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In establishing a franchise home run record, George Harper helped the pennant chances of the Cardinals and hampered the hopes of the team that traded him to St. Louis.

Ninety years ago, on Sept. 20, 1928, Harper became the first Cardinals player to hit three home runs in a game, carrying them to an 8-5 victory over the Giants in the first game of a doubleheader at the Polo Grounds in New York.

Though the Giants won the second game, 7-4, the split enabled the first-place Cardinals (89-56) to maintain a two-game lead over the Giants (87-58) with nine to play.

Harper delighted in excelling against his former club and he displayed his feelings with a bit of showmanship.

Good wood

George Washington Harper was born in Kentucky and grew up on a tobacco farm. He began his professional baseball career with a minor-league team in Paris, Texas, when he was 21, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

An outfielder who batted left-handed, Harper debuted in the major leagues with the Tigers in 1916 and played three seasons for them. When the Tigers sent him back to the minors, Harper quit baseball and bought a sawmill near Stephens, Ark.

While operating the sawmill, Harper learned about wood and he decided a persimmon baseball bat would be stronger and more durable than one made of ash. Using his persimmon bats, Harper launched a baseball comeback in the minor leagues in 1920 and returned to the majors in 1922 with the Reds.

A good hitter with a strong throwing arm, Harper played for the Reds (1922-24), Phillies (1924-26) and Giants (1927-28). Standing 5 feet 8 and weighing 167 pounds, he packed power in his frame, hitting 18 home runs for the 1925 Phillies.

In 1928, Giants manager John McGraw was looking to create an outfield spot for teenage slugger Mel Ott and Harper was the player the club decided to move. On May 10, 1928, a month before he turned 36, Harper was traded by the Giants to the Cardinals for catcher Bob O’Farrell, who won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1926 and was player-manager in 1927.

New York Daily News columnist Paul Gallico said McGraw sent Harper “down the river to St. Louis” and “if you have ever been to St. Louis in July or August, you can appreciate just how sore George would be at John.”

The Cardinals were keenly aware of Harper’s hitting ability because he batted .455 with five home runs and 18 RBI against them in 1927.

Harper became the primary right fielder for the 1928 Cardinals and joined an outfield of Chick Hafey in left and Taylor Douthit in center.

Playful mood

The Giants trailed the Cardinals by two games entering the Thursday afternoon doubleheader and were seeking a sweep to move into a first-place tie. Game 1 matched two aces, left-hander Bill Sherdel (18-9, 3.07 ERA) for the Cardinals and right-hander Larry Benton (24-7, 2.51) for the Giants, and 50,000 packed the Polo Grounds to see them.

In the second inning, Harper hit “a cheap homer into the lower right-field stands” for a 1-0 Cardinals lead, the Daily News reported.

Harper faced Benton with two on in the sixth and worked the count to 3-and-2. According to the Daily News, Benton, a St. Louis native, “grooved the next one” and Harper hit “a legitimate homer” into the upper deck in right, giving the Cardinals a 5-0 lead.

As Harper completed his trot around the bases, “he leaped onto home plate with both feet, looked over into the Giants’ dugout straight at John McGraw, pursed up his lips and blew,” Gallico reported.

McGraw, a tough, feisty character, didn’t react to Harper’s antics. “In his younger days,” Gallico wrote,” I am afraid John would have emerged from his hutch and punched George in the nose.”

Encore effort

The Giants battled back, scoring three runs in the bottom of the sixth. The Cardinals added a run in the seventh and the Giants countered with two in their half of the inning, cutting the St. Louis lead to 6-5.

In the eighth, Hafey led off with a home run against reliever Jack Scott, stretching the Cardinals’ lead to 7-5. Harper came up next and hit his third home run of the game “just inside the line in the upper stands” in right, according to the Daily News.

As he completed his trip around the bases, “I blush to relate that George repeated the act as he dug his cleats once more into the (plate)” and blew toward McGraw, Gallico reported.

According to the St. Louis Star-Times, Harper gave McGraw “an ironical smile” as he crossed the plate.

