My favorite baseball stories of 2012
To mark the passing of another eventful year of championships, triumphs and memorable moments, SI.com's writers are remembering the stories they connected to most across the sports landscape in 2012.
It was the greatest hitting display in American League history. At Camden Yards in Baltimore, Hamilton hit four two-run home runs -- none of them to the pull field -- and a double to give him an AL record 18 total bases in a 5-for-5 night. Said Hamilton after making the park look small, "It reminds you of when you're in Little League and a little kid, and just the excitement and why we play the game."
In one of the best games ever pitched, Cain tied the record of Sandy Koufax for most strikeouts in a perfect game (14) while dominating the Houston Astros at AT&T Park. Home plate umpire Ted Barrett, who also called balls and strikes for the perfect game of David Cone in 1999, became the first umpire to work the plate for two perfect games. It was one of three perfect games (Philip Humber and Felix Hernandez threw the others) and a record-tying seven no-hitters thrown in 2012.
Davis, the Baltimore infielder/outfielder, went 0-for-8 with five strikeouts in a 17-inning game at Fenway Park against Boston. But he pitched the 16th and 17th innings to become the first AL position player since Rocky Colavito in 1968 to get a win. Boston outfielder Darnell McDonald took the loss, making this the first game since 1902 in which the winning and losing pitchers were position players.
In a victory that clinched the AL Central title for Detroit, Cabrera went 4-for-5, including home run number 44, giving him sole possession of the home run race from Hamilton and opening up an insurmountable gap on Joe Mauer and Mike Trout for the batting title. Cabrera finished the season with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs, becoming the first man since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to lead his league in all three categories.
Moyer, pitching for Colorado, allowed San Diego no earned runs over seven innings to become the oldest pitcher to win a major league game (49 years, 151 days), displacing a record held by Jack Quinn (49.70) for 80 years. Moyer would add one more win on May 16 to push the record to 49.183. In that same game he recorded a two-run single, becoming the oldest player ever with an RBI.
For the 13th time, Thome ended a game with a walkoff homer, this time for Baltimore to beat Tampa Bay. The blast elevated Thome past five inner-circle Hall of Famers who had been tied with him with 12 walkoffs: Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle and Frank Robinson.
Yes, on the same night Davis got the win and two nights before Hamilton went deep four times, Harper, age 19, swiped home on a pickoff throw to first base by Philadelphia lefthander Cole Hamels. What made the steal all the more dramatic was that Hamels put Harper on base by intentionally hitting him in the back with a pitch -- Hamels' way of trying to humble a teenage rookie who had drawn so much attention.
In a case of The Matrix-meets-MLB, Trout seemed to hang in the air for an extraordinarily long time -- and high enough so that his hip nearly reached the height of the top of the centerfield wall at Camden Yards -- to pull back what should have been a home run by Hardy. It was the biggest jaw-dropping highlight from a season full of highlights by Trout, the youngest 30-30 player ever and the first player with 30 homers, 40 steals and 125 runs.
After umpires awarded Morse a home run upon instant replay review, they ordered the three runners back to their bases and Morse to the batter's box to make sure all of them touched every base -- a necessity that had not occurred after Morse's blast was first ruled off the wall and in play, resulting in Morse being put out. Back in the box, and without a bat, Morse pantomimed a swing -- not a very good one at that -- and proceeded to jog around the bases. You'll never see a worse swing on a grand slam.
Until June 18, the Diamondbacks second baseman had two cycles in his life: one in high school and one at LSU. He then collected two cycles in the next 11 days, capping the first with a home run in the seventh and the second with a triple in the sixth. Hill became the first player with two cycles in the same season since Babe Herman in 1931 and the first player with two cycles in the same month since -- get this -- Long John Reilly 129 years ago, back in 1883.