Hal Morris extended his hitting streak Wednesday night. To two games. And to 31.
The Cincinnati Reds first baseman exists in parallel universes this spring. One is strictly concerned with his 1997 season. The other recognizes last year's season-ending hitting streak as a work in progress.
Elias Sports Bureau, baseball's authority on statistics, draws a clear distinction between single-season records and those that carry over from one campaign to the next. Still, it recognizes both standards in its record books. Despite what you may have heard.
''I heard one broadcast report say that baseball doesn't count streaks across seasons,'' Elias Vice President Peter Hirdt said Wednesday afternoon. ''I don't know where that came from, but a lot of people are under that impression. But for any streak that's compiled, there are two records.''
Thus Morris stands 54 games short of Joe DiMaggio's record for ''Most Games, Consecutive, 1+ Hits, Season,'' but is only 25 games from DiMaggio's mark for ''Most Games, Consecutive, 1+ Hits, Lifetime.''
Either way, its a long way. Too much to contemplate so early in the season. Still, Morris may soon move within countdown range of a National League record. Arrangements have to be made. Hype has to be honed.
Pete Rose and Willie Keeler share the NL's longest single-season streak at 44 games, but the Elias bureau also credits Keeler with a 45-game streak that began in 1896 and ended in 1897. Herein lies Morris' case precedent for a carry-over streak.
''If they (Elias) keep that statistic, then it's an official major-league record category,'' said researcher Bruce Markusen, the ranking records authority at the Baseball Hall of Fame. ''It's certainly not a traditional baseball statistic like a one-season hitting streak. It's not going to gain the same kind of attention.''
That depends. Depends on how long it lasts. Depends on how much time Chris Berman spends on his tiresome nicknames, and how much on news. Depends on what else is competing for Sports Illustrated's cover.
Baseball fans live to debate the technical aspects of agate type, and Morris' streak could make for some of the most entertaining arguments since 1961, when Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth's 154-game home run record in a 162-game season.
''People concentrate on the season, and 44 is the (National League) season record,'' NL Vice President Katy Feeney said. ''If he was up to 55 or 56 (games), people might start to make more of an issue of it. We might have to make a further determination on it.''
Question of recognition
Though the Official Baseball Rules contain ''Guidelines for Cumulative Performance Records,'' they are sufficiently vague as to allow for further determinations: ''The player's individual consecutive-game hitting streak shall be determined by the consecutive games in which the player appears and is not determined by his club's games.''
Craig Carter, statistical editor for The Sporting News, says he does not recognize Keeler's 45-game streak in his record books in part because he lacks the database to authenticate the achievement. Carter also declines to add Morris to his list of 30-game hitting streaks (there have been 32 to date) without a comprehensive list of players who had reached that mark across adjoining seasons.
''I guess,'' Carter conceded, ''if he equaled the Cincinnati Reds record of Rose, we could probably put a footnote in that he did this over two seasons.''
This is fine by Morris, whose disposition is as sweet as his swing. He's not lobbying. He's not campaigning. He's just hitting.
''I associate my hitting streak more with what I did last year,'' Morris said. ''I had a pretty good idea (it was still alive), but when someone comes up and says, 'Your streak is over,' I'd say, 'Whatever.' It doesn't bother me.''
Maybe not now. But what happens if the count gets to 45?
''It's so hard to just get hits in every game of a series, let alone put together six or seven,'' he said. ''Just thinking about trying to hit in six or seven straight games is pretty daunting.''
SHOULDER STOPS BRANTLEY
NOTEBOOK: TIMMONS WILL BE FOURTH OUTFIELDER
USA TODAY BASEBALL PAGE