Hamilton on pace to set steals record
Baseball scouts have called him the fastest man in baseball. At any level.
And we bet you’ve never heard of him — unless you are a fan of the Class-A Bakersfield Blaze. Or you were lucky enough to see the 6-foot-1, 160-pounder tag up and score on a fly ball . . . to second base.
Billy Hamilton had 98 stolen bases (in 119 attempts) in only 77 games going into Monday night’s California League game and more than 200 in just a season-and-a-half.
Quite impressive when you consider a quarter century has passed since Vince Coleman, the last man to eclipse the century mark in the bigs, stole 109 bases for the St. Louis Cardinals. And Hamilton is well ahead of Coleman’s record for the most stolen bases in a season at any level, 145, set in 1983 with the Class-A Macon Redbirds.
“If I ran a (40-yard-dash) time, it wouldn’t be as fast as how fast I run when I’m stealing a base,” said the Taylorsville, Miss., native, who spurned a football scholarship to Mississippi State to sign with the Cincinnati Reds in 2009. “I’m more of a game-situation guy.”
“I don’t have a goal,” Hamilton told The Daily shortly before swiping two bags at Visalia on Wednesday. “If it happens, it happens.”
Hamilton led all professional baseball players in stolen bases last year with 103. This season, his 98 stolen bases are 43 more than anyone else, at any level of professional baseball.
You would be tempted to say that Hamilton is making a name for himself — if another Billy Hamilton hadn’t already done so more than 100 years ago.
Of all the namesakes one might have . . .
The Boston Beaneaters’ Billy Hamilton played in the 19th century, and a glimpse at the MLB list of all-time leaders in stolen bases reveals the following trio of names at the top: Rickey Henderson (1,406), Lou Brock (938) and Billy Hamilton (914).
“I was and will be the greatest base stealer of all times,” Hamilton wrote to The Sporting News in 1937 after 23 stolen bases had been erased from his career mark.
“I’d never heard of him until all this started,” the Blaze’s Hamilton said. “My friends at home told me they knew it wasn’t me when they looked up my name on the web and they saw it was a white guy.”