Josh Hamilton claims he's been sober since October 2005. Since then he's rejuvenated his career, saved his marriage, devoted himself to Jesus, and become America's flawed, homer-derby hero. Last winter, while he was alone in Tempe, Arizona, Hambone kinda slipped.
These photos are from
the beginning of March. January. Hamilton was doing some pre-Spring Training workouts at the Athlete's Performance on ASU's campus. He supposedly rented a condo nearby, which also happened to be near the popular ASU hangout, Maloney's Tavern. One night, Hamilton went in. Here is a paraphrased account from people who were there the evening Josh Hamilton showed up. They wish to remain anonymous.
Because it was Spring Break and relatively early on a weeknight, the bar was kind of empty. According to one person who was there, a former employee, this big guy strolled into the bar and politely asked if they could change the television station to the MLB Network. You can see Al Leiter's head in the background of this photo. The MLB Network, you remember, first hit the airwaves in January of 2009. So these photos were taken well after he's been power-hitting for Jesus. And, also, this is what Josh Hamilton looked like in 2005.
One of the waitresses went to get the manager to change the station. The manager came out and saw Hamilton at the bar. Hamilton introduced himself, "Hi, I'm Josh." They made smalltalk. "Baseball season didn't start yet, right?" the bar manager inquired. Hamilton revealed he was a player. The manager, a baseball fan, but not a huge one, finally recognized the man sitting in front of him. "Oh, you're the home run derby guy." Josh said yes. "Well, just for that, lemme buy you a beer," the manager said, not knowing the full extent of Hamilton's history. Josh said yes again.
From there, things got weird. Josh drank. Josh was charming. Josh was a hit with the waitresses and bartenders who were hanging out between shifts. Shots were poured. Lots of shots. Josh kept drinking.
The person who took these photos arrived around 9. By then Hamilton was pretty wrecked. He was friendly, though and, obviously, having a really good time. He didn't even mind that photos were be taken of him as he did body shot after body shot off of some of the off-work waitstaff. He joked with Hamilton that he was going to send these photos to ESPN. "I'll kill you," Hamilton said, half-joking.
The girls left. According to one patron, Hamilton, piss-drunk by that point, asked the manager where he could buy blow. The manager didn't know. "Let's go to a strip club," Hamilton said. Someone drove Hamilton to Les Girls in Phoenix, Arizona.
Nobody knows what happened to Josh after the strip club that night.
Now, Hamilton isn't drinking in these photos; he's not doing drugs, either. He's just at a bar, shirtless, doing things with some strange women that most married men devoted to The Word Of God wouldn't usually partake in. That's it. But would a sober Josh Hamilton agree to be photographed laying across the bar shirtless, covered in whip cream with his head between a random girl's crotch?
Maloney's closed down soon after these photos were taken. I originally heard about this story second-hand from a tip way back in March. It seemed, at the time, implausible given how upfront and rigid Hamilton has been about his sobriety and his religious awakening. But then there was another tip about another night during the same time period, also from a Maloney's Tavern patron in Tempe. Then the pictures appeared and the story became more legit.
So now, here we are. Much will be made that Hamilton's sub-par season and injuries were a direct result of him backsliding during the off-season. Maybe this was isolated — a brief moment of weakness where Hamilton, possibly alone for the first time in years, just fell headfirst off that wobbly wagon.
Hamilton homered last night, though, and the Rangers beat the Angels 11-6. And Hamilton's been better at the plate lately, which he claims is because he ditched his ADD medicine. Last night's performance even prompted to DMN writer Rob Stroope to proclaim,"It looks like he's back in the groove." Hope so. The Rangers are investigating. Hamilton is aware these photos exist. Statements, no comments, excuses, explanations shall be forthcoming. UPDATES: Narron speaks. UPDATES: Josh Hamilton speaks.