100 Greatest Phillies: 13 – Billy Hamilton – Phillies Nation
100 Greatest Phillies

100 Greatest Phillies: 13 – Billy Hamilton

Billy Hamilton

Career w/Phillies: .360 AVG / 23 HR / 367 RBI / 508 SB

“Sliding Billy” sounds like an appropriate nickname for Billy Hamilton, a thieving outfielder with an elite bat who gave the Phillies six unbelievable seasons in the late 1880s. His biggest claim to fame? The single-season run-scoring record: An unapproachable 192. He came to the Phils after being purchased from the Kansas City Cowboys for close to $6,000 in 1890. He instantly made his mark, stealing 102 bases in 123 games in 1890 while scoring 133 times. He regularly scored over 130 runs per season, while at times ascending far above 50 stolen bases per season. He was a two-time batting champion, a four-time on base champ while a Phillie and a regular walk king. His career .455 on-base mark is fourth all time behind Ted Williams, Babe Ruth and John McGraw. His 912 steals are third best ever behind Rickey Henderson and Lou Brock. Obviously, Billy Hamilton is a legend.

Comment: If Hamilton played his entire career for the red and white, he would’ve been easily a top five player. As it stands, Hamilton’s unreal combination of hitting and running is unmatched in franchise history — he’s a definite baseball legend and one of the great forgotten Phils.



  1. Jim

    March 14, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    I had him 7th.

    He was a great player, I would have put him a few spots higher but of course at this point its all arbitrary. Good pick

  2. Jim

    March 14, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    With this guy being this high, i wonder what the odds are that ed delahanty edges out schmidt for #1….

  3. Griffin

    March 14, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    I had Delahanty 3rd overall. His stats were really impressive but it’s so difficult to compare these players from different decades. I’m learning a lot from this list.

  4. Jeltzismyhombre

    March 14, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    Schmidt was better. Ol’ Pete was the most talented man to wear a Phillies uniform, but for less than half the time.

  5. Jim

    March 14, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    I agree about alexander, jeltz

    but the ops+ numbers for big ed are better
    he also played just 3 less seasons than schmidtty and only had 100 less rbis

  6. James Kay

    March 14, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Griffin, I believe you meant centuries not decades.

    I never paid much attention to 19th century baseball until now after being made more aware of players like Hamilton. I am glad Phillie players from this era are being given their due recognition with their placements on the list. Check out the book “Occasional Glory: The History of the Philadelphia Phillies “by David M Jordan if you’re interested in hard core details. I posted the following piece before in another thread, but for those of you who missed it, here it is again since it applies to Billy H. That 1894 team only finished fourth.

    In 1894, Billy Hamilton was part of the only all-.400-hitting outfield of all-time. All four Philadelphia Phillie outfielders ended the season with a batting average better than .400 (Tuck Turner at .416, Thompson and Ed Delahanty at .407, and Billy Hamilton at .404). Furthermore, there were only five .400 hitters in the National League that year, four of them Phillies.

  7. Gavin

    March 14, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Damn, I had him in my top 10.

  8. Joel

    March 14, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    Yes, he is such a legend I have never heard of him before! I will say his #’s are real good, especially for his era.

  9. Chuck P

    March 14, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    I’m pretty sure that I had Hamilton in my top 10… maybe 10th… another Phillie HOF’er not in the top 10. Very surprised. I hope that Abreu is not in the top 10.

  10. James Kay

    March 14, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Here is something to consider when thinking of Hamilton’s SB totals. Until 1898, stolen bases were also credited when baserunners gained more bases than a batter earned on a hit. For example if a runner on first base reached third base on a single, it would count as a steal. The first recorded stolen base under modern rules occurred in 1865 (Civil War days) when Eddie Cuthbert decided to make it to second base on his own rather than wait for the hit.

  11. Jeltzismyhombre

    March 14, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    Bill James lists Hamilton as the ninth greatest Center Fielder of all-time, just after Duke Snider, and a few spots ahead of His Whiteness. I think he is a legend, but the numbers are REALLY hard to translate, especially when the park factor on the Baker Bowl back then was greater than Mile High Stadium, and the year 1894 (along with 1930) was one of the two highest BA seasons in history. My only slight against Sliding Billy is that when he went into the HOF, his plaque displays a Red Sox cap.