“I like a guy like that,” Gallico wrote. “I’m not so hot on those repressed heroes who pretend they don’t enjoy putting it over on the other fellow. George may never have a moment like that again and I am not one to blame him for enjoying it to the fullest.”

Seeking a fourth

According to The Sporting News, Harper also “saved his team with two sensational running catches that prevented three New York runs.”

In the ninth, the Cardinals loaded the bases, bringing Harper to the plate against Dutch Henry with a chance for a fourth home run to tie the major-league record held by Bobby Lowe (1894 Boston) and Ed Delahanty (1896 Philadelphia).

The fans in the Polo Grounds “were cheering for him to do this,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, but Harper struck out looking.

The crowd jeered Cy Rigler’s “questionable third strike” call, the Post-Dispatch reported, and Harper argued so vigorously with the umpire that teammate Rabbit Maranville “had to drag him away from trouble and toward the bench,” according to the Associated Press. Boxscore

The Cardinals (95-59) went on to win the 1928 pennant, finishing with two more wins than the Giants (93-61). Harper played a big role, batting .388 with six home runs against the Giants and .305 with 17 home runs overall in 99 games for the Cardinals.

On Dec. 8, 1928, two months after the Yankees swept the Cardinals in the World Series, Harper’s contract was sold to the Braves and he finished his big-league career with them in 1929.

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Mark Whiten remains the only Cardinals player to hit four home runs in a game.

Twenty-five years ago, on Sept. 7, 1993, in the second game of a doubleheader at Cincinnati, Whiten hit a grand slam, a pair of three-run home runs and a two-run home run, leading the Cardinals to a 15-2 victory over the Reds. Boxscore

“This is the No. 1 achievement I’ve ever witnessed,” Cardinals manager Joe Torre said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Whiten’s 12 RBI tied the major-league single-game record established by Jim Bottomley of the Cardinals on Sept. 16, 1924, against the Dodgers at Brooklyn. In that game, Bottomley produced six hits _ three singles, a double and two home runs. The home runs were a grand slam and a two-run shot. Boxscore

Whiten was the 12th big-league player to hit four home runs in a game and the first since Bob Horner of the Braves did it on July 6, 1986, against the Expos at Atlanta. Boxscore

Six major-league players have hit four home runs in a game since Whiten did it, bringing the total number of those who have achieved the feat to 18.

Whiten, Gil Hodges and Josh Hamilton are the only major-league players to hit four home runs in a game and have at least one runner on base for each of the four.

Whiten, a switch-hitter, produced each of his four home runs while batting left-handed against Reds right-handers. Whiten said he hit a fastball on each home run.

“Even though they were fastballs down the middle, you still have to know what to do with them,” Cardinals third baseman Todd Zeile said. “You can’t even do what he did in batting practice.”

Here is a look at each of Whiten’s four home runs, including the calls by KMOX radio broadcasters Jack Buck and Mike Shannon as published by the Post-Dispatch:

Home run No. 1

In the first inning, Whiten hit a 2-and-0 pitch from rookie starter Larry Luebbers 408 feet to left-center for a grand slam.

Jack Buck on KMOX: “Swing and a long one to left-center. That one won’t be caught. At the wall and goodbye.”

Home run No. 2

In the sixth, Mike Anderson, making his major-league debut, relieved Luebbers and walked the first two batters he faced, Zeile and Gerald Perry. Whiten was the next batter and he drilled the first pitch from Anderson 397 feet to right-center for a three-run home run.

Mike Shannon on KMOX: “Swing and long one into right field. On the move the right fielder (Tim) Costo can’t get it. Over the wall and seven RBI in the second game for Whiten … Have a big evening and Whiten said, ‘I don’t mind if I do.’ ”

Home run No. 3

In the seventh, Whiten hit a 2-and-1 pitch from Anderson 388 feet to right for another three-run home run.

Jack Buck on KMOX: “Here’s another pitch and another home run by Whiten. He walks down to first base as it is over the fence for a three-run homer.”

Home run No. 4

When Whiten came up in the ninth to face the original Nasty Boy closer, Rob Dibble, the Cardinals had a 13-2 lead, a runner on first and one out.

