T.R.’s Memoirs: Josh Hamilton’s ride with Texas Rangers was as weird, wild as he was talented (Part I)
Josh Hamilton was the American League MVP in 2010 and found a way to contribute to the Rangers’ division-winner in 2015 (The Associated Press/LM Otero).
Editor’s note: T.R. Sullivan covered the Texas Rangers over 32 years for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and MLB.com and is sharing his “memoirs” with this newsletter.
In this three-part installment, Sullivan looks back at Josh Hamilton, possibly the most talented player in Rangers history but also the one who required the heaviest lifting.
The Rangers were on the road, it was well past midnight and Johnny Narron was unable to sleep.
That’s because Josh Hamilton couldn’t sleep. They had adjoining rooms in the team hotel, and Narron could hear Hamilton next door. Hamilton was pacing around the room, bouncing off the walls and acting like a pent-up wild animal in a zoo.
The next morning, Hamilton was in manager Ron Washington’s office, telling his boss that he wasn’t able to play that day. Washington knew the situation. He didn’t need a stat sheet in front of him, one that shows Hamilton was a career .302 hitter in night games and .256 during the day.
Washington just knew that getting Hamilton ready to play, up for the game and into the lineup on a particular day game was always going to be a challenge. Getting Hamilton to play at a high level may have been one of Washington’s biggest strengths as the Rangers manager. The same could be said of Johnny Oates when he was managing Juan Gonzalez.
Hamilton was almost certainly the most physically gifted athlete to ever play for the Rangers. Five tools? Run? Throw? Field? Hit? Hit for power? He had all of those in abundance.
What Rangers fan doesn’t remember about his four-home run game against the Orioles in 2012 or the catch he made off Detroit’s Ryan Raburn in the sixth and deciding game of the 2011 American League Championship Series?
How about Hamilton’s home run in the top of the 10th inning in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series? The whole world would have remembered that home run if the Cardinals hadn’t rallied to win the game.
Hamilton was asked about the home run after the game.
“Want the truth?” Hamilton said. “God told me I was going to hit a home run.”
Nobody asked Cardinals reliever Jason Motte what God was telling him.
There was no predicting what would happen with Hamilton during his five spectacular seasons in Texas when he led the Rangers during the best era in club history.
He led the Rangers to two World Series in 2010-11, and there might have been a third straight in 2012 if not for the team’s late-season collapse. The Rangers had a four-game lead with nine to play and their biggest worry was trying to clinch home-field advantage.
Then they lost seven of their last nine and lost the division to the Athletics. They also lost to the Orioles in the wild-card game to bring their season to a sudden and stunning end.
Earlier in the 2012 season, Hamilton went through a slump at the plate when he tried to give up chewing tobacco. He started hitting again when he started chewing again.
At one point in September, Hamilton missed five straight games because of an eye affliction known as ocular keratitis, which dries up the cornea and is caused by too much caffeine. Hamilton said he was having trouble controlling his eyes.
“Guys, it’s me. It’s Josh,” Hamilton said. “It’s going to be something weird.”