Davey ranks as one of the greatest base stealers in history with a success rate of 83.01% rating. Of base stealers with over 400 SBs, only Willie Wilson and Tim Raines rank higher. In 1975, Lopes broke the major league record for consecutive steals without being caught at 38, (Vince Coleman later broke that record in 1989). Success on the base paths was Lopes’ claim to fame.
There is one unbreakable record out there related to base stealing that I just shake my head in disbelief at. It ‘ll never be touched. It is Rod Carew’s 1969 season in which he had 7 straight steals of home. This is an obscure record that nobody seems to know about. In today’s game, there are perhaps 1 or 2 successful straight steals per year. Imagine one player pulling off stealing home 7 times in a season.
|Billy Martin only managed in Minnesota for one season, leading the Twins to the AL West Crown and teaching Carew the art of stealing home.|
During Spring Training in ’69, Martin, who as a player had stolen home a few times, approached Carew and told him that with his speed and savvy, he may want to look into studying pitchers and timing their windups to the plate. Martin felt that Carew could beat pitches to the plate. Rod addressed the topic in his autobiography, Carew:
It took team-like precision and coordination to pull off the steal of home with Carew. First off, he needed to have the confidence that a hitter like Killebrew knew the play was on, or he risked being decapitated by a Killer line drive. Wills referred to the fear factor involved with stealing home, saying that you had to have confidence that your teammate got the signal and still the courage to continue in full speed, with the possibility of the batter having missed the sign and swinging away, “With Frank Howard standing in the box, my head could have been belted down the left field line.”
(Antonen, Mel, 2009)
|Rod Carew steals home against the Angels as Harmon Killebrew looks on. Carew would later explain that Killebrew missed the sign and almost swung at the pitch which would have been cause for a disastrous outcome.|
Another issue that went against Carew was that as the season wore on, he was watched much more closely. His last steal of home was in July, meaning that he didn’t get much opportunity to break Cobb's record of nine steals of home, due to the diligence of pitchers holding him on and pitching from the stretch towards the end of the season.
Lou Piniella opines that in today’s game, nobody could pull off breaking this record for that very reason: “If somebody steals home now, he'll be on ESPN for a week and every team will be watching him like a hawk."
We all know of Jackie Robinson's famous steal of home in the '55 World Series. It has been replayed again and again. Jackie stole home 15 times in his career and completed the feat at least once in every season he played except for 1953. The surprise play was a much more common occurrence during that era of baseball. An interesting fact that is often missed is that the Dodgers, on the losing end of an attempted steal attempt, probably lost the '51 pennant because of it.
In a late season game against Boston, (Sept. 27th), Brave outfielder Bob Addis was called safe in a bang-bang attempt to steal home. What resulted was Campanella going bananas. He was ejected and suspended for the final three games of the season. This was Campanella's MVP season. Missing those four games possibly cost the Dodgers the pennant because there would have been no playoff with the Giants had the Dodgers won an additional game.
Another interesting fact about that Sept. 27 game. An obscure Dodger outfielder with the big club for a September call up was ejected from the game too, (along with the entire Brooklyn bench). That player is known in baseball history as the only player to have been ejected from a game and never to have ever entered a game as a player. He was none other than NBA Hall of Famer, Bill Sharman.
|Bill Sharman, Former Dodger, USC Trojan, Celtic Hall of Famer and here as coach of the Champion '71-72 Lakers|