“Do you think Dibble will come after him?” Jack Buck asked on the air, building the drama for his listeners. “Do you think Dibble will let him swing the bat?”

Dibble’s first two pitches to Whiten were outside the strike zone.

Said Whiten: “I felt he was going to try to pitch around me.”

“”I’m not going to walk him,” Dibble told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “That’s not my style. Put it in play, fine.”

With the count at 2-and-0, Whiten swung at Dibble’s next offering and crushed it 441 feet off the facing of the second-deck green seats in right-center for a two-run home run.

Jack Buck on KMOX: “Swing and a long one. Looks like he did it. Four home runs for Mark Whiten. He powdered one over the center field fence … Man, what a blast that was! What a blast this is! … Excuse me while I applaud.”

On Cardinals’ television, Jack’s son, Joe Buck, was doing the play-by-play and his call of Whiten’s fourth home run was: “Into center field. Did he? Yes!”

Said Whiten: “It’s like when Michael Jordan gets in the zone. He’s going to score 50 points. That’s kind of the way I felt.”

Here is a video of all four home runs: Video

Whiten didn’t use his bat model to hit any of the home runs, Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch reported, and “word is he has been using Jose Oquendo’s bat.”

Oquendo hit no home runs for the 1993 Cardinals. “There are plenty of home runs left in that bat,” Torre said.

The next night, in his first at-bat of the game leading off the second against the Reds’ Bobby Ayala, Whiten singled.

“What a bum,” Jack Buck said to listeners in his most endearing wise guy tone. “That’s the best he can do?”

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A closer for a rotation that often completed what it started, Joe Hoerner still served a valuable role for the 1968 National League champion Cardinals and supported the staff with a stellar season.

Fifty years ago, on June 1, 1968, Hoerner struck out six Mets in a row, tying the National League record for consecutive strikeouts by a reliever.

Hoerner went on to post an 8-2 record with 17 saves and a 1.47 ERA for the 1968 Cardinals. The left-hander ranked second in the National League in saves to the 25 by Phil Regan of the Cubs and his ERA was second on the club to the 1.12 achieved by Bob Gibson.

Led by Gibson’s 28, Cardinals starters pitched 63 complete games in 1968. Hoerner only was needed for 49 innings and he usually was effective, allowing no earned runs in 40 of his 47 appearances.

“Joe is almost as much of a machine out there as Bob Gibson,” Cardinals reliever Wayne Granger said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He just goes out there and does the job time after time.”

Overcoming adversity

Hoerner, son of an Iowa farmer, made his professional baseball debut in the White Sox minor-league system in 1957. A year later, Hoerner was diagnosed with muscle weakness near his heart. Because any strain on the muscle impaired Hoerner’s circulation, doctors advised him to change his pitching delivery from overhand to sidearm.

“I took four pills a day for a long time to strengthen the muscle, but I haven’t been bothered since then,” Hoerner told the Post-Dispatch in 1968.

Hoerner, 26, made his major-league debut in September 1963 with the Houston Colt .45s. The Cardinals acquired him in November 1965 and he pitched for them in 1966 (5-1 record, 13 saves,1.54 ERA) and 1967 (4-4, 14 saves, 2.59 ERA).

After the Cardinals won Game 7 of the 1967 World Series against the Red Sox, Hoerner was celebrating with his teammates in the locker room at Boston’s Fenway Park when a champagne bottle he was holding exploded, severing a tendon in the middle finger of his pitching hand.

“If we win many more pennants, my fingers won’t stand it,” Hoerner said.

Tough to hit

Hoerner recovered from the injury and yielded no runs in his first nine appearances in 1968.

On June 1, the Cardinals played the Mets at Shea Stadium in New York. The Mets led, 4-1, before the Cardinals rallied for three runs in the seventh against Nolan Ryan, tying the score at 4-4.

Hoerner, the third Cardinals pitcher of the game, was brought in to pitch the seventh and retired the Mets in order. The Cardinals took the lead, 5-4, with a run in the eighth, but the Mets tied the score on Ed Charles’ pinch-hit home run in the bottom half of the inning.

