Monday June 29th, 2009

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.

JAFFE: Appreciating Jackie Robinson’s brilliant career numbers

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.

6) Tim McCarver, Cardinals, Game 7, 1964 World Series

It wasn't the difference in the game, but McCarver's steal of home, which came on the front-end of a double steal with Mike Shannon with one out in the fourth inning to give the Cardinals a 2–0 lead, was the only steal of home ever to come in a double-elimination game in the World Series. As it turned out, the Cardinals almost needed that extra run as the Yankees homered twice off Bob Gibson in the ninth to get within 7–5 before the Cardinals held on. McCarver, St. Louis's catcher, had stolen just two bases during the regular season, and the steal of home was his only stolen base in 28 career postseason games.

SI VAULT: Stealing Home: Why is baseball’s most exciting play so rare?

7) Jack Chesbro, Yankees, July 16, 1904

Right-hander "Happy Jack" Chesbro set a major-league record with 41 wins in 1904. His then-legal spitball was responsible for most of them, but he had his legs to thank for one. On July 16 the Yankees (then known as the Highlanders) were tied with the visiting Tigers, 8-8 in the bottom of the 10th. Chesbro, who entered the game in relief, led off the inning with a single, moved to third on a pair of outs, then stole home to win the game. Not only did the win contribute to Chesbro's record total that season, but it helped keep the Highlanders in the pennant race against Boston (not yet known as the Red Sox). The season ended with five games between the emerging rivals, and Boston ultimately winning the pennant on a Chesbro spitter that proved to be a bit too slippery.

8) Vic Power, Indians, Aug. 14, 1958

Best known as a seven-time Gold Glove winner at first base, Power stole just three bases in '58. Two of them came against the Tigers on Aug. 14. The first was a steal of home with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, capping a five-run inning that saw the Tribe overcome a 7–4 deficit. The Tigers then tied up the game in the top of the ninth, forcing extra innings. Facing Frank Larry in the bottom of the 10th, Power reached on a one-out single and moved to second on a single by Russ Nixon. Both runners advanced on a groundout, after which Larry Doby was intentionally walked to load the bases for Rocky Colavito, who would finish third in the MVP voting that year. Colavito proved irrelevant; Power stole home again, giving the Indians a 10–9 win. He remains the only man to have stolen home twice in one game since 1927.

9) Frank Chance, Cubs, April 18, 1906

Ruiz stole home in a 1–0 game, and Davis, Chesbro and Power all ended games with steals of home, but Chance, the first baseman in the famous Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance infield, remains the only man ever to win a 1–0 game with a game-ending steal of home, doing so in the bottom of the ninth against the Reds for the 116-win 1906 Cubs.

10) George Davis, White Sox, Game 5, 1906 World Series

Fullmer, McCarver and White Sox shortstop George Davis are the only men to have stolen home in a World Series game that their team won by fewer than three runs. Dubbed "the Hitless Wonders" after batting .230 as a team on the season, the Pale Hose scored just four runs against the Cubs in the first four games of the '06 Series, but still came away with two wins. In Game 5 they fell behind early, 3–1, but scored twice in the top of the third, with Davis's two-out steal of home on a double steal tying the game. The ChiSox ultimately won that game 8–6, then toppled the mighty Cubs the next day to win their first World Series.

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