Josh "Hammer" Willingham hit his 100th career home run on Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at Nationals Park against starting pitcher Anthony Lerew of the Kansas City Royals.

If you missed the solo shot to left field, watch #100 here. [VIDEO].

"When I hit it, I knew I had a good chance," Willingham said. "It means a lot, and I'm sure it will mean more when I look back on my career and am done playing. You never set a goal to hit a number of home runs, but when you get to 100 or a number like that, it's pretty cool."

Being a lifelong baseball fan, I have to come to genuinely appreciate the records and love milestones.  I even recently wrote about possible upcoming milestones for the Nationals. They are significant points in a player's development and can be just as important to the player's family and fans. 

As I was leaving Nationals Park after Tuesday's game, I heard a group of fans wondering if whomever caught Willingham's 100th career home run ball would give it back to him.  And in the car on the way home, I heard a caller ask Phil Wood on 1500AM the same thing.  I would hope that if a fan caught it, that they would gladly give it back and typically would get a different baseball autographed by Josh.  A ballhawk might be a different story.

So what happened to the ball?  I'm happy to report that the 100th home run ball is safe and sound at the Willinghams thanks to Ginger's (Josh's wife) quick thinking.  The ball will most likely go into a shadow box and be kept in their home with other baseball and football memorabilia.  Maybe it will go next to his ball from the second grand slam of two from July 27, 2009 in Milwaukee?

Ginger knew that the next big swing would be 100th milestone home run.  "So as soon as he crossed home plate a friend and I took off to find it. When we got to the section where we thought it had landed, we started looking around but it started pouring down rain.  We saw an usher talking to someone and we started after them, but someone else was talking to them so we ran after them in the rain."  

Apparently a Nationals employee was sent out to left field to retrieve the ball and was with the person that caught the ball when Ginger and her friend located them.  A father caught the ball (as you can see on the video) and was part of a family of four.  The dad didn't know it was a special home run since an announcement was not made on the field at the time of the home run and the tribute was shown on the scoreboard after the 49 minute rain delay. 

Some fans can be very greedy when negotiating a trade.  This family was not.  Ginger said, "They didn't ask for anything but I insisted. Josh is going to send the family personalized baseballs and hats." Ginger and sons Rhett and Ryder are Josh's biggest fans.  It's quite a tale of running across the park in the pouring rain (serious rain fell quickly when the storm passed through) to retrieve the ball for her husband -- has a little bit of a "Fever Pitch" flavor to it.  Without the Red Sox part though, of course.
Ginger explained, "Josh has always said, his goal was not to get to the big leagues. it was just to take each day and play hard. so when he looks back at his career and sees 100 major league home runs, it is very special , he is thankful and he realizes what an accomplishment that is. But in true josh form, that day has passed and he is taking it one day at a time again."

MASN's Byron Kerr spoke to Josh right after the game, who went 3-for-4 with a HR and 2 doubles and was named "Player of the Game." Nationals beat the Royals 4-3.

Willingham's first home run was in a Marlins uniform on July 18, 2004 in Pittsburgh. It only took five MLB games to blast the first, however, was his only one that season with the big club. It technically took less than seven years to reach 100, however, 99 were in five seasons. I hope that we see Hammer reach the 200 milestone. 

Breakdown of home runs:
2004 - 1
2005 - 0
2006 - 26
2007 - 21
2008 - 15
2009 - 24
2010 - 13 (through 6/23/2010)

All Photos 2009, 2010 © Cheryl Nichols Photography/
Nationals News Network. All Rights Reserved


  1. Dianne // June 30, 2010 at 3:15 PM  
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