Cubs' steals of home, Part 1

Randy Arozarena of the Rays electrified the baseball world last Thursday when he stole home in Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Red Sox.

It was the first steal of home in a post-season game since Jackie Robinson of the Dodgers did it on Sept. 28, 1955, in Game 1 of the World Series against the Yankees.

The Cubs have had just 2 steal of home in the post season, only 1 of them in the World Series. It happened in Game 4 of the 1907 Series, on Oct. 11, 1907 -- 114 years ago today.



After Game 1 at Chicago ended in a 3-3 tie, the Cubs won the next 2 games, 3-1 and 5-1.

When the teams met for the first time at Detroit, the Tigers scored a run in the fourth when Ty Cobb tripled with 2 out and came home on a single.

An error, a walk and bunt put Cubs on second and third with 1 out in the fifth. Pitcher Orval Overall singled, tying the game, then Jimmy Slagle broke the tie with a sacrifice fly.

The score still was 2-1 when Slagle came to bat again in the seventh, with 1 out and runners on second and third. He grounded to the shortstop, who threw home wildly, allowing the lead runner to score and leaving runners on first and third.


Jimmy Sheckard laid down a bunt on which another run scored. Frank Chance then hit into a forceout at second, on which Slagle reached third.

With Harry Steinfeldt at the plate, Chance broke for second. When the catcher threw to second, Slagle headed for home.

He scored without a throw, reaching the plate well before Chance was tagged out in a brief rundown.

Slagle singled home a run in the ninth to complete the scoring in the Cubs' 6-1 victory.

They won again the next day, 2-0, to win their first World Series.



The only Cub since Slagle to steal home in the post season was Javier Baez, in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, at home against the Dodgers, on Oct. 15, 2016.

The Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a single by Dexter Fowler and a double by Kris Bryant.

Jason Heyward opened the second with a triple and Baez drove him home with a bloop double to short center. After an out, a wild pitch sent Baez to third.

Cubs pitcher Jon Lester, up next, squared to bunt but pulled his bat back before making contact. The catcher fired the ball to third, hoping to catch Baez heading back to the base. Instead of retreating, Baez headed to home, beating the return throw from the third baseman.



Baez also stole home in the regular season 3 times during his 8 years as a Cub. He stole 89 bases, including the 7 in the post season.

Baez was just 23 years old and had just completed his first full Major League season when he stole home against the Dodgers.

Slagle, in contrast, had been 34 on the day that he stole home in the World Series. He was in his ninth Major League season and sixth with the Cubs.

He had stolen 28 bases in the regular season in 1907 and would steal 26 more in 1908, his last year, for a total of 205 as a Cub. Six came in the World Series, all in 1907.


Whether any of his regular-season steals were of home is unknown.

That's because the database at that uses for its "Pivotal Play Finder" does not have details of individual plays in regular-season games before 1916.


How many times have the Cubs stolen home starting in 1916?

That wasn't exactly easy to determine, but I believe I have an accurate answer: 144.



The "Pivotal Play Finder" has a large number of options, but not one to specify steals of home.

But I was able to run a search for all plays in which the Cubs stole a base when they had a runner on third base.

That produced a list of 876 steals, each of which included a description of what each runner did on the play.

By searching within that list for "Steals Hm," I was able to isolate 144 thefts of home from 732 of second on which the runner stayed at third.



The first of the Cubs' 144 regular-season steals of home came on April 22, 1916, at home against the Reds.

With 1 out in the first inning, Max Flack and Cy Williams walked. Heinie Zimmerman singled home Flack, and he and Williams advanced to second and third on the throw home.

Williams was tagged out when he tried to score on a tap toward the mound by Vic Saier. But moments later Zimmerman took off for home and was safe.

The Cubs led, 6-0, after 6 innings, only to fall behind, 7-6, on a 2-out, 2-run double in the top of the ninth.

Flack led off the bottom with a single, was bunted to second and scored on a single by Zimmerman. An infield single moved Zimmerman to second, then pinch hitter Mickey Doolin singled and Zimmerman sprinted home to win the game, 8-7.



The Cubs' most recent steal of home was on Sept. 30, 2021, at Pittsburgh.

Rafael Ortega was on third and Ian Happ on first when they pulled off a 2-out double steal in the second inning that increased the Cubs' lead to 5-0 in a game they ultimately won, 9-0.

That was the 108th of the Cubs' 144 regular-season steals of home that were double steals.



They have had 35 steals only by the runner on third.

The first was by on June 5, 1916, by Zimmerman, at Boston, with 2 out and no one else on base in the fourth inning. He had hit a leadoff double, gained third on a fly out, then stayed there on a grounder to the pitcher.

