Peter Schmuck: What's next in historic baseball season?

May 09, 2012|Peter Schmuck

Making history is becoming a habit during the 2012 baseball season.

We're little more than a month into it, and we've seen both a perfect game and one so imperfect that it ended with two position players as the pitchers of record Sunday in Boston. So why should anyone be surprised that Texas Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton slammed four home runs Tuesday night at Oriole Park to etch his name into the record books?

Hamilton, whose story of drug addiction and redemption is the stuff of sermons and script writers, hit two home runs off Orioles starter Jake Arrieta, one off newly arrived reliever Zach Phillips and one off sidearmer Darren O'Day to become the 16th player in major league history to go deep four times in a game and only the second to do it against the Orioles.

The only other time it happened here was June 10, 1959, when the Cleveland Indians' Rocky Colavito cleared the fences four times at Memorial Stadium.

If you're looking to tie all this together, consider that Colavito also was the last American League position player to record a victory before Orioles designated hitter Chris Davis pitched two scoreless innings Sunday to outduel Boston Red Sox outfielder Darnell McDonald in extra innings.

Of course, Hamilton has tied his life together after nearly throwing it away, and that wasn't lost on him as he recounted the greatest single game of his career through the prism of his troubled and inspiring personal journey.

“When you think about what God has done in my life and everything I did to mess it up,” he said, “and to finally surrender everything and ask him for help and to pursue that relationship with Christ on a daily basis, and understanding that when I don't pursue it I end up messing up. It's got to be the forefront of my recovery and the forefront of being a good dad, a husband, a good teammate, so that's what I focus on. Knowing that I play for an audience of one — Jesus Christ.”

Hamilton rolled up 18 total bases to set an AL record because he doubled in his other at-bat, which apparently was just to show he isn't really Superman. The major league record is held by Shawn Green, who had 19 total bases in his four-homer game for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2002.

The special nature of Hamilton's performance was not lost on the sparse crowd of 11,263, which gave him a long ovation as he trotted around the bases and arrived at the Rangers dugout to hugs from his coaches and teammates. The evening, however, did not start out as a lovefest, but the fans warmed up to him with each big fly.

“As the game was going on, I was getting worn out less and less in the outfield,” he said, “and I get worn out here in Baltimore. And when I came out after the fourth one, the crowd appreciation lets you know they are true baseball fans. They are not only fans of their own team, but they love the game and appreciate it when somebody does something of that caliber. It's just a special feeling running out in an opposing stadium and the crowd just appreciates how you play the game and what you've done.”

What a moment for a guy who has been through so much. Hamilton's struggles with substance abuse put him on baseball's restricted list for three years (2003-2005) after he was chosen as the first overall pick by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the June 1999 draft. He played again briefly in the minor leagues for the Devil Rays in 2006 before being taken in the Rule 5 draft by the Chicago Cubs and immediately traded to the Cincinnati Reds, with whom he played one injury-marred season before being dealt to the Rangers.

His career took off in Texas, where he had 32 homers and 130 RBIs in 2008, and made four straight All-Star appearances, but his career with the Rangers has not been without controversy.

He has had multiple alcohol-related relapses as he continues his battle against addiction, though he has handled each incident openly and garnered tremendous public support in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Hamilton already was leading the AL with 10 home runs and 28 RBIs before Tuesday night's homerfest. He came out of the game leading the major leagues with 14 homers and 36 RBIs.

In a strange twist, not only were all four home runs two-run shots, but all four also came with the same player — Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus — on base.

What a start to this intriguing season, which also has witnessed Philip Humber's perfect game for the Chicago White Sox and Jered Weaver's no-hitter for the Los Angeles Angels. What an eventful start to the season for the Orioles, who apparently haven't recovered from Sunday's crazy 17-inning victory at Fenway Park.

Makes you wonder what's going to happen next.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," on baltimoresun.com and listen when he co-hosts "The Week in Review" Fridays at noon on WBAL (1090 AM) and wbal.com.

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