Kelch isn’t so hot on the idea
Not everyone thinks calling Hamilton up for a month is such a great idea.
Cincinnati broadcaster Jim Kelch, formerly the Louisville play-by-play man, told espnRadio 680 host Bob Valvano that he is not so sure about calling up a one-skill player for the pennant race.
“I’d like to see the addition of a player with who can help the team in more than one way,” says Kelch, who was formerly the play-by-play man for the Louisville Bats. “I don’t think we’re ready for another Herb Washington.”
Kelch is referring to Herb Washington, the superstar track star that maverick baseball owner Charlie Finley added to his Oakland A’s for the final month of the 1974 American League season. Washington was a world record holder for 50 and 60 yards, and could fly the 90 feet between bases on a ball diamond. He appeared in a game as a pinch runner, stealing 31 of 48 tries and scoring 33 runs.
But Kelch, and others, probably recall the embarrassing moment when Washington was inserted into a World Series game to pinch run for A’s star Joe Rudi -- only to be picked off first base Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Mike Marshall. The A’s did win the ’74 World Series.
The difference this time, of course, is that Hamilton is an everyday professional baseball player with experience in the cat-and-mouse game between pitcher, runner, first baseman and catcher. Though it is a jump from the Pensacola Blue Wahoos to the National League.
But while bleacher bums and media masterminds continue the Hamilton debate, the good news is Cincinnati continues to win. And, if called up, Hamilton might very well get an opportunity to change the course of a crucial game.
Coleman swiped 101 at Louisville
The record-holding Coleman continued his base-stealing ways after posting the record 145 at Macon in 1983. The next year he swiped 101 with the Louisville Redbirds, and then 110 in 1985 as a rookie with the St. Louis Cardinals.
A modern-times progression of the major-league steals record begins with Ty Cobb’s landmark 96 in 1915. Maury Wills stole 104 in 1962. Lou Brock grabbed 118 in 1974, and Rickey Handerson set the current standard with a stunning 130 stolen bases in1982.
Base Sliding Billy, the original Billy Hamilton
But for base-stealing élan of an earlier era, one might look to late-19th Century Hall-of-Famer Billy Hamilton – that’s right: same name, a century back – who stole 982 bases in a 14-year career, primarily with the Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Beaneaters (NL).
Hamilton also scored an all-time record 192 runs for the Phils in 1894. He posted a .344 career hitting average, and was known as the greatest run-scorer of his day. The earlier Hamilton wasn’t just fast, but skilled at stealing, earning the nickname “Sliding Billy.”
Today’s Billy Hamilton slides headfirst.
And coming soon to a base near you.
Photo: Courtesy MILB.com