Zimmerman "stole a long lead on one of [Art] Nehf's windups and made a dash for the pan," the Chicago Tribune reported. "Nehf pitched the ball on the wrong side, just wide enough to led Heinie escape the tag."

That proved to be the only run of the game!



The last Cub to steal home without a teammate also earning a steal was Javier Baez, at home against the Tigers on July 4, 2018.

The Cubs trailed, 2-1, when Baez began the fourth inning with a single. Pitcher Francisco Liriano caught Baez leaning toward second and threw to first baseman John Hicks.

Baez headed for second and likely would have been out had Hicks not thrown the ball into left-center field. Baez slid, got up and raced to third.

Addison Russell then walked. With Willson Contreras at bat, Russell drew a throw from Liriano and Baez headed home.

"Hicks' throw arrived ahead of Baez," the Tribune explained, "but Baez slid head first with his swim move in which he moves his left arm away from the tag while his right arm swings to the base.

"In this case it was the plate, which Baez touched ahead of catcher James McCann's tag."

The Cubs went on to win, 5-2.



After the game, Baez told the media, "Didn't want to be the first out at the plate."

Only 4 of the Cubs' 144 steals of home came with nobody out.

Baez's was his second of the 2018 season, as he had done it on June 3, breaking a scoreless tie in the seventh inning at New York. Contreras stole second on the play.

The 2 earlier no-out steals of home also were double steals.

On Aug. 21, 1943, at Brooklyn, Lennie Merullo swiped home and Peanut Lowrey stole second in the sixth inning with the Cubs leading, 10-1.

On April 23, 1971, at home against the Mets, Jose Ortiz led off the first inning with a double, Glenn Beckert singled, and Ortiz and Beckert pulled off the twin steals.



The Cubs have stolen home with 1 out 21 times and with 2 out 119 times.

One of those 119 was their only triple steal, at St. Louis on June 10, 1984.

The score was 1-0 when Leon Durham led off the ninth inning with a double off Joaquin Andujar. One fly out sent him to third. Another left him there.

Cardinals Manager Whitey Herzog then ordered Andujar to walk Jody Davis and Larry Bowa intentionally, loading the bases for Lee Smith, who had replaced starting pitcher Chuck Rainey in the eighth.

"Whitey tried to force us to make a decision," Cubs Manager Jim Frey told reporters. "Are we going to pinch-hit for Smitty? We decided to let him hit.

"I told Durham to take a good look at him [Andujar] on the first pitch. I just felt if they threw him out, what do we lose?"


Durham took a big lead and broke for home, sliding safely under a high throw.

"When you got a guy like Andujar pitching, you have to take whatever you can get from him," Durham said after the game.

"I never saw him coming," said Andujar.

Smith shrugged off a 2-out walk in the bottom of the inning to wrap up a 2-0 victory.



Durham's was the most recent of 8 times that the Cubs have stolen home in the top of the ninth. All have come with the Cubs already leading.

They have had 4 in the bottom of the ninth.

The first, by Bernie Friberg, came on Sept. 30, 1922, with 2 out and the Cubs trailing the Cardinals, 9-7.

Hack Miller, who had singled Friberg to third, did not take second on Friberg's steal. After the steal, George Maisel pinch ran for Miller -- and was thrown out trying to steal second, ending the game.



The 3 previous bottom-of-the-ninth thefts of home had a happier outcome: each won the game.

On July 17, 1924, the Phillies knotted the score at 2 in the top of the ninth on a triple and a single.

With 1 out in the bottom, Cliff Heathcote singled and Gabby Hartnett did the same. Pitcher Vic Keen bunted the runners to second and third.

"Jigger Statz came up and took a crack at the first ball, but it shot past first base, foul by inches," James Crusinberry wrote in the Tribune.

Jigger resumed his position and Heathcote sneaked a good lead off third base.


"He watched closely until [Bill] Hubbell made the first motion toward pitching the next ball and then away he went for home. In fact, he probably got off before the motion, for he had a swell start.

"Hubbell made a frantic heave, high and inside, when he saw the speedy Cub legging it for the plate. Catcher [Butch] Henline didn't even hold the ball, as Clifton hit the dirt and cleaned off the plate with his pants, ending the game. . . .

"It was a fine exhibition of leg work and demonstrated clearly that a good pair of legs sometimes are worth as much as a base hit."



Danny Taylor duplicated Heathcote's feat on Aug. 24, 1930, against the Giants.

Back-to-back singles off Guy Bush and a double play enabled New York to tie the score at 2 in the top of the ninth. The next batter doubled, but an intentional walk and a foul popup preserved the deadlock.

