The Great Hambino

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Babe Ruth may have built the house, but Josh Hamilton brought it down.

I’m not much into Home Run Derbys – or baseball, for that matter – but the Texas Rangers’ slugger last night provided one of those goose-bumpy moments that remind us why we watch sports. In one of the most memorable at-bats in the history of fabled Yankee Stadium, Hamilton set a record with 28 homers, including three of over 500 feet and two off the joint’s back wall, flirting to send one out of the stadium and into the Bronx night.

Like Kevin Costner in Tin Cup, Hamilton didn’t win the title despite owning the night.

He tired in the final round – who wouldn’t? – and finished second to the Minnesota Twins’ Justin Morneau. But no one will remember the champ from this night, only the awesome display by a Born-Again bomber who dreamed of praising Jesus at Yankee Stadium’s home plate.

Said ESPN’s Rick Reilly – proving again why he’s the best in the biz – “It’s a lousy night to be an atheist.”

With his 71-year-old former coach grooving pitches and the crowd chanting “Ham-il-TON!”, Josh’s 28 bombs captivated the coliseum better than Billy Graham ever imagined. Yankee fans embracing an opponent is historical enough. But during the round teammates and other All-Stars interrupted Hamilton with a towel, a photo or even an autograph request. At one weird point, former Rangers pitcher Edinson Volquez – whom Hamilton was traded for last winter -- laid a briefcase on home plate. (Full of cash? A pipe bomb? Did he want Josh to leave and go back to the office? Guesses anyone?)

Though watching Major League sluggers hit homers in batting practice can get as monotonous as Tiger Woods sending 100-yard wedges within five feet of the cup, last night was anything but boring.

Said Hamilton, “I got chills.”

So did we. -- Richie Whitt

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