In the ninth, Hoerner struck out Al Weis, Ron Swoboda and Don Bosch. After Mike Shannon hit a home run against Cal Koonce in the 10th, putting the Cardinals ahead, 6-5, Hoerner struck out Greg Goossen, Jerry Buchek and Jerry Grote, sealing the win. Boxscore

Hoerner’s six consecutive strikeouts came against right-handed batters.

Hoerner was effectively consistent during the 1968 season. He was 4-1 with a 1.05 ERA in home games and 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA in away games. Left-handed batters hit .189 against him and right-handed batters hit .194.

In the 1968 World Series against the Tigers, Hoerner earned a save in Game 3 with 3.2 scoreless innings in relief of Ray Washburn boxscore and was the losing pitcher in Game 5 when he faced four batters, retired none and was charged with two runs. Boxscore

Hoerner and Cardinals teammate Dal Maxvill owned a successful travel agency in St. Louis for several years.

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Sons of Polish fathers, Stan Musial and Moe Drabowsky reached the major leagues, played central roles in a baseball milestone and honored their heritages by helping others learn the game they loved.

Sixty years ago, on May 13, 1958, Musial got his 3,000th career hit, a double against Drabowsky at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The feat forever linked Drabowsky with Musial.

The relationship, though, didn’t end there. Nearly 20 years later, in September 1987, Musial and Drabowsky went to Poland together to instruct men and women in their fathers’ homeland how to play baseball.

Land of opportunity

Miroslav Drabowski, later known as Moe Drabowsky, was born on July 21, 1935, in Ozanna, Poland. His father was Polish and his mother was American. In 1938, when Miroslav was 3, the family left Poland, immigrated to the United States and settled in Connecticut.

In America, Miroslav took the name of Myron Walter Drabowski, though nearly everyone called him Moe. He was a natural as a baseball player. In school, his name often was misspelled as Drabowsky and he stuck with that, according to a biography by the Society for American Baseball Research.

After graduating from Trinity College in Connecticut with an economics degree, Drabowsky signed with the Cubs and made his big-league debut with them in 1956.

Musial, whose father immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1910, entered the 1958 season needing 43 hits to become the eighth player to reach 3,000. On May 12, against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, Musial got his 2,999th hit and afterward he made it known he’d prefer to achieve the milestone hit before a hometown crowd in St. Louis.

Work day

Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson told Musial to sit out the May 13 game at Chicago and prepare to return to the lineup on May 14 against the Giants at St. Louis. Musial went to the bullpen along the right-field line at Wrigley Field and soaked in some sun while watching the game.

In the sixth inning, with the Cubs ahead, 3-1, Gene Green led off for the Cardinals and doubled. Hal Smith was up next, with pitcher Sam Jones on deck. As Smith batted, Hutchinson motioned for Musial. After Smith grounded out, Musial walked from the bullpen to the dugout, picked out a bat and went to the plate to hit for Jones. The Tuesday afternoon crowd of 5,692 cheered in approval.

Drabowsky, 22, was glad Cubs manager Bob Scheffing showed confidence in letting him pitch to Musial. Drabowsky won 13 for the Cubs in 1957 and was considered one of their best pitchers in 1958. He was 6 years old when Musial got to the big leagues in 1941 and now he was pitching to him in his most significant at-bat.

“I thought, ‘Here’s a guy who deserves No. 3,000.’ A nice guy,” Drabowsky told David Condon of the Chicago Tribune. “Then I remembered our 3-1 lead and that I was trying to preserve a victory. So I told myself, ‘Sure, he’s a nice guy, but he’ll have to earn No. 3,000.’ So I bore down.”

Hugs and kisses

Working methodically, Drabowsky alternated curves and fastballs. Musial fouled off three pitches to left and watched two others go wide of the strike zone.

With the count at 2-and-2, Drabowsky threw a curve. “Outside corner, higher than intended,” Drabowsky said.

In his book “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial said, “I picked up the spin of the pitch, strode into the ball and drove it on a deep line into left field. I knew as soon as it left my bat that it would go between the left fielder, Walt Moryn, and the foul line.”

