Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland, often referred to simply as Camden Yards, opened in 1992 to much fanfare. The ballpark, probably one of the first “retro” major league ballparks constructed during the 1990s and early 2000s, boasted a capacity of 45,971. A record attendance at Camden Yards (49,828) happened in July of 2005, but the ballpark saw a decline in attendance as the years went on.
Camden Yards celebrated its 20th anniversary during the 2012 season but attendance numbers hadn’t improved much. Though the ballpark had seen a great turnout for the late April/early May series’ against the Yankees and then the Red Sox (averaged 36,000+ in each game), by the time the Texas Rangers rolled into town on May 7th, attendance dipped down to 11,938 for the first game of the series. The Rangers won that Monday night matchup 14-3. The Orioles faithful were left shaking their heads especially since their team had just won 5 of 6 vs. the Yankees and Boston (they swept the Red Sox). Surely the team would bounce back in game 2 of the Texas series, was probably what Orioles fans were thinking.
And then Tuesday, May 8th, 2012 happened.
In front of a paltry crowd of 11,263, the Texas Rangers were late hitting the field because their star humanoid robot, Josh Hamilton needed an operating system reboot. The trainers took that opportunity to oil his joints and after the reboot screen gave the all clear chime, he was ready to pick up where he’d left off the night before (a 9th inning home run in their 14-3 win).
The Orioles started Jake Arrieta, a Plano, TX high school standout and Texas Christian University alum. Arrieta would eventually go on to win the 2015 NL Cy Young Award with the Chicago Cubs but on this night there was no way you would have ever guessed that this would come to pass.
In the top of the first inning, Arrieta forced an Ian Kinsler groundout and issued a walk to Elvis Andrus. With one on, Josh Hamilton walked up to the plate, fixed his recently re-calibrated cybernetic eyes on Arrieta, and proceeded to send the first pitch he saw from Arrieta to deep center field. Somewhere in the dugout, a couple of software engineers looked over data result printouts and nodded approvingly; the machine was performing well after the reboot.
The top of inning number three had the Rangers holding a 2-0 lead as Elvis Andrus found himself safe at first base after a successful bunt (small ball!). Josh Hamilton sauntered up to the plate and again, fixed his laser eyes upon Arrieta, and on the 3rd pitch of this at-bat, Hamilton sent Arrieta’s offering deep to left field for another 2-run shot. As the dugout exploded with gleeful shouts, the smiling software engineers waited for the printer to spit out more result data printouts and politely nodded at each other as only engineers can.
In the top of the fifth inning, Josh Hamilton sent a baseball deep, very deep to right field but it ended up being a double instead of another home run. As Hamilton stood at 2nd base, the system engineers in the dugout mumbled obscenities at one another. Looks like someone had made a mistake in a line of code. Unacceptable.
The top of the seventh inning brought the Orioles’ bullpen into the fray as pitcher Zach Phillips took over for Jake Arrieta after he went 6.1 innings. The Rangers held a 5-1 lead and Elvis Andrus was on 1st base after a single against Arrieta (his last batter of the night). Josh Hamilton walked up to the plate and fixed his eyes upon this new prey. The system engineers hurriedly fixed the coding glitch and also sent in new calculations based on Phillips’ scouting report. Hamilton responded by sending the second pitch of this at-bat to deep center field for his third 2-run home run of the evening. The Rangers players’ screams of delight were equally matched by the screams of delight from the system engineers as printouts rained down upon them like dollar singles at the club.
Rangers fans that had been on the fence about Josh Hamilton possibly receiving a substantial contract extension were at this very moment emailing their respective state senators to proclaim May 8th as Official Josh Hamilton Day. Hitting three 2-run home runs in one game does wonders for a fan-base that was so conflicted mere hours before. Nothing could top this feeling.
And then the eight inning happened.
The Orioles were down 8-1, in front of a paltry home crowd in a ballpark that was celebrating its 20th anniversary that season. Reliever Darren O’Day was sent in to face Josh Hamilton and possibly assuage this monumentally embarrassing night for the Orioles. Elvis Andrus found himself safe at 1st base and the crowd of 11,263 simultaneously experienced deja vu and you could hear the collective groan they emitted for miles around. Josh Hamilton promptly sent the 3rd pitch he saw from O’Day to deep center and into the annals of sports history.
Four home runs. In one game. By one player.
As Josh Hamilton rounded the bases, his teammates eagerly awaited him at home plate while the genius software engineers hugged one another and their laptops, too.
The home crowd had dwindled by this time, but the remaining fans recognized the magnitude of what had happened here tonight and they clapped for the opposing player. As they clapped and shook their heads in equal parts disbelief and awe at what their eyes had seen tonight, they had to be thinking about how lucky they had been to be at Camden Yards on this historic night.
The Orioles would finish the 2012 season 93-69 (2nd place in AL East) and earned one of two American League wild card spots. They defeated these same Rangers in the inaugural one-game Wild Card Playoff game and while a subset of Orioles fans felt some measure of revenge for what Josh Hamilton had done to them in May, it really didn’t compare. It couldn’t compare.
Nothing compares to one single human/robot hybrid hitting 4 home runs in one game.
It’s been six-years since that historic night and things have happened since. Neither team has had much success in as far as a postseason run is concerned. Both teams have had ups and downs (I won’t even bring up the Rangers’ 2014 season nope not going to do that at all). Josh Hamilton finds himself out of baseball and dealing with personal issues.
Josh Hamilton cemented his legend in 2008 during the MLB Home Run Derby when he hammered 28 home runs in the first round. Some pundits say Josh Hamilton’s legend has since been tarnished due to his personal life and some weird on-the-field issues — remember the “I’m hitting poorly right now in day games because my eyes are blue” times?
Ultimately, while 11,263 might have witnessed history in-person at Camden Yards six-years-ago, millions won’t soon forget the night Josh Hamilton hit 4 two-run home runs in one game.