The way the Yankees have fared this year, in their final season in the old yard, it is perhaps not surprising that someone from another team likely provided the last great Yankee Stadium moment. Last year, the Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard “saved” the nearly dead NBA dunk contest by finally coming up with something new (wearing a Superman costume. Uh, you had to be there.) Last night, the Texas Rangers’ Josh Hamilton saved the home-run contest — which even the participants were having difficulty feigning interest in before he came to the plate — by hitting 28 blasts into the Bronx night, including a few tape-measure shots that left most longtime Yankee Stadium observers shaking their heads. Poor Chris Berman almost had an aneurysm.
It’s not enough that Hamilton hit so many homers (though, in what kind of seems like a technicality, he officially lost to Minnesota’s Justin Morneau, who appeared almost guilty to be holding the trophy); that wouldn’t be enough to salvage the blunt force exhibition. No, Josh Hamilton used to be a drug addict. Not one of those Brett Favre “I had too many painkillers” drug addicts either. Like, a serious one. Hamilton was addicted to crack cocaine and attempted suicide three times. (He tells his tale in this first-person ESPN piece.) He has been sober for two and half years and spoke last night of having to eat separately from his teammates when he’s on the road, so he isn’t tempted to have a drink.
It’s a great, epic baseball story, more so because his situation is so precarious (Hamilton admits that he still “gets cravings.”) It was classic Yankee Stadium moment, even though (because?) there were no actual Yankees present. Not that MLB couldn’t still find a way to screw it up. Afterward, when reporters in the press room eagerly awaited Hamilton, they were informed that only Morneau would be showing up. MLB and sponsor State Farm said they wanted only the winner out in front of the media. Finger on the pulse, guys … finger on the pulse. —Will Leitch