itself.

But that homer also extended Guerrero’s hitting streak to 31 games, capturing the full attention of the baseball world.

The 24-year-old Expos outfielder crushed a two-run shot in the fourth inning that day to continue a streak that had begun nearly a month earlier on July 27.

The result of the game was rather unremarkable, as Montreal fell to the Reds 10-4 in front of a crowd of 6,796 at Olympic Stadium. But Guerrero was turning heads nonetheless, as he continued to show his potential in just his fourth major league season.

“I don’t know if Vladi is watching crowds; he’s got something going on,” Expos manager Felipe Alou told the Gazette. “About this time last year, he was on fire also – without the streak. I don’t believe there is a player in the big leagues with so much energy.”

In his first at-bat in the bottom of the second, Guerrero grounded out to shortstop Barry Larkin. But he quickly eliminated any suspense in the fourth by taking right-hander Juan Guzmán deep on the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the fourth, driving in José Vidro and recording his 97th and 98th RBI of the season.

“He’s a good hitter,” Guzmán said. “I tried to throw him a slider for the first pitch. I tried to make a good pitch and he got me.”

Guerrero added a walk in the sixth before striking out to lead off the bottom of the eighth.

“If Vladimir stays here that long, he is going to be some kind of player,” Reds manager Jack McKeon told the Dayton Daily News. “He seems a little more relaxed this year. I’d like to have him.”

Guerrero’s 31-game hitting streak was the longest of the decade and the longest since Benito Santiago hit safely in 34 consecutive games in 1987. Guerrero had easily surpassed the previous club record of 21 games, set by Delino DeShields in 1993.

There was very little drama involved in maintaining the streak for Guerrero. Nine times during the streak, he had recorded a hit in the first inning, and none of his hits had come in the ninth inning or in extra innings.

When asked if he thought he could match Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game streak, or Pete Rose and Willie Keeler’s NL record 44-game streak, Guerrero laughed.

“One game at a time,” he told the National Post.

Guerrero’s run would come to an end the following day, when he went 0-for-2 with a walk in game two of the series with Cincinnati. At the time, his 31-game streak was tied for the ninth longest all time in the National League.

Aided by his month-long hitting streak, Guerrero put together an impressive 1999 campaign. The right fielder made his first All-Star Game appearance and batted .316 with 42 homers and a career-best 131 RBI.

“He puts the bat on the ball so well, especially for a big guy,” Alou told the Associated Press. “Just wait until he hits his peak.”

Janey Murray was the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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