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Four four-baggers

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Four four-baggers AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
Hamilton becomes 16th with four homers in one game

Since Babe Ruth exploded onto the scene almost a century ago, major league baseball and its fans have been enamored of the home run. 'Chicks dig the long ball,' as the old advertising catchphrase has it. Even the sports performance-enhancing drug issues were born largely from that desire to hit the ball ever farther.

However, even with that hundred-year obsession with power, one of the rarest individual feats in baseball is the four-homer game. Only 15 men had ever reached that pinnacle that is, until this season.

Welcome to the club, Josh Hamilton.

With his Texas Rangers team taking on the Baltimore Orioles, Hamilton hit four homers in the course of going five-for-five overall (he also hit a double) with eight RBI. He's the first to accomplish the feat since Carlos Delgado pulled it off for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2003. It truly was a game for the ages. Not only did Hamilton hit four homers, but his 18 total bases set a new single-game American League record (the MLB record is 19, set by Shawn Green in 2002). It's only the sixth time an American League player has gone deep four times in a game.

It's the hitter's equivalent of a perfect game the two feats historically have occurred at about the same rate, although the recent spate of perfect games has thrown off the equilibrium just a bit. In fact, this is the first season in major league history that has seen both a four-homer game by a hitter and a perfect game by a pitcher.

There may have been a few more impressive four-homer games than Hamilton's (Mark Whiten's four bombs came with 12 RBI in 1993; Green had those 19 total bases), but not many. The Delgado game is regarded by some as the true 'perfect game' for a hitter four at bats, four home runs but in terms of pure impact, Hamilton outperforms all but a scant few.

It's a particularly nice story because it features Josh Hamilton, a man who started his baseball career as a can't-miss number-one draft pick before rapidly spiraling into a morass of substance abuse, addiction and despair. Despite his plunge to rock bottom or perhaps because of it Hamilton has reemerged in the past few years as the elite baseball talent he was always expected to be. This most recent feat, however, is far beyond even the highest of expectations.

One of baseball's biggest appeals is its wonderful sense of the past. With epic games like the one Josh Hamilton had, it's an excuse to take a stroll back through time and revisit some of the prodigious power hitting feats that had come before. It's a great game; you never know when history may happen.

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