CINCINNATI — Billy Hamilton was asked if he knew who Bob Bescher was and he looked quizzically at the interrogator and said, “Bob who?”
Bob Bescher holds the Cincinnati Reds single season stolen base record with 81. He did it in 1911, 104 years ago.
When Hamilton was relayed that fact he squinted his eyes and said, “Man, I thought Eric Davis held the record.” Davis fell one short when he stole 80.
Hamilton has stolen 45 so far this year and is within easy footwork of breaking Bescher’s record. But he says that isn’t necessarily on his agenda.
“No, no, no,” he said. “Not even thinking about it. I’m just thinking about getting some hits, getting on base, helping the team out. My goal isn’t the stolen base record.”
HAMILTON, THOUGH, knows that stealing 82 bases is within his domain and said, “Of coure it’s doable. If I can get on a roll and make my second half better than the first half, it’s possible.”
Despite his low batting average and low on base average, Hamilton was more than halfway toward the record by the All-Star break.
“Eighty-one is the season record? For a single season? I thought E.D. (Eric Davis) had it, but I didn’t know how many.”
ERIC DAVIS HAS BEEN like a father to Hamilton, “He calls me all the time to ask how I’m doing. He is one of the guys my whole career who has been like my father, teaching me things about outside the field, how to handle myself. He taught me how to do things the right way. A great dude, man, a great dude. He calls me all the time to check up on me and make sure things are going OK. He loves to talk baseball.”
DAVIS WAS ALSO in the forefront of helping Hamilton make the transition from shortstop to center field. Davis did the same thing — signed as a shortstop but was transferred to center field.
“When I got switched to outfield he was there every single day teaching me how to play the outfield,” said Hamilton. “Because he did the same thing and became a great outfielder that meant a lot to me. He was a great outfielder. He told me making the switch wasn’t going to be tough.”
And judging from the way Davis played the outfield and the way Hamilton is playing it now, it wasn’t tough, at least for those two.
MANAGER BRYAN PRICE believes Hamilton will break it and if not this year for sure in the near future.
“It would mean a lot of good things if Billy has 80-some stolen bases,” said Price. “We know that when Billy is productive we are much more productive offensively. I’d love to see him get it.
“Sure, it’s a team game, but there is always these little things that players chase and it makes the season intriguing. I saw Ichiro (when Price was pitching coach at Seattle) chasing George Sisler’s single-season hits record. It was that little sideshow that went along with each game. Those things are fun to watch and keeps guys focused and motivated.”
When Price was told the record was set in 1911 and that Hamilton didn’t know who Bob Bescher was, Price smiled and said, “Don’t fault Billy. Any more you ask guys if they’ve heard of Willie McCovey and they say, ‘Who, hmmm, what?’”
TODD FRAZIER got a rare day off Sunday, mostly to catch his break after his whirlwind days during the All-Star break. While his teammates rested, Frazier was part of most of the festivities — interviews, the parade, the Home Run Derby, the game, the autographs.
“That was all pretty demanding,” said Price. “It takes away a couple of days of recovery time. And it’s a rare day when I don’t have Todd in the lineup.”
In the first two days after the break, Frazier is 0 for 9 and he stranded seven runners during Saturday’s 9-4 loss. All-Star hangover? Well, Frazier was struggling a bit before the break, too.
“THAT HOME RUN Derby format? It was great. But that’s a lot of swings in short bursts of four minutes,” said Price. He was told that during the three rounds Frazier took 36 swings each round, 108 swings, and he said, “And he wasn’t trying to shove singles to right field, either. I saw him right afterward and you could tell he was just worn out.”
IT SEEMS MOST of the talk and attention right now in the Reds cluhouse is focused on who might be traded and who might not be traded.
“I know it is stressful for the players,” said Price. “Definitely stressful. Guys don’t know what could happen, the uncertainty of if you might be traded and where you might go, having to meet new people and being in a different environment.
“It is definitely mentally challenging,” he added “That’s baseball, though, and you learn that. It is the nature of the beast, but it is never easy.”