Where have you gone…Lefty Gomez?
Over the years, the same has been true with all the great center fielders, from Willie Mays to Jim Edmonds and Andruw Jones and the Reds’ Eric Davis.
But it goes back even farther than that.
I related an anecdote to Hamilton that dates back to 1937.
New York Yankees pitching great Lefty Gomez was talking to rookie center fielder Joe DiMaggio one day after a game the Yankees had lost on a deep drive that one-hopped the center field wall at Yankee Stadium.
Gomez: “How come you were playing so shallow on that one, Joe?”
DiMaggio: “I’m gonna make ‘em forget Tris Speaker.”
Gomez: “You keep playing there, you’re gonna make ‘em forget Lefty Gomez.”
News flash to Lefty: They’ve already forgotten you—or at least Hamilton has; he didn’t seem to recognize the name, and I’m not sure he even recognized the name of DiMaggio, either—but he laughed at the story, because he got the point.
Almost four score years later, the Gomez-DiMaggio story still resonates.
Hamilton has gone to most of the Reds pitchers and told them that he’d like to play shallow.
“They’ve all said, ‘Do it,’” recalled Hamilton. “Cueto and Homer (Bailey) have told me point blank, ‘If they hit it over your head, it’s my fault.’ That gives me the confidence to play shallow. The pitchers hate the cheapies. They’d rather give up something hit hard than a broken-bat blooper.”
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