Musial’s No. 3,000 was a run-scoring double. “I don’t mind him getting 3,000 off me,” Drabowsky said. “But when I had two strikes, I thought I had him. Not for a strikeout, but I figured he’d hit it in the ground.” Video

As Hutchinson ran from the dugout toward second base to congratulate Musial, he was followed by a pack of photographers. Umpire Frank Dascoli retrieved the ball and handed it to Musial. Hutchinson brought in a pitcher, Frank Barnes, to run for Musial.

Before leaving the field, Musial went to the box seats next to the Cardinals dugout and kissed his wife, Lillian. A photographer asked, “Say, Stan, did you know that blonde?” Musial laughed and replied, “I’d better. That’s my wife.”

Sparked by Musial’s hit, the Cardinals scored three more runs against Drabowsky in the inning and won, 5-3. Boxscore

Polish pride

Musial, who retired after the 1963 season, batted .405 (15-for-37) with two home runs, four doubles and six walks against Drabowsky in his career.

Drabowsky pitched 17 seasons in the major leagues with eight teams: Cubs (1956-60), Braves (1961), Reds (1962), Athletics (1962-65), Orioles (1966-68 and 1970), Royals (1969-70), Cardinals (1971-72) and White Sox (1972). His best years were as an Orioles reliever. In Game 1 of the 1966 World Series, Drabowsky struck out 11 Dodgers, including six in a row, and earned the win with 6.2 innings of scoreless relief. Boxscore

In two seasons with the Cardinals, Drabowsky was 7-2 with 10 saves and a 3.17 ERA.

In 1987, Musial and Drabowsky reconnected, going to the town of Kutno in Poland to teach baseball to men and women in the Polish Baseball Union. It was Drabowsky’s first visit to Poland since he left when he was 3.

With equipment provided by baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth, Musial and Drabowsky gave out enough bats, balls, gloves and catchers’ gear to supply 12 men’s teams and six women’s teams, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“We’re here to help get them going and maybe we can invite some of their coaches to the U.S. next year to see how we train so they can come home and teach the kids more,” said Musial.

The effort by Musial and Drabowsky paid dividends. Today, the Little League Baseball European Leadership Training Center in Kutno, Poland, is the largest youth baseball complex in Europe.

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(Updated May 18, 2018)

Francisco Pena provided one of the surprises of the Cardinals’ 2018 spring training, leapfrogging ahead of prospect Carson Kelly and earning the backup catcher spot behind Yadier Molina on the Opening Day roster.

Pena, son of former Cardinals catcher Tony Pena, played in the Mets’ minor-league system for seven seasons (2007-13) before reaching the major leagues with the Royals in 2014. After the 2015 season, his contract was sold to the Orioles and Pena was with them in 2016 and 2017.

The Cardinals signed Pena, 28, after he was granted free agency in October 2017.

Here are six fun facts to know about the Cardinals catcher:

Chip off the old block

Ed Spiezio and Scott Spiezio were the first father-son duo to hit home runs for the Cardinals. Ed Spiezio played five years (1964-69) for the Cardinals and hit five home runs for them. His son, Scott Spiezio, played two years (2006-07) for the Cardinals and hit 17 home runs for them.

The Penas became the second father-son pair to achieve the feat with St. Louis.

Francisco Pena hit his first Cardinals home run, and his fourth overall in the major leagues, on May 18, 2018, versus the Phillies at St. Louis. His father Tony hit 107 big-league home runs, including 19 in three seasons (1987-89) with the Cardinals. Tony helped the Cardinals win the 1987 National League pennant and he was an all-star with them in 1989.

Family history

Francisco Pena never got to see his father Tony play for the Cardinals. Francisco was born on Oct. 12, 1989, 11 days after Tony played in his final game for the Cardinals. Tony Pena became a free agent on Nov. 13, 1989, and signed with the Red Sox two weeks later.

Mets mentors

Although Francisco Pena never played a big-league game for the Mets, he was influenced by two second basemen from their 1986 World Series championship club.

