While I enjoyed Ron Fimrite's excellent article on Rickey Henderson's stolen-base record (He Finally Bagged It, Sept. 6), I was amazed by the ignorant comments made by Sparky Anderson and by Bill James in his article (So What's All the Fuss?).
Anderson's theory that not all of Henderson's thefts came when the score was close and, therefore, that some of his steals shouldn't count, is nothing short of ridiculous. Should a hitter try to hit the ball softer when his team is ahead? Should those home runs Henry Aaron hit when his team was five runs ahead not count?
James is also way off base when he claims that "stolen bases don't create very many runs." I don't know how often this season Henderson has scored for the A's without the benefit of a base hit, thus "stealing" a run, but I estimate that it has happened more than a dozen times. As for James's statement that stolen bases don't have "very much to do with determining who wins," I shudder to think how poor the A's record would be without Henderson on the bases.
Baseball fans would be wise to ignore the sour grapes of these two spoilsports and give credit to the best leftfielder in the game for setting a truly incredible record.
How quickly Sparky Anderson seems to forget. He says stealing a base when your team is seven runs down doesn't mean anything. I disagree. Stealing bases helps score runs, and when you are seven runs behind, scoring is what you must do. Stealing as many bases as possible is smart, winning ball.
A team had better try to score when it's up by seven runs, too. Anderson and my Tigers failed to do this just a few weeks ago and gave a game away to the Yanks 9-7. How could Sparky forget?
JOHN H. SPEAR JR.
The sacrifice fly and the sacrifice bunt have been a part of baseball from its inception. Anderson's Tigers brought the "sacrifice base on balls" up from the bush leagues for the sole purpose of denying Oakland fans a chance to be a part of the big celebration when Henderson tied or broke the base-stealing record. By attempting the "sacrifice double steal," Billy Martin's A's returned that chance to their fans. In my opinion, Anderson is the only one who should be fined—a big bundle—because there was no reason whatsoever for walking Fred Stanley.
EDWARD D. GARDNER
As one who has played, coached, managed and umpired in organized baseball of one sort or another over the past 60 years, I say that the stolen base is definitely an offensive weapon. Why? Let me count the ways, but, first, picture a Jackie Robinson on base, driving the pitcher up a wall with his antics: The pitcher might throw the ball wildly to rightfield in a pickoff attempt, or he might uncork a wild pitch, or he might lay in the next pitch like a Christmas present, or he might hit or walk the batter. Any one of the foregoing could set up a run—or two. What's more, such actions stir up the team at bat, awaken the spectators and generally enliven the game. Besides which, it's lots of fun. So, Bill James, don't try to con me on stolen bases. I wasn't born yesterday!
ELMER L. BUTLER
After a base is stolen, there is no need for a sacrifice bunt, the threat of a force or double play is removed, first base is left open, which often leads to an intentional walk, and, most important, the runner is in position to score on a single. And there are a lot more singles hit than home runs.
Thanks for the candid article by Bill James. I agree with all the points he made, but I wish to throw one more tomato at Henderson before the fanfare dies down.