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Cubs historical sleuthing: Stolen base champions edition

Here are two men who, between them, stole over 1,500 MLB bases.

Photo by Hy Peskin/Getty Images

Getty Images supplied this information with this photo:

Lou Brock #24 of the Chicago Cubs steals second base as Maury Wills #30 of the Los Angeles Dodgers is late with the tag during an MLB Spring Training game circa April, 1962 in Mesa, Arizona.

“Circa” is correct. The Chicago Tribune confirms that the Cubs and Dodgers played an exhibition game in Mesa Wednesday, April 4, 1962. The Cubs won the game 6-5 with a four-run bottom of the ninth at Rendezvous Park in Mesa, which was the Cubs’ spring home from 1952-65.

The Dodgers, as you probably know, trained in Vero Beach, Florida at their own facility called “Dodgertown” from 1949 through 2008. The Florida location was thought to be accessible to their Brooklyn fans, but they stayed there for five decades after the team moved to Los Angeles. They were playing the Cubs in Mesa as part of a trip West that they’d take every year in going from Dodgertown to Los Angeles to begin the 1962 regular season, which they would do the following Tuesday, April 10 against the Reds at the brand-new Dodger Stadium.

This photo shows Lou Brock being called safe on a steal of second base. Unfortunately, neither the Tribune nor the Sporting News ran boxscores of spring games back then, so I can’t tell you what inning this occurred in. Brock singled and homered in this game, but the wrap of the game written by Richard Dozer doesn’t mention the steal at all.

Nevertheless, we see Maury Wills, the Dodgers shortstop, attempting to tag Brock. Later that year he would break the post-1900 season stolen-base record that had been held by Ty Cobb since 1915 (96 steals) as he stole 104 bases. Twelve years later, Brock would break Wills’ record by stealing 118 bases — at the age of 35! That record lasted just seven years, until Rickey Henderson broke it with 130 in 1982. Henderson, Brock, Wills and Vince Coleman remain the only post-1900 players to steal 100 bases in a season.

Brock ranks second on the all-time career steals list with 938. Wills ranks 20th with 586.

If only Brock had stolen all those bases as a Cub.