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MLB.com Columnist

Marty Noble

Looking at Hamels through four-homer prism

Looking at Hamels through four-homer prism

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Looking at Hamels through four-homer prism

MLB.com Columnist

Marty Noble

NEW YORK -- Before Cole Hamels invokes the concepts of "old school" baseball as reason for his misbehavior on the mound, he ought to learn how graduates of the old school actually behaved and reacted. This lesson comes from Joe Adcock, the Milwaukee Braves' powerful first baseman from the '50s, and it brings together Hamels' most recent episode of foolishness and, in a way, the four home runs Josh Hamilton hit Tuesday night.

Adcock hit four home runs and a double on July 31, 1954, producing the same number of total bases, 18, that Hamilton did in Baltimore. And Adcock's game had an intriguing back story. He missed a fifth home run by about a foot. The double he hit in his second at-bat, in the third inning, struck high off the wall in left-center at Ebbets Field. He already had homered, leading of the second, and would hit home runs in the fifth, seventh and ninth.

The last one came against left-hander Johnny Podres, the fourth pitcher Adcock faced that Saturday afternoon in Brooklyn. And years later, Podres said he didn't even throw a tight pitch to Adcock.

"I wasn't trying to get him" he said. "Maybe I should have. I gave a pitch he could handle. He really handled it, too."

The Dodgers waited till the following afternoon to suggest to Adcock that he had become too comfortable in the batter's box. Adcock flied out in the first inning against Dodgers starter Monk Meyer, who decades later acknowledged trying to hit the Braves first baseman. And Adcock doubled, leading off the third against Meyer.

With the Braves leading, 8-2, in the fourth, Clem Labine was summoned from the Dodgers' bullpen. He retired Henry Aaron, then beaned Adcock. Little doubt about the pitcher's intent developed. Even years later, Labine only would smile when asked about the pitch that sent Adcock to the hospital. He never explained his reasoning as Hamels chose to do.

Adcock retold the story in September 1993, shortly after Cardinals outfielder Mark Whiten had hit four home runs and driven in 12 runs in the second game of a doubleheader in Cincinnati.

"I didn't charge the mound. I couldn't," Adcock said. "I was lying on the ground. They carried me off on a stretcher."

Even if he could have, Adcock said, he wouldn't have charged Labine.

"That's part of the game," he said.

Adcock, who died in 1999, had anticipated some degree of trouble with the Dodgers, even before his home run barrage.

"I was seeing the ball real well before we got to New York," he said. "I was swinging good, too. I was hot. I was so confident. I knew I'd be hot in Brooklyn, so I started wearing a helmet. We were going to face Brooklyn. Their pitchers would come after you. So I thought I might need a helmet.

"If I wasn't wearing one to start [the game] after the four home runs, I probably would have found one when I had to face Labine. He'd throw at you, soon as look at you. If I wasn't wearing a helmet when I faced him, I [would] probably be talking to you now dead."

After a rainout Wednesday, the Orioles did nothing of the sort to stop Hamilton Thursday night. Or, if they were trying to respond, they didn't. Indeed, their starting pitcher, Tommy Hunter, surrendered a two-run home run to Hamilton in the first inning. They did that in the old school, too.

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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