When Hall of Fame outfielder Sliding Billy Hamilton retired following the 1901 season he held the record for most stolen bases. Hamilton
would hold the record for nearly eight decades until being surpassed by fellow Hall of Famers Lou Brock and Rickey Henderson. Fifty years after the first Billy Hamilton’s death in 1940, the similarly named Billy Hamilton was born. Proving the axiom that everything comes around again, the sports headlines once again tell the base stealing exploits of an outfielder named Billy Hamilton.
Friday night, the modern era Hamilton stole his tenth base in nine big league games and scored an important run in a come-from-behind Reds win over the Pirates.
“As a Reds fan I’ve heard about Hamilton since he was drafted. The mainstream talk on the Cincinnati sports radio stations really picked up last year when he was destroying the minor league stolen base record,” noted collector Joel Hofmann, who frequently takes to Twitter and sports card message boards to promote Hamilton’s success. The record Hofmann referenced was the 155 stolen bases Hamilton recorded as a member of the Cincinnati Reds AA affiliate, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, which topped the record of 145 held for 19 years by Vince Coleman.
“Speed in general is exciting and when you are touted as possibly the fastest player to ever play the game – people notice. SBs have kind of fallen out of the gameplan for most MLB teams so I think they have become exciting again. Not only can he steal bases, but he demands so much attention from the batterymates and that makes the hitter’s job at the plate that much easier,” noted Hofmann, noting that as sabermetrics grew in acceptance, less value was placed on the stolen base. It became something of a lost art and therefore it was unknown how Hamilton’s style of play would translate to the major leagues – and how it would impact his hobby value.
When a young player comes up and hits a home run in his first game, collectors rush to eBay and their market value increases literally in seconds. The same can occur when a pitcher debuts and racks up an impressive strikeout tally. The performance of a speedster is less defined, and it was thought that a Herculean effort would be needed to rival the prices of past rookie stars – and thus far Hamilton has done exactly that. In those first nine games, he’s a perfect 10-for-10 in stolen base attempts. In his first game in the starting lineup he stole four bases – the first to achieve the feat since 1920.
“I doubt they have peaked. Hamilton is just the type of player that can make SportsCenter notice. He doesn’t even need to get a hit in a playoff game. Billy has already changed the outcome of multiple games for the Reds by pinch running alone. I couldn’t imagine what his cards would do if he did something like steal home in an NLCS,” Hofmann concluded, commenting on his belief that there is room for growth in the Hamilton market. With the Reds seemingly playoff bound, such likelihood is a definite possibility.
There are scores of Billy Hamilton items available on eBay at the moment, including Hofmann’s favorite: 2009 Bowman Chrome. However, if during your search for the young Reds’ base stealing stud you come across an N172 Old Judge, N300 Mayo’s Cut Plug or this 1895 scorecard featuring a Billy Hamilton picture on the front, it’s not the one you’re looking for – move along.