More than 100 years ago, center fielder Billy Hamilton thrilled the baseball world with his blazing speed and his ability to steal bases almost at will. Now in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Slidin’ Billy Hamilton swiped more than 100 bases in four seasons and retired with 914 steals, still the third most in major league history.
So how ironic is it that the best current base stealer in professional baseball has the exact same name?
Billy Hamilton, a shortstop in Double-A ball for the Cincinnati Reds, is electrifying the baseball world with his unbelievable ability to steal bases, much like his namesake did in the 1800s.
In 89 minor league games this season, Hamilton has a ridiculous 109 stolen bases, putting him on pace to shatter the single-season professional baseball record of 145 set by minor leaguer Vince Coleman in Class-A ball in 1983. (Coleman went on to become one of the best base stealers in MLB history, topping 100 in each of his first three seasons and finishing his career with 752, the sixth highest total in history.)
Hamilton was recently promoted to Double-A ball, so if he breaks the record it’ll be combining his total in the two leagues. But don’t think he’s not gunning for it.
“You just really can’t stop this kid,” Lake Elsinore hitting coach David Newhan said. “He’ll get a lead as far as you’ve ever seen and he’ll get back standing up or easily diving. And then when he decides to go, it’s over.
“We have a kid, Rico Noel, who has the second-most stolen bases in baseball — he’s got 61 — and he’s almost getting lapped by this guy. It’s silly.”
Hamilton’s base running feats are almost becoming legendary. There’s the inside-the-park home run he hit, where he rounded the bases in 13.8 seconds (and didn’t even need to slide into home).
By comparison, the fastest recorded time in world history for a player to circle the bases is 13.3 seconds by Evar Swanson in 1932. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim centerfielder Peter Bourjos rounded the bases on an inside-the-park home run earlier this season, and while Bourjos is considered to be one of the fastest players in baseball, his time of 14.3 seconds is a half second behind Hamilton.
There’s also the time earlier this season when Hamilton scored the winning run in the ninth inning of a scoreless game on a routine popup to the second baseman. Oh, and he did it without a tag.
Hamilton is not just the next Dee Gordon (the current Los Angeles Dodgers‘ shortstop who leads the major leagues with 30 stolen bases but is completely one-dimensional, with no power, no hitting ability, and no defense). He batted .323 with a .413 on base percentage in 82 games at Single-A before he was promoted to Double-A.
The Reds, who are currently leading the highly competitive National League Central, have rookie Zach Cozart at shortstop but they still plan to bring Hamilton up to the major leagues when the rosters expand to 40 players in September.
Once Hamilton is in the major leagues, his job will be simple: work his way around the basepaths and score runs, and help the Reds compete for a pennant.
This article was written by Bryn Swartz, the top writer for Eagles Central and a featured NFL columnist on Rant Sports. Bryn has written more than 1000 articles in less than two years as a member of Rant Sports. His blog, Eagles Central, was named the 2010 Ballhyped Sports Blog of the Year. To read a portfolio of Bryn’s best work, click here.