Cool Papa Billy made history last night, at least according to Rany Jazayerli. To wit:
Billy Hamilton is the first player in Retrosheet history to steal a base and score the only run in a 1-0 game in his major league debut.— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) September 4, 2013
Pretty cool, huh?
I was watching the game on my couch, kicking myself for not going to the ballpark to witness Billy's debut, when Hamilton got the call to replace Ludwick. I knew what was going to happen as soon as he was stretching his legs at first base. You knew it, and so did everyone else in the ballpark. Seth Maness and Yadier Molina knew it as well, but there wasn't anything they could do to stop it. After throwing over to first a few times, Maness went plateward with a 90 MPH fastball, and Billy was off. Molina had no choice but to rush the throw, which was high and wide, and Billy was safe at second. Todd Frazier's double very well may have scored Hamilton from first, but that's beside the point. The bottom of the seventh in last night's game was great baseball theatre.
There have been arguments today as to whether or not Hamilton could make a real difference in a playoff series, if the Reds are fortunate enough to make one. Dave Roberts in '04 and Chone Figgins in '02 played key roles on World Series champion clubs, but situations where someone who has only one MLB-ready tool (speed) can be few and far between. It's going to be interesting to see who Dusty and Walt will take if the Reds make it to the Divisional Series. I could very easily be wrong, but it seems like it will come down to D-Rob vs. Billy. But I didn't want this post to be about the pros and cons of Billy on the playoff roster.
Really, I just wanted to reflect and appreciate how much fun last night was. This season has been kind of weird so far. The Reds came into 2013 with expectations as high as I can remember during the course of my Reds fandom. Then Ducky hurt his shoulder, the Pirates and Cardinals exceeded their preseason expectations, and the Reds have been looking up all year long. In my opinion, this team is well constructed for a playoff run, but baseball gets pretty weird in small sample sizes, so who knows. What I do know, is that being a baseball fan is often times more about the journey than the destination. I've tried to adopt a more zen attitude to baseball watching in the last few seasons, not getting too concerned about wins and losses, and just enjoying baseball for baseball's sake. And watching Billy Hamilton's debut last night - much like Homer's no-hitter, Mez and Choo walking off against Kimbrel, Corky owning the A's in that day game, Sam LeCure locking up a lefty on a 2-seamer, or Chapman embarrassing the heart of the Cardinals order - was one of those reaffirmations of why I spend over 400 hours every summer watching grown men play a kid's game. Because it's fun.