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Becky G
Becky G
April 15, 2024

Josh Hamilton: The Rise, Fall, Rise, and Fall


Last October, the Texas Rangers won their first-ever World Series in franchise history. The Rangers won it all, in their first year back in the postseason since 2016, and their first AL Pennant since 2011. The Rangers had to endure almost a decade of heartbreak before they were able even to grace the Commisioner’s trophy. I want to take you back to the last time the Rangers were in the World Series. The team was led by 2010 AL Most Valuable Player Josh Hamilton to back-to-back AL Penants and 90+ win seasons. Hamilton had come from almost nowhere and became arguably the best player in all of Baseball. However, almost as quickly as he had risen from the ashes, he fell and was quickly out of baseball. How did a guy who went from one of the biggest draft busts, to the best player in baseball, fall back down to where he began as soon as he rose?

Childhood and Early Career

Josh Hamilton was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, on May 21, 1981. Growing up, Hamilton already had a lot of hype surrounding him. He was a left-handed five-tool prospect. He played multiple positions but excelled as a pitcher and outfielder. Hamilton battled in the media with pitching prospect Josh Beckett for the title of Best High School Baseball Player in America. Hamilton rightfully won the honor after recording a .529 batting average, 13 home runs, 20 stolen bases, and 35 RBIs. He was drafted out of high school first overall by the newly formed Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999. In 2001, Hamilton was named the number one prospect by Baseball America. That same year, however, Hamilton would endure a traumatic event that would forever change his life. Hamilton and his parents were involved in a car crash after a spring training workout. After he was drafted, Hamilton’s parents resigned from their jobs to travel with their son and attend all his games, but after this accident, they were forced to return back home due to their injuries. Josh had been out of baseball for a while and was now alone by himself in Florida. This is exactly when Josh Hamilton started to spiral.

Addiction and Absence from Baseball

Hamilton lost the two things he loved most in 2001: His family and Baseball. Because of that, he began to do whatever he could to fill that hole. Hamilton became addicted to alcohol and cocaine. He initially opened up to team doctors and went to rehab for the first time in 2003, however, his addiction and lifestyle were so bad he wouldn’t play baseball again until 2006. He would go in and out of rehab clinics and fail drug tests to push his return to baseball even further. In 2005, he hoped to get his life straight and finally get called up to the majors. Those hopes would be squandered when he was arrested for smashing a friend’s truck’s windshield while drunk and was removed from the Devil Rays’s 40-man roster and suspended for the 2006 MLB season. Hamilton also began experimenting with and became addicted to crack, even pawning off his wife’s wedding ring for drug money. His wife filed a restraining order against him and had nowhere to go. His grandmother took him in, and after a long talk with her, he quit using drugs and alcohol. He would be taken in by a Christian-based baseball academy in Florida, where he could live and use the facilities in exchange for work. Hamilton was reinstated to play in 2006, and would play 15 games for the Rays’ Class A team, before being selected by the Chicago Cubs in that year’s Rule 5 Draft, and traded to the Cincinnati Reds

Return to League and Success in Texas

For the first time in his career, Josh Hamilton made a 25-man roster. Although he was initially intended to be used as the Reds’ backup outfielder, Hamilton started at center for most of the 2007 season after injuries to Ryan Freel. In his first season in the bigs, Hamilton batted .292 in 298 At-bats and 19 home runs. Despite having an impressive rookie year, Hamilton was barred from NL Rookie of the Year voting due to eligibility issues, having only played 90 games. In December 2007, he was traded to the Texas Rangers for Edinson Vólquez and pitching prospect Daniel Herrera. Texas was where Hamilton would, almost overnight, reach the prime of his career.

In his first season with the Rangers, Josh Hamilton became the first player in AL history to win Player of the Month twice in the first two months of the season. He was the highest-voted outfielder at the 2008 All-Star Game in New York and hit an at-the-time record of 28 Homers in the first round of the Home Run Derby, to which he lost to Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins. Hamilton finished 2008 7th in AL MVP Voting and led the AL in RBI. 2009 was a tumultuous year for Josh Hamilton. He only played 89 games due to several injuries. Hamilton also relapsed on alcohol for the first time in 3 years when he went on a bender at a bar in Arizona. Despite this, he was voted to the All-Star game for the second time. 2010 was Josh Hamilton’s greatest season ever played.

He led the AL in batting average (.359), slugging percentage (.633), and OPS (1.044). Additionally, Hamilton tallied 32 home runs, 100 RBIs, and scored 95 runs. His offensive prowess was crucial to the Rangers’ success, helping them clinch the AL West division title and later on, capturing Texas’ first-ever AL Pennant. On their way to the World Series, Hamilton, and the third-seed Rangers defeated the one-seed Tampa Bay Rays and veteran New York Yankees before losing to the emerging San Francisco Giants four games to one. Hamilton was awarded AL and ALCS Most Valuable Player for his efforts. Hamilton and his Rangers would make it to the World Series again the next year. In the tenth inning of game six against the St. Louis Cardinals, Hamilton blasted a two-run homer, giving the Rangers a 9-7 lead. The Rangers, who were up 3-2, would’ve most likely won the series, if not for the Cardinals miraculously coming back to win that game and the next.

It’s also important to mention what happened at Rangers Ballpark on July 7, 2011. During a game against the Oakland A’s, Hamilton tossed a foul ball into the left field stands, when Shannon Stone, a 39-year old firefighter, and father, fell 20 feet over the Stadium’s railing trying to reach for the ball for his son, and died from his injuries. Stone’s family forgave and expressed condolences to Hamilton, and said Shannon’s death was a freak accident, however, Josh Hamilton was still extremely emotionally distraught from this. 2012 was the last year Hamilton played for the Rangers during this tenure, and was the beginning of the end for him. In February, Hamilton held a press conference admitting that he had relapsed drinking again, after having a drink at a bar with teammate Ian Kinsler. Hamilton also received what was an all-time record, 11 Million All-Star Votes that season. The Rangers lost to the Orioles in the wild-card game.

Failure In Los Angeles, Retirement, and Future.

In December 2012, Hamilton signed a five-year, $125 Million contract with the Angels. His tenure was anything but successful. He played okay in his first season, missing the All-Star game albeit, but really struggled in 2014. Hamilton only played 89 games and infamously went 0-13 in the ALDS against the Royals. While undergoing shoulder surgery, Hamilton voluntarily admitted to team doctors he had relapsed from cocaine and alcohol. While he wouldn’t be suspended, the Angels did make it known he would not be returning to the team. He was traded back to the Rangers, where he would play his final season. Hamilton hit .253 in 50 games. He missed the next two years due to injuries and announced his retirement in 2019. In the years since retiring, Josh Hamilton has had several legal issues. He was charged with injury to a child after being accused of assaulting his oldest daughter, and in 2022, pled guilty to unlawful restraint, relating to the abuse case.

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About the Contributor
Stanley Shivley, Editor
Stanley Shivley is a Junior at Forest Grove High School. He likes watching horror movies, listening to music, and hanging out with friends. He has a cat named Beans, would love to go to the University of Oregon, and his family is most famous for appearing on Jerry Springer in the early 2000s.

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