We have now reached the top 5 in our Dazzling Dozen series. That means one more week's worth of memories from this 2011 season.
The No. 5 moment was an emotional one for Josh Hamilton, the team and the Rangers' fan base July 9.
No. 5: Hamilton’s walk-off home run vs. Oakland
No one in the Rangers community will forget about July 7. That was the night that Shannon Stone, a 39-year-old Brownwood firefighter passed away from injuries sustained after falling about 20 feet over a railing in left field. Cooper, his six-year-old son, watched as his father attempted to catch a foul ball flipped to him by Hamilton.
Shortly after the game that night, the Rangers' clubhouse was closed and the players were still in shock even the next day about what happened. Hamilton spoke openly and honestly about the incident and handled a difficult time with composure and class. It was an emotional weekend for everyone, me included. (You can read about that here.)
Most folks went home that night thinking not only of the Stone family, but of Hamilton. He was simply trying to give a fan a souvenir and one that he could give to his son to remember a fun night at the park together. The tragedy wasn't Hamilton's fault, but he was obviously deeply upset by what happened. His faith helped him get through it.
Baseball went on. And two days later, on Saturday, July 9, the Rangers went into the bottom of the ninth down by a run. Oakland closer Andrew Bailey got the first two outs before Elvis Andrus hit a single to bring Hamilton, wearing a black ribbon for Stone like all of the Rangers, up to the plate. On a 2-0 count, Hamilton found a pitch he liked and absolutely tagged it into the second deck in right field. The homer gave the Rangers a dramatic 7-6 win.
Hamilton knew it was gone immediately and circled the bases as the crowd went crazy. He threw off his helmet and jumped into the waiting arms of his teammates, who mobbed him for a while in celebration. It was an emotional release of sorts not only for Hamilton, but for the team and fans.
What it meant: The homer pushed the Rangers' winning streak to six games. It would end up at 12 games as Texas began to play really solid baseball to end the first half of the season and start the second half.
The aftermath: Hamilton handled all kinds of questions about how he was feeling and said his family and faith helped him get through a tough time. The Rangers announced safety changes, including raising the rails in the ballpark (something that is scheduled to be completed this offseason). They also will have a statue honoring Shannon and Cooper to represent all fans that come to the ballpark. Cooper, Stone's son, came back to the ballpark with his mother, Jenny, prior to Game 1 of the ALDS. Cooper threw out the first pitch, which was caught by Hamilton. And Hamilton hugged Cooper and Jenny, spending about 30 seconds talking to Jenny.