1988 Dodgers player profile: Jeff Hamilton, treasuring his chance

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Hamilton finally got his chance to play regularly in the major leagues in 1988, and he ended up a starter on a World Series winning team.

Jeff Hamilton in his his age 22-23 years at Triple-A Albuquerque hit a combined .334/.379/.548 with 38 doubles and 22 home runs in 136 games. The 6'3", 190-pound third baseman entered 1988 determined to make the Dodgers out of spring training, and even threatened to demand a trade at various times if he didn't get his way.

"I don't want to go back down (to the minor leagues) again," Hamilton told Sam McManis of the Los Angeles Times. "I'll say to them, 'If you can't use me, let somebody else use me.' I'm tired of this. I'm not saying I'm going to be a good major league player, but I've got to have the chance to see for myself. I'm not going to be one of those guys they keep lingering on and then, one day, cut loose."

Hamilton did make the team out of Vero Beach, and ended up a regular on a World Series winning team.

And eventually after lingering on for a while, he was cut loose.

How acquired: The Dodgers drafted Hamilton in the 29th round of the 1982 draft out of Flint Carman High School in Davison, Michigan.

Prior MLB experience: Hamilton briefly saw action in 1986 and 1987 on a pair of 73-win teams, and hit .222/.252/.322 with five home runs in 106 games and 242 plate appearances.

1988 age: 24

1988 stats: Hamilton hit .236/.268/.353, a 79 OPS+, with 14 doubles, six home runs, and 33 RBI in 111 games. With the additions of outfielders Kirk Gibson and Mike Davis, Mike Marshall moved to first base and Pedro Guerrero moved to third base, leaving Hamilton with a utility position to start the season. Hamilton started just one of the team's first 39 games, but appeared in 26 others as either a pinch hitter or late-inning defensive replacement.

Hamilton was just 1-for-17 in those first 39 team games, and didn't get his first hit for the season until May 13. Thanks to various injuries to and the eventual trade of Guerrero, Hamilton was essentially the third baseman the rest of the season, starting 79 games. Though Hamilton missed 35 games, including all of August, with a rib injury of his own.

Regular season game of the year: Down 3-2 in the ninth inning against the Reds and closer John Franco, the Dodgers tied the game with two outs. Hamilton then ended the game with a home run over the left field wall for a 5-3 win. It was Hamilton's fifth home run of the season.

"I said coming out of spring training that I thought he was a sleeper and he was going to be a key to our success," Gibson told Mike Penner of the Times. "He's very strong, but he's very young. He's still developing."

"As big as he is, he should have 50 (home runs) by now," catcher Rick Dempsey joked. "But, no, he has to wait until I hit one before he does something."

NLCS performance: Hamilton played all but one inning against the Mets, but had a relatively quiet series. In the seven-game series, Hamilton hit five singles, walked three times, and was hit by a pitch. He hit .217/.333/.217 with two runs scored and one run batted in.

World Series performance: Hamilton was even quieter against the Athletics, with two singles in 19 at-bats and a walk. His only run scored of the series was the only run scored by the Dodgers in Game 3, the only game lost by Los Angeles. Hamilton was one of just four Dodgers in 1988 to start all 12 postseason games, along with Steve Sax, Alfredo Griffin, and John Shelby.

Post-1988 playing career: Hamilton was the full-time third baseman for the Dodgers in 1989, and hit .245/.272/.378, and 85 OPS+ in 151 games, the only season he qualified for the batting title. But his most memorable moment as a Dodger, aside from perhaps inflating the confidence of Dennis Eckersley with an all-too-easy three-pitch strikeout in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, came on the mound. Hamilton was called in to pitch in the 21st inning against the Astros on June 3, 1989, the first of two 22-inning games played by the Dodgers that season. Hamilton recorded five outs, including two strikeouts, but was beaten by Rafael Ramirez's RBI single over the outstretched glove of first baseman Fernando Valenzuela.

Hamilton hit .237/.265/.357 in 199 games from 1989-1991, his final three seasons in MLB, including the last two cut should by shoulder and knee injuries. After hitting .302/.350/.472 in 55 games with Albuquerque in 1992, the 28-year old Hamilton retired.

Hamilton was part of a rumored trade to Pittsburgh in December 1989, along with pitcher John Wetteland, for outfielder Barry Bonds, though Pirates general manager Larry Doughty denied reports of a deal, telling the Associated Press, "I really got the feeling that Fred Claire was not going to move one of his established pitchers."

Where he is now: Hamilton turned to mortgage banking after his playing days, and lives in Fenton, Michigan. He now gives baseball lessons for between $75-$100 per hour.

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