Phillies sign outfielder Billy Hamilton from Kansas City

Billy Hamilton
By Matt Albertson, Historical Columnist 
On January 7, the Philadelphia Phillies inked outfielder and base stealing specialist Billy Hamilton from junior circuit’s Kansas City club. The three year contract is rumored to be worth $3,000 per year. The 24-year old outfielder slashed .294/.394/.388 with Kansas City and stole 130 bases over the past two seasons, leading the league with 111 bags in his sophomore campaign. In addition, he also scored 165 runs, had 21 doubles, 16 triples, and slugged three home runs. 
Phillies owner John I. Rogers explained his excitement to the Inquirer :”I am very glad we secured that young man because I think he is about the best substitute we could get…he is a young man with exemplary habits.”
Kansas City put three contract’s up for purchase in December in an effort to liquidate valuable assets; Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Cleveland and Chicago were interested in the players on the block. The Sporting Life reports that the the bidding for the three players was so high that the clubs agreed to purchase the contracts as a lot. National League President Nick Young was blindfolded and drew slips from a hat and the Phillies were fortunate to be given the rights to Hamilton. The Phillies received the consent of both Hamilton and Kansas City to attempt to sign the young outfielder, who drew interest from clubs in two major leagues. Contract negotiations between the Phillies and Hamilton hit a snag earlier this year when Hamilton reportedly would not sign with the Phillies unless the club paid him $2,200 of the purchase money paid for his contract, plus a salary of $3,000 per year for fiver years. 
Hamilton’s expected use is unknown at this time, as the club is rumored to use him in either a bench role or in the starting lineup as a top-of-the-order hitter. Over the past two seasons, he has proved to be an exceptional talent on at the plate, on the bases, and in the field. It is this publication’s opinion that the Phillies would benefit greatly from his presence in the starting nine. It would give a jolt to the offense and improve the club on defense. 
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It’s clear that I an not talking about the former Reds and current Royals speed demon Billy Hamilton! Hall of Famer “Sliding” Billy Hamilton was purchased from the major league American Association Kansas City Cowboys on January 7, 1890. The 1890 season was a strange year for baseball as there were not one, not two, but three major league organizations in the United States – the senior National League, the junior American Association which began play in 1882, and the upstart Players’ League, a union league organized by the players themselves. Philadelphia was only one of two cities in the United States to host teams in all three leagues with the Phillies in the National League, the Athletics in the American Association, and the Athletics/Quakers in the Players’ League. Players who unionized broke their contracts and jumped to the outlaw Players League which resulted in one of the most volatile hot stove seasons in history. 
The Kansas City Cowboys were the American Association caboose in 1889. The American Association itself was teetering on the edge of death in the late by 1890 and Kansas City sold its top three players as it exited the Association and left to play in the minor league Western League in 1890. 
Hamilton was a bonafide star for the Phillies between 1890 and 1895, slashing .360/.468/.459 with 510 stolen bases, 1,084 hits, 126 doubles, 51 triples, and 23 home runs. He was a member of the 1894 Phillies all .400 hitting outfield along with fellow Hall of Famers Ed Delahanty and Sam Thompson. (Hamilton slashed .403/.521/.523 in 1894 and lead the league with 702 plate appearances, 198 runs, 100 stolen bases, and 128 walks.)
The coincidence that both the Hall of Famer Billy Hamilton and current major leaguer Billy Hamilton have the same name, same skill set, and played/play for a major league Kansas City club was too much to pass up. 
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Original announcement:

Sat, Jan 11, 1890 – Page 2 · The Times (Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) ·

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