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The Phillies Nation Top 100: #15 Billy Hamilton

The Phillies Nation Top 100 continues today with #15. Our mission is to assess the Top 100 Phillies players of all time using impact to the Phillies, individual achievement, team achievement, traditional stats, and analytics as our criteria. The list was compiled by Ian Riccaboni and Pat Gallen with input from the rest of the Phillies Nation staff. 

From this point forward, each weekday, we will reveal two Phillies from the PN Top 100 in separate posts. To view the players listed thus far, please click here. To view the 2008 iteration of the list of Greatest Phillies of All Time as compiled by Tim Malcolm, please click here.

Please check back tomorrow morning for #14.

#15 – Billy Hamilton

Years: 1890-1895

.361/.468/.459 with 23 HR, 510 SB in 3629 PA

Previous Rank: 13 (-2)

fWAR Phillies Rank: 9th among position players, 13th among Phillies

Signature Season: Hit .403/.521/.523 with a professional baseball-leading 100 steals and 128 walks with an all-time, single season-record 198 runs in 1894. Was one-fourth of group of Phillies’ outfielders, including Sam Thompson, Ed Delahanty, and Tuck Turner, to all hit over .400.

Signature Accomplishments: Owns single-season, MLB runs scored record (198, 1894), is Phillies’ all-time steals leader (508), is Phillies’ all-time leader in batting average for players over 1500 PA (.361), all-time Phillies leader in OBP, owns single-season Phillies records for steals and OBP

Sliding Billy arrived in Philadelphia via Kansas City, being purchased from the American Association’s Kansas City Cowboys for $6,000 prior to the 1890 season. It may have been the best $6,000 the then-Quakers, future Phillies had or would ever spend. Hamilton wasted no time adjusting to the National League, hitting .325/.430/.399 with 102 SB in his first season with the Quakers. The following season, Hamilton would win the batting title, lead the league in OBP, runs, hits, walks, and steals. In all, Hamilton would win two batting titles with the Quakers, lead the league in runs and walks three times, and steals four times. Hamilton is the franchise’s all-time leader in steals and OBP.

Hamilton would set single-season franchise records for steals, OBP, and runs scored. Hamilton’s runs scored record stands an MLB record, a likely untouchable 192 achieved in 1894. Because of his skills of getting on base and his speed, Hamilton has a claim at being the best baseball player to ever play in a Phillies uniform. Hamilton led all of baseball in steals and OBP during his time with the Phillies. The fact that he is peppered all over Phillies’ leader boards in counting stats, including steals (first) and runs (eleventh), despite playing just six seasons in Philadelphia is a testament to how great Hamilton was in such a short period of time. Hamilton ranks 15th and not higher on the countdown because of his short stay and  because, in spite of the incredible offensive talent on the clubs for which he played, Hamilton’s clubs never finished higher than third.

Hamilton would be dealt to the Boston Beaneaters on November 14, 1895 for third baseman Billy Nash in one of the worst trades in Quakers or Phillies history. Hamilton would go on to steal 274 more bases with the Beaneaters and retire as the game’s most prolific base stealer, retiring with the most steals in Major League history, a record that stood until Lou Brock broke the record in 1978. Hamilton would be a Veterans’ Committee inductee to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1961, a somewhat curious omission until that point. Hamilton currently ranks third all-time in steals and fourth all-time in OBP behind only Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, and John McGraw.

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