After Hack Wilson popped out to start the Cubs' half, Danny Taylor singled. As High Pockets Kelly swung and missed at an 0-2 pitch, Taylor headed for second. The catcher's throw hit him as he slid and bounded into center field, allowing Taylor to get up and run to third.

The Giants responded by walking the next 2 batters, loading the bases.


"The Giants didn't become the least suspicious when [Cubs Manager] Joe McCarthy sent Bush up to bat," Edward Burns wrote in the Tribune. "Guy took two strikes with his typical baton waving technique, and [pitcher Joe] Heving reared back to throw the third strike past Guy. And as he reared he saw Danny beating it to the plate.

"Maybe a calmer man would have realized that a third strike past Bush would have ended the inning. But Heaving didn't think of that. His idea was to get the ball to [catcher Bob] O'Farrell. But Danny slid under Waukegan Bob, well ahead of the pitch.

"It was a ball as far as Bush was concerned and the ball game as far as the baseball world was concerned."



More than 91 years have passed since that day, 91 years in which only 1 more Cub has delivered a . . . slide-off?

That Cub was Dee Fondy, who turned the trick against the Reds on Sept. 6, 1953.

Fondy had tied the game at 5 with a solo homer in the seventh, but a leadoff homer in the top of the eighth put the Reds on top again, 6-5.

Ralph Kiner, who also had homered for the Cubs, drew a 1-out walk in the bottom of the ninth from Bob Kelly, who had been pitching since the fifth.

Pinch runner George Metkovich was forced out on a grounder by Hank Sauer, but barreled into the second baseman Rocky Bridges, who had just entered the game. Bridges was knocked off his feet, preventing an attempt for a possible double play.


Pinch runner Hal Jeffcoat took second on a wild pitch, Fondy walked and pinch hitter Joe Garagiola smacked a double against the right field wall that tied the game and put Fondy on third.

"The count was two strikes and one ball on [Ray] Smalley when Fondy set out for home," Ed Prell wrote in the Tribune. "The startled Kelly hurried his pitch, which was high and inside. Catcher Hobie Landrith, lunging for the ball, allowed it to bounce off his glove, but Fondy would have made it anyway."

Sixty-eight years later -- more than two thirds of a century -- the Cubs have not won again on a final-play steal of home.



Two Cubs have stolen home in extra innings, more than 60 years apart.

On May 4, 1923, at St. Louis, the Cubs trailed, 1-0, until Hack Miller slammed a pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning.

Marty Callaghan, leading off the 10th, was hit by a pitch. He moved to second on a bunt and third on a groundout.

The Cardinals replaced starter Fred Toney with Eddie Ainsmith.


"With [Cubs pitcher Virgil] Cheeves at the plate," the Tribune said, "Cal started home on Toney's windup and slid in under the pitch."

Oddly, the 1-column headline above the story was:



Callaghan, a 23-year-old outfielder, played only 135 games for the Cubs in 1922-23. He batted .243/.305/.316, for an OPS of .621 and an OPS+ of just 62. He stole a grand total of 4 bases -- and was thrown out 8 times.


The only other Cub with an extra-inning steal of home had a much longer, more satisfying career: Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg.

On April 8, 1984, the Cubs played a back-and-forth contest at San Diego. They led, 1-0 and 2-1; trailed, 3-2; tied the score at 3 in the eighth; then went in front again, 5-3, in the ninth on a single, hit batsman, error and a pair of bases-loaded walks.

But the Padres loaded the bases against Lee Smith in their half and scored twice on a pair of groundouts.

Steve Lake began the Cubs' 10th with a single off new reliever Mark Thurmond. Lake was on second with 2 out when the Padre's shortstop misplayed a ball hit by Henry Cotto and Lake scored the go-ahead run.


Sandberg followed with a triple, making the score 7-5. Then he "stunned left-handed reliever Mark Thurmond by stealing home with Tom Veryzer at bat."

Sandberg also had stolen home in 1982, as a rookie with the Phillies, and 1983, as a Cub.

"This might have been the easiest of them all," Sandberg said after the Cubs' wrapped up the 8-5 win. "I just had to time it. Zim (third-base coach Don Zimmer) had picked up on the fact that Thurmond was fairly slow going to the plate.

"I had about a 10-foot lead. The key to the play was Veryzer not swinging at the pitch. If he had, I would have been killed."



Of the Cubs' 144 regular-season steals of home, exactly half have come at home and half on the road: 72 of each.

Here is how many they have made in each inning, from first through 10th:

Home: 10, 6, 11, 4, 10, 11, 8, 8, 4, 0 (10th)

Road: 8, 8 10, 6, 6, 7, 9, 8, 8, 2 (10th)


TOMORROW: Steals of home by score, runners on base and the 2 Cubs who share the team record for most such steals.

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