The 10 most significant steals of home in baseball history
Jackie Robinson's steal in the '55 Series is one of baseball's iconic moments
But Robinson's most significant steal of home was his first, in his rookie year
Reggie Jackson stole home in the '72 ALCS to spark Oakland's dynasty
Jackie Robinson's famous steal of home at Yankee Stadium in Game 1 of the 1955 World Series is one of baseball's iconic moments, thanks in part to the enduring still and "new" moving images of the play, and Yogi Berra's continued insistence that Robinson was out (for the record, Jackie appeared to get his toe in ahead of the tag when I played it back frame-by-frame on my HDTV). The Dodgers went on to bring Brooklyn its only world championship in that Series, but they actually lost Game 1, 6-5, making Robinson's the only steal of home in World Series history to come in a losing effort. Robinson's daring play remains memorable, but here are 10 steals of home that were more significant, starting with another by the groundbreaking Dodger.
1) Jackie Robinson, Dodgers, June 24, 1947
Robinson's most famous steal of home came in the '55 Series, but his most significant was his first, which occurred in June of his revolutionary rookie year with the Dodgers. Earlier that season Pirates lefty Fritz Ostermueller had hit Robinson with a pitch, raising the ire of Robinson's teammates. In a rematch with Ostermueller on June 24, the Pirates and Dodgers were tied 2-2 in the fifth when Robinson reached base on a fielder's choice and was singled to third by Carl Furillo, who quickly stole second. With Ostermueller no longer concerned about a double steal, Robinson exacted his revenge, swiping home with what would prove to be the decisive run in the Dodgers' 4-2 victory. The steal spoke volumes about Robinson, who not only had the talent to break baseball's color line but the combination of talent, temperament, and timing to hit his detractors where it hurt, on the scoreboard. He would steal home 19 more times in his career, including that famous swipe against the Yankees, which remains the last straight steal of home in World Series history.
2) Reggie Jackson, A's, Game 5, 1972 ALCS
With the best-of-five American League Championship Series tied at two games apiece, and his A's trailing 1-0 in Game 5, Jackson led off the top of the second with a walk, stole second and moved to third on a sac fly. After Detroit's Woodie Fryman hit Mike Epstein with a pitch and struck out Gene Tenace for the second out of the inning, Jackson stole home on the front end of a double steal with Epstein to tie the game, which the A's ultimately won, 2-1. Reggie tore his hamstring on the play, thus missing his first World Series, but the A's beat Cincinnati's burgeoning Big Red Machine without him and followed that title up with two more, with Reggie winning the league and World Series MVPs in 1973. Without Jackson's steal of home, that A's dynasty might have been nipped in the bud.
3) Brad Fullmer, Angels, Game 2, 2002 World Series
Yes, Brad Fullmer, the hulking DH who was successful on just 60 percent of his steal attempts in his eight-year career, was the author of the third-most significant steal of home in baseball history. It came on the front end of a double steal, with Scott Spiezio trailing, in the bottom of the first inning of Game 2 of the 2002 World Series. Though it capped a five-run frame in a game that saw 21 runs cross the plate, Fullmer's Angels won that game by just one run, 11-10, and won the Series against the Giants in seven, making possible the argument that Fullmer's steal of home was the difference in the Series. Fullmer's steal remains the only instance of a team stealing home in a World Series game that it won by one run.
4) Chico Ruiz, Reds, Sept. 21, 1964
The 1964 Phillies' famous late-season collapse, known as the Philly Phlop, was made all the more remarkable by the fact that the Phillies, who missed the pennant by a single game, lost two games in late September on steals of home. The latter and more significant came at home against the Reds, when rookie infielder Ruiz shocked everyone, including his manager, by stealing home with two outs in the top of the sixth and Frank Robinson at the plate. Ruiz's run proved to be the only one in the game as the Reds won 1-0, starting the Phillies on a 10-game losing streak that saw them fall from 6 1/2 games up in the standings to third place, 2 1/2 games out with two to play.
5) Willie Davis, Dodgers, Sept. 19, 1964
Just two days before Ruiz's back-breaker, Davis broke a 16-inning, 3-3 stalemate between the Phillies and Dodgers at Dodger Stadium with a walk-off steal of home. With two outs in the bottom of the 16th, Davis reached on an infield single, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch by Philadelphia's Jack Baldschun, then stole home on reliever Morrie Steevens.
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