  12. Bruce

    March 14, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    It’s interesting to note Billy Hamilton started his career in 1888. In the previous year (1887) Major League Baseball tried to create more interest for fans by counting bases on balls (walks) as hits. The result was skyrocketing batting averages, including some near .500. Statistics showed Tip O’Neill of the St. Louis Browns batted .485 that season, which would still be a major league record if recognized. The experiment was abandoned the following season. BTW, O’Neil still won the batting title that season with .435 when taking away “hits” from walks issued.

  13. Greg V.

    March 14, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    My buddies and I used to love going to the ballpark on a hot afternoon to watch Billy Hamilton tear it up!

  14. Kev

    March 14, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    wow, 1800s tho, thats a joke

  15. Brooks

    March 15, 2009 at 1:27 am

    Are you going to add Big Jim and Big Sam to this list?
    The only time an entire outfield hit .400 or better, 1894. Hamilton, Delahanty, Thompson and a 21 yr old named Tuck Turner all hit over .400 – not in this day for sure.
    How were these stats reached? In August of 1985, Big Sam Thompson knocked in 61 rbi! In one month??
    How many games did they play in one month?
    It’s hard to comprehend stats from back then. I heard once before that the modern day stats are pretty interpreted from about 1950 (or is it the 40’s) on.

  16. Phan in TN

    March 15, 2009 at 7:13 am

    oh yes, I remember that August.

    It was hot outside.

  17. Evan

    March 15, 2009 at 11:28 am

    Wow, an entire outfield batting over .400. That’s amazing. I would’ve loved to see them play.

  18. Jeff Y.

    March 16, 2009 at 5:47 am

    Not a good choice.

  19. Don M

    March 16, 2009 at 7:42 am

    Is Abreu really not on this list yet???

    I’m going to say curse words to myself if Abreu is ahead of Bunning, Hamilton, Ennis, etc. .

  20. Don M

    March 16, 2009 at 7:50 am

    I take that back.. because I was definitely considering Abreu in my own top-10..

    and looking at the stats, Abreu had pretty good power numbers his whole time here (though I’m 90% sure he was on the juice)

    Hamilton has only 16 less runs scored, in about 2,000 less games..

    Hamilton hit .361, compared to Abreu’s .303 ……

    Hamilton has twice as many Stolen Bases as Abreu..

    But Abreu owns him in HRs and RBIs..

    Again, great work on the list Tim & Crew.. made me just look up more stats and learn more about Phillies history!

  21. Roy Kerr

    November 14, 2009 at 9:57 am

    My book, “Sliding Billy Hamilton” will be published by McFarland this month. How good was he? Of the tens of thousands of men who have played major league baseball since 1876, none has scored more runs in a season (198, 196, or 192 depending on the source), none have scored a run in more consecutive games (24), none has averaged more runs scored per game over a career of at least 5,000 at bats (1.06), none have stolen a base in more consecutive games (13). He is one of two players ever who stole seven bases in a game (August, 1894), the first of two players ever who hit four triples in a game (1889), the first of two players ever to have four sacrifices in a game (1889), in the top three [5,000 plate appearances minimum] in on base percentage (.455). He led the National League once in batting average, four times each in singles, runs, on-base percentage and times on base. He led the league five times in stolen bass and walks, and stole over 100 bases in three consecutive seasons. He’s tied for sixth in batting average (.344) with Ted Williams. He held the stolen base record for seventy five years until it was broken by Brock and Henderson, and still bests them both in average steals per game (one every 1.74 games, compared to one every 2.78 for Brock, one every 2.49 for Henderson) and average of steals per at bat (one every 6.8 at bats compared to Brock’s one steal per 11 at bats and Henderson’s one steal per 7.9 at bats. Notwithstanding Henderson’s greatness, Hamilton was the greatest leadoff man ever.

  22. Lawanna Elke

    April 13, 2010 at 2:49 am

    Jimmy Rollins has postponed the attempt to break the world record for hitting the baseball the farthest due to calf injury.At this time the Number one Issue at this time is Will He still able to accomplish this?Elegant Evening Wear

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