Hamilton swings into MLB history

By Chuck Fiebernitz | May 10, 2012
Photo by: MLB Texas Rangers' Josh Hamilton.

History is made almost every day in baseball. Sometimes it is bad, sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s so rare that it’s the kind of history that makes a ballplayer a legend.
Just three days ago on a humid night at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Texas Rangers’ Josh Hamilton swung his mighty bat into history, becoming the 16th Major League player to hit four home runs in one game.
He also ripped a double and became only the seventh player to hit five extra-base hits in one game.
Against the Orioles, which Texas won 18-3, his five hits set an American League record with 18 total bases. Hamilton, who played at Raleigh Athens Drive High School, put on one of the greatest single-game offensive performances in the history of baseball.
And I might add, Hamilton is now hitting .406 with 14 home runs and 36 RBI on the season.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
Because I’m thinking as locked in as Hamilton is, he could win the Triple Crown, which hasn’t happened since Boston Red Sox Carl Yaztremski did it in 1967. I’m also thinking that he could hit .400. We all know the last ballplayer to accomplish that feat was Boston’s Ted Williams in 1941, which he ironically finished the season with a .406 batting average, the same average Hamilton is currently batting.
Could this be a sign?
What also made it the best individual performance I have ever seen was Hamilton hit a home run in his last at-bat on Monday night. In addition, he became the first player with extra-base hits in six straight at-bats since Ken Griffey Jr., on July 1-2 1998, and the first player with five home runs in six at-bats since Shawn Green on May 23-24 2002.
Amazingly, all four home runs were two-run shots. Each one came with Elvis Andrus standing on first base.
If you look over the list of 16 you’ll notice some of the greatest home run hitters of all time are  missing. Players like Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Ken Griffey, Jr, Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Mickey Mantle and even Barry Bonds, despite the use steroids, never hit four home runs in one game.
The first two players to hit four home runs in a game were Bobby Lowe in 1894 and Ed Delahanty in 1896. But they were playing a type of baseball that was quite different than today.
The first player in the “modern era” to hit four home runs in a game was New York Yankees’ Lou Gehrig. In 1932, Gehrig became the first player of the 20th century to hit four home runs in a game, accomplishing the feat on June 3 against the Philadelphia Athletics.
What Hamilton did Tuesday night was a rare feat and far rarer than a triple play and even more rare than an unassisted triple play. To learn the history of the game, avid baseball fans have to read about the great feats or not so great feats of past ballplayers.
I wasn’t around in 1941 for Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hit streak or Williams’ .406 season. But I’m here today and I’m tuned in to Hamilton for the 2012 season. Because rarely do we get a chance to witness some of the game’s greatest feats, which are rarer than hitting four homers in a game.