Josh Hamilton watches his third-inning home run take flight Tuesday night. (Mitchell Layton / Getty Images)

With his four home-run game Tuesday night, Josh Hamilton accomplished something rare, so rare that it has happened only 16 times in the history of baseball — and only 14 times since 1900.

So rare that that there have been five perfect games since Carlos Delgado of the Toronto Blue Jays had the last four-homer game, in 2003. Overall, there have been 21 perfect games; that’s how rare Hamilton’s accomplishment was.

The Rangers gave so many high-fives that their arms grew tired. (Patrick Semansky / AP)

“Obviously it’s, other than being in the World Series, the highlight of my big-league career,” Hamilton, 31, said after the Rangers beat the Orioles 10-3 in Baltimore. Each of his homers came with a runner on base. “I was saying after I hit two, I’ve never hit three in a game before, and what a blessing that was. Then to hit four is just an awesome feeling, to see how excited my teammates got.”

Hamilton, the sixth AL player to have a four home-run game, set an American League record with 18 total bases and was one shy of breaking Shawn Green’s major league record, set in 2002 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Green also had a four-homer game in 2002, as did Seattle’s Mike Cameron. (You can get dizzy watching Hamilton circle the bases here.)

It was a bravura performance by the center fielder, who was the 2010 AL MVP and former No. 1 pick by Tampa Bay. He’d battled drug and alcohol addictions and was suspended for three years when he was a minor leaguer. “It reminds you of when you’re in Little League and a little kid, and just the excitement and why we play the game,” Hamilton said. “Things like that. You never know what can happen. It was just an absolute blessing.”

Hamilton picked up where he left off Monday night against the Orioles; he’d finished with a home run in his final appearance and has five home runs in his last six trips to the plate. Hamilton is hitting .406 with 14 homers and 36 RBI. ESPN points out that Hamilton also leads the league in percentage of first-pitch swings (56.5 going into the game). On balls in play on the first pitch, he now is 10-for-22 (three homers, eight RBI).

This is probably as good a time as any to mention that Hamilton will become a free agent when the season ends.

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