Monday, August 12, 2019

1994 Topps All-Star Rookie RHP Joey Hamilton

They're Back! It's the 1994 Topps All-Star Rookie Squad. I'm going to cover the whole team in card number order. First up is the Padres' Right Handed phenom, Starting Pitcher Joey Hamilton.

Born in Georgia, schooled in Georgia. Hamilton set school records at Georgia Southern in games, complete games, shutouts, wins, innings pitched and strikeouts - and that was with just a little over 2 seasons. Early in his Junior year, Hamilton had to undergo elbow surgery that effectively ended his college career. The injury did little to scare off major league teams in the 1991 Draft, however. He was selected ahead of pitchers like Aaron Sele, Justin Thompson, Scott Ruffcorn, and Bobby Jones. In his 2 minor league seasons, he would be promoted 5 times, finishing in AAA by the end of 1993. Padres' scouts were pleased with the big righthander's fastball / change-up combo, going from mid 90s to low 80s.

His MLB debut came the following season in May of 1994, facing off against the Giants. He was unfazed, however, hurling a quality start (6 innings, 3 ER, 3 Ks, 3 walks) and earning his first win. His first loss was another quality start, this time against Marlins knuckleballer Charlie Hough. Topps helpfully pointed out that Hough was pitching in the big leagues before Hamilton was born. More on Charlie later. Joey would make 16 starts as a rookie, 14 of which were quality starts. The highlight was a shutout in late June against the Reds, though he only struck out 1 batter. 

Hamilton was a solid mid-rotation starter for the Padres throughout the 90s, including starts in the postseason in 1996 and 1998. During the '98 World Series he'd appear in one inning of scoreless relief. Had the Padres not been in an 0-3 hole, he may have been the Game 4 starter instead of Kevin Brown. He topped 200 innings 3 times, leading the Padres' staff in victories twice. After his tenure in San Diego, he'd spend 3 seasons with the Blue Jays, and 3 seasons with the Reds, but struggled to stay healthy. He'd finish his career with 74-73 career record and a 4.44 ERA, which is roughly a full career of quality starts. (6 innings and 3 ER gives you a 4.50 ERA.) Solid production for a pitcher in the thick of the steroid era.

For no reason, here is Charlie Hough teaching Smokey the Bear how to throw the knuckle ball. Real reason - I didn't have any Hamilton Blue Jays or Reds cards, so this is the consolation prize...

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