On a cold, foggy night at Candlestick, with the Giants still clinging to improbable dreams of winning the NL West, the Houston Astros start knocking Shawn Estes around. There's a single, a double, and a walk, and suddenly the game is tied, with the go-ahead run on third.
Chuckie Carr got behind 0-2 right away against Roberto Hernandez's 100 mph fastball, but that doesn't mean that he's going to shorten up. He hacks, 0-2 or 3-0, and with this particular hack, he lines a double into the gap. Both runs score. Above the play, the out-of-town scoreboard reminds everyone the Dodgers are beating the Marlins. The night is ruined.
Except it's not a double. The runs don't score. Darryl Hamilton streaks across center field and dives, fully extended, making one of the best catches of the season, if not his career. The crowd explodes in pure, unrestrained joy. The Giants go on to win the game, and they eventually win the division that they weren't supposed to.
That's Darryl Hamilton to me. Say his name, and I remember that night, that catch. It was a player using his unearthly natural gifts to mesmerize the 12,000 people in the crowd and the thousands watching on TV. That catch is why baseball players exist and why we pay to watch them. If you don't remember that catch, maybe you remember him winning a game with a single the next season. If you're not that into the Giants, note that he did the same for the Rangers, Brewers, and Rockies. I think he might have been on the Mets in 2000, but I'm not going to look that up. And even if you don't care about baseball at all, we can all agree that it's a good thing when John Rocker is sad.
Hamilton was a talented man who made a few great baseball memories, including one of my all-time favorites. The best part about him being on the MLB Network was that I got to think about that catch every time he came on the screen. I don't know what happened to him or why, but here's to the memory of a good Giant who should still be here. He will be missed.