Tim Teufel was Pena’s first minor-league manager, with the Savannah (Ga.) Sand Gnats in 2007. Teufel managed Pena again in 2009 with the St. Lucie (Fla.) Mets. In 2013, Pena played for the Las Vegas 51s, who were managed by Wally Backman.

Strong arm

Francisco Pena made his major-league debut with the Royals on May 20, 2014, and quickly displayed his defensive skills.

Entering the game in the ninth inning as a replacement for starting catcher Brett Hayes, Pena threw out White Sox runner Adam Eaton, who was attempting to steal second base. Boxscore

Honoring Mom

On May 13, 2017, Francisco Pena hit two home runs in a game against his former team.

Pena hit solo home runs in the third and fifth innings against Royals starter Nathan Karns at Kansas City. Boxscore

In batting practice that night, on the eve of Mother’s Day, Pena predicted he would hit a home run for his mother, The Baltimore Sun reported. Swinging a pink bat, he delivered.

Liking lefties

In 28 major-league games entering the 2018 season, Francisco Pena, a right-handed batter, hit .246. He hit .348 (8-for-23) against left-handers and .176 versus right-handers.

 

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In the home of the Big Red Machine, it was a Cardinal, Ray Lankford, who put on an unprecedented display of jaw-dropping power.

Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium was the venue for Reds teams that won four National League pennants and two World Series championships from 1970 to 1976. Those teams had sluggers such as Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and George Foster.

Yet, it was Lankford who became the first to hit two home runs in one game into the upper-level red seats in the fourth deck of the Cincinnati stadium.

Lankford achieved the feat on July 15, 1997. By then, the stadium had been renamed Cinergy Field.

Sonic boom

Lankford was in the cleanup spot in the St. Louis batting order against Reds starter Brett Tomko, a rookie right-hander.

In the first inning, with Danny Sheaffer on base, Lankford got a fastball on a 2-and-1 count and drove it 448 feet into the empty red seats in right field, becoming the first Cardinals batter to reach the upper deck since the stadium opened in 1970.

“When you hit a ball like that, it’s just a different feel and a different sound,” Lankford said to The Cincinnati Post. “The ball just jumps, like you’re hitting a golf ball with a bat.”

Reds catcher Joe Oliver told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “The crack of the bat was deafening.”

When Lankford came up again in the third inning, three fans scurried into the red seats in right. Batting with the bases empty, Lankford again got a fastball on a 2-and-1 count and propelled it 439 feet into the upper deck.

“Fastballs. Both belt-high. Right down the middle,” Tomko said to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa: “You’ve got a pitcher with good stuff and a hitter with full extension. That makes for some serious distance.”

Exclusive group

Until Lankford, only one player, Foster, had hit two upper-deck home runs at the stadium in one year, but no one, not even the Cardinals’ Mark Whiten, had hit two in one game. Whiten hit four home runs in a game at Riverfront Stadium on Sept. 7, 1993, but none reached the red seats.

Foster hit the most career upper-deck home runs (six) at the stadium.

Lankford became the sixth visiting player to hit a home run into the red seats. The others: the Expos’ Bob Bailey, the Pirates’ Dave Parker, the Phillies’ Greg Luzinski, the Mets’ Darryl Strawberry and the Rockies’ Dante Bichette.

“I don’t know how to pitch to Lankford,” Reds manager Ray Knight said. “I know one thing, you don’t pitch him anywhere he can get the fat part of the bat on it.”

When Lankford came to bat for the third time, in the fifth inning, Oliver turned to him and said, “I knew you were strong, but this is ridiculous.”

About 30 fans went into the red seats in right, hoping Lankford would launch another up there, but reliever Felix Rodriguez issued an intentional walk to him.

In his last two plate appearances that night, Lankford struck out and walked. Boxscore

At the time of Lankford’s feat, bopper Mark McGwire still was with the Athletics. (McGwire would be traded to the Cardinals two weeks later, on July 31, 1997.)

Asked by the Post-Dispatch whether Lankford’s clouts reminded him of McGwire, whom he had managed in Oakland, La Russa replied, “He reminds me of Ray Lankford.”

Previously: Mark Whiten, Josh Hamilton: Same feat, different path

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