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Billy Hamilton

Born: February 16, 1866(1866-02-16)
Newark, New Jersey
Died: December 16, 1940 (aged 74)
Worcester, Massachusetts
Batted: Left Threw: Right 
MLB debut
July 31, 1888 for the Kansas City Cowboys
Last MLB appearance
September 16, 1901 for the Boston Beaneaters
Career statistics
Batting average     .344
Stolen bases     912 or 937Steals discrepancy
Runs scored     1690
Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Induction     1961
Election Method     Veteran's Committee

William Robert "Sliding Billy" Hamilton (February 16, 1866 – December 15[1] or 16, 1940) was a 19th century Major League Baseball player. He holds a number of offensive records that still stand today, and was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 1961.



Born in Newark, New Jersey, Hamilton broke into the Majors in the American Association with the Kansas City Cowboys in 1888 at the age of 22 and established himself as a star the following season by batting .301 with 144 runs and 111 stolen bases.

In 1890, Hamilton was sold to the Philadelphia Phillies for cash by the Cowboys, who were ceasing their operation. The timing could not have been better for the team from Philadelphia as Sam Thompson joined the club the prior season and Ed Delahanty would become a Phillie the following year.

He is one of only five batters, through August 2009, to have hit both a leadoff and walkoff home run in the same game (having done so in 1892), the others being Vic Power (1957), Darin Erstad (2000), Reed Johnson (2003), and Ian Kinsler (2009).[2]

Hamilton continued his trend-setting ways over the following six years, averaging 146 runs and 92 stolen bases a season while hitting as high as .404 in 1894. He was now a part of one of the greatest hitting outfields and teams of all-time. Hamilton, Thompson, Delahanty, and Tuck Turner all hit over .400 for the year in 1894. Unfortunately, the mid-1890s was also the pinnacle of the Original Baltimore Orioles of Willie Keeler and John McGraw, and later on, the powerful Boston Beaneaters of Hugh Duffy and Kid Nichols. In 1896, Hamilton moved to Boston, for whom he played his final six seasons. Although his numbers declined, Hamilton still scored over 100 runs in all but two of those seasons. He set the all-time standard for most runs scored in a season with 198 in 1894 while with the Phillies.

Hamilton retired after the 1901 season. Over his career he compiled 912 (or 937; see Career total discrepancy) stolen bases, a .344 batting average and 1690 runs in 1591 games; he is one of only three players to average more than one run per game played. His .455 career on base percentage is ranked fourth all time behind Ted Williams, Babe Ruth and John McGraw, and his 912 stolen bases rank 3rd behind Rickey Henderson and Lou Brock. Even for the run-happy 1890's, these are very fine career numbers. Hamilton also set the record for most stolen bases in one game, with seven, set August 31, 1894. Though stolen bases were credited differently during Hamilton's career than they are in modern time, he was very proud of his stolen base marks. In 1937, Hamilton lambasted the Sporting News in a letter he wrote to them stating, "I was and will be the greatest base stealer of all time. I stole over 100 bases on many years and if they ever re-count the record I will get my just reward." [3]

Hamilton was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1961. He was the first New Jersey native so honored, and remains the only one from the northern part of the State, although Goose Goslin was from Salem and Alabama-born Monte Irvin grew up in East Orange and South Carolina-born Larry Doby grew up in Paterson. Hamilton died at his home at 6 Lucian St. Worcester, Massachusetts on December 15, 1940 according to the obituary in the Worcester Telegram morning edition of December 16 in 1940. This states he died "yesterday in his home". This date of December 15, 1940 was also confirmed by baseball historian David Allen Lambert with the City Clerk of Worcester, Massachusetts.


  • Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame (1961)
  • 3rd all time for stolen bases in a career (912)
  • Led the Major Leagues in stolen bases (1889-91, 1894, 1895)
  • Led the National League in batting average (1891, with .340)
  • Led the National League in runs scored (1891, with 141)
  • Led the National League in hits (1891, with 179)
  • Led the National League for times on base (1891)
  • Led the Major Leagues in batting average (1893, with .380)
  • Led the Major Leagues in runs scored (1894-95, 1897)
  • Led the Major Leagues for times on base (1894, 1896-97)
  • Set record for runs scored with 198 in 1894.
  • Philadelphia Phillies Career Leader in Batting Average (.361), On-base percentage (.468) and Stolen Bases (508).
  • Holds Phillies single season records for On-base percentage (.523 in 1894), Runs (192 in 1894), Stolen Bases (111 in 1891) and Times on Base (355 in 1894)

Career total discrepancy

His career steals total differs, based on the source. The Baseball Hall of Fame credits Hamilton with 937 steals[4], while credits him with 912 steals.[5]

See also


  1. ^ obituary, New York Times, December 17, 1940
  2. ^ Andro, Anthony, "Francisco goes back on DL because of pneumonia," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 7/20/09, accessed 9/16/09
  3. ^ Russell Roberts (1999) Stolen!: A History of Base Stealing, McFarland, ISBN 078640650X Excerpt, pg. 30
  4. ^ Hall of Fame Plaque
  5. ^ Hamilton stats

External links

Preceded by
Jim Fogarty
Tom Brown
National League Stolen Base Champion
Succeeded by
John Montgomery Ward
Joe Kelley
Preceded by
Jack Glasscock
Dan Brouthers
National League Batting Champion
Succeeded by
Dan Brouthers
Hugh Duffy


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