There have been four Billy Hamiltons to play organized baseball. The second one made it to World War I, but he never made it out of the minors. The third one was a 19-year-old pitcher who pitched 16 games in his career. But the bookends of Billy Hamilton, the first and the fourth, were special. They had and have a gift. The original Billy Hamilton stole 111 bases in his first full season in 1889, and he stole 100 or more in four different seasons. The current Billy Hamilton set a minor-league record with 146 stolen bases.
One-hundred-and-forty-six stolen bases. There's a difference between the Billys Hamilton, too. When the former came up for the Kansas City Cowboys in 1888, the game centered on stolen bases. There were 188 combined home runs hit by the eight teams, but there were 2,959 stolen bases. The Cowboys were the team with the fewest steals in the American Association, and they had 257 steals in 134 games -- 83 more than the MLB-leading Padres swiped last year in 162 games.
The Billy Hamilton reboot comes at a time when stolen bases are on the periphery of the game. That's why there's intense interest in him from all corners of the Internet. After a couple of decades of shattered home-run records, the lax membership standard of the 500-homer club, and better living through chemistry, the Reds' prospect is something completely different.
To celebrate, I've attempted to collect all of the ridiculous facts and factoids surrounding Hamilton's record-setting season. This is a living document; if you have facts or factoids, please leave them in the comments. Let's revel in and share the ridiculousness together.
- Billy Hamilton's 146 stolen bases would have placed him second among National League teams last season, and fifth in all of baseball.
- His 33 caught stealings would have been tied with the Astros for only 25th in baseball last year, though.
- Hamilton's 146 stolen bases are nine more than the bottom three teams in baseball -- the Orioles, Tigers, and Pirates -- have combined this season.
- Hamilton leads the Southern League in stolen bases this year. He played his first game in the Southern League on July 11.
- He still leads the California League in steals -- heck, he has more stolen bases than five teams in the California League -- even though he hasn't played there since July 7.
- With three more steals, Hamilton's stolen-base total will be half the total of the entire Japanese Central League.
- Hamilton has averaged .85 stolen bases for every minor-league game he's played. If he had that pace in the majors and played for as long as Rickey Henderson did, he'd finish his career with 2,610 stolen bases.
- I know that's not now statistics and "on pace" works, but help me out, here. I'm going for shocking numbers.
- The Diamondbacks have never stolen more than 146 bases as a team.
- The Red Sox haven't stolen more than 146 bases as a team since 1914.
I wanted to end this by gradually shifting into obviously fake facts -- "Billy Hamilton is so fast, he ran back in time and turned off the bedroom lights of Cool Papa Bell's parents so that Cool Papa Bell could be conceived" -- but why bother? These are silly enough.
Look at that Red Sox fact at the end. I think that's my favorite. For almost 100 years, the Red Sox have put together collections of able-bodied baseball players with the goal of winning baseball games. Some of those teams have been quite good. But over 154 or 162 games, with a collection of 15 to 25 different position players throughout the year, they could never combine for as many stolen bases as one Billy Hamilton did for two minor-league teams in 2012.
Billy Hamilton is a fast human being, and there's a great chance you'll see him as a secret weapon during the Reds' September and playoff push. That'll give him a (small) chance at 200 stolen bases across three levels. Can't wait.