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Rollins has eye on history

Rollins begins year eyeing history

PHILADELPHIA -- Jimmy Rollins shopped and shopped for his mother's birthday and finally decided on the ideal present.

Gigi Rollins celebrates her big day April 26, and her son hopes to give her the ultimate gift, breaking Joe DiMaggio's record 56-game hitting streak. Rollins closed the 2005 season a with a hit in 36 consecutive contests.

"That would be real nice," he said. "I'd like to get it done, especially with that added factor. But I have to get a hit on the first day, then the next day, until I get close. Hopefully, I'll never stop."

If he succeeds, Rollins will be recognized as the holder of the longest hitting streak in Major League history, though DiMaggio will keep the single-season mark.

Much has been written about Rollins' streak during the hibernating months: It's the ninth-longest in history, sixth-longest since 1900, longest ever by a shortstop, second-longest by a switch-hitter.

It's impressive no matter how you look at it, but it has to continue for another 21 games for it to be really, really impressive.

"I know. I don't even think about it. It's too big of a number," Rollins said. "It really is. You feel different from day-to-day, pitch-by-pitch. You have to find out what's working for you that day because sometimes you have to get away from what you want to do to what the pitchers are allowing you to do."

From doubling off Brian Cooper on Aug. 23 to singling off Hector Carrasco on Oct. 2, Rollins has found something that's worked for 36 straight games. His chase has brought him a lot of media attention and much debate about which streak would be more impressive -- doing it over one season or two?

It doesn't matter to Rollins, who's had some fun with the attention. He recently re-created a DiMaggio photograph from 1941. The Yankee Clipper is pictured among bats that form the number 45, taken when he broke the previous single-season streak, set by Willie Keeler in 1897.

Rollins stood with bats that formed the number 36.

"It was fun," Rollins said. "It's a Hall of Fame photo, and that's where I want to be."

While hitting in 56 straight games would help Rollins get there, St. Louis' Chris Carpenter and his 1.01 Grapefruit League ERA aren't going to make that easy. Neither will Rollins' .227 batting average over the past two Aprils.

All-time Consecutive Game Hitting Streaks
Jimmy Rollins enters the 2006 season chasing history.
56Joe DiMaggioNY Yankees1941
52Denny LyonsPhiladelphia A's1887
44Pete RoseCincinnati Reds1978
44Willie KeelerBaltimore Orioles1897
42Bill DahlenChicago Cubs1894
41George SislerSt. Louis Browns1922
40Ty CobbDetroit Tigers1911
39Paul MolitorMilwaukee Brewers1987
37Tommy HolmesBoston Braves1945
36Jimmy RollinsPhiladelphia Phillies2005
No matter. Rollins remains as confident as ever, while understanding the gravity of what he's trying to achieve. He understands why Dom DiMaggio, younger brother of Joltin' Joe, wouldn't consider Rollins' feat as impressive an accomplishment.

He also understands that you need the proper mixture of great swings, good pitches to hit and luck. Rollins described some games when his swing wasn't quite there, yet the streak continued.

He shattered his bat in a Sept. 20 game facing Atlanta's Kyle Farnsworth, but the ball floated over Rafael Furcal's head. Ditto for an Oct. 1 at-bat against Washington's John Patterson, when he hit a broken-bat, first-inning double for his only hit that game.

"It was strong enough to get to no-man's land," Rollins said of both hits. "Is it luck? Call it what you want. When you take a good swing, it doesn't mean you're going to hit the ball on the right place on the bat, but it might find the right place out on the field, and that's what counts."

It seemed poetic to mention to Rollins the fact that he passed the Joe DiMaggio Sports Complex each day on his way to Bright House Networks Field, and how it was a perfect daily reminder of what he was trying to accomplish.

"I don't go that way in the morning," Rollins said, laughing. "I come down [Route] 60 and go a different way. It would make a great story, though."

So would the one Rollins would finish writing near the end of the month. If he did it, maybe they could rename the road he took to work after him?

"If they did, they'd probably have to have a break in the road, an intersection or something," Rollins joked. "That would make sense."

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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