Cubs' steals of home, Part 2

Second of 2 posts.


Steals of home are among the rarest plays in baseball.

They also can be among the most dramatic.

Since 1916, the first year for which play-level data is available at, the Cubs have stolen home 144 times in regular-season games and twice in the post season.

The 2 most recent thefts came in 2021, both by Rafael Ortega.

The first, on Aug. 25, gave the Cubs a 5-2 lead in the second inning at home against the Rockies.

The second, on Sept. 30, put them in front, 5-0, in the third inning at Pittsburgh.


Those thefts increased to 91 the number made in the regular season when the Cubs already were winning, compared to just 37 while tied and only 16 while behind.

Of the ties, 17 came with the score 0-0, including 2 in the seventh inning. Only 3 more came as late as the third.

Ten times, the score was 1-1, including once in the eighth and once in the 10th. None of the others came later than the fifth.

Six steals broke 2-2 ties. Two came in the ninth, both ending games: by Cliff Heathcote in 1924 and by Danny Taylor in 1930. Each was described in Part 1. Two more steals with the score 2-2 came in the eighth and 1 each in the second and fourth.

The Cubs took the lead, 4-3, on a steal in the sixth; 5-4, twice, both in the fifth; and 6-6, once – Dee Fondy's walk-off in the ninth in 1953, also described in Part 1.


The Cubs were behind by 1 run when they made 9 steals of home and by 2 runs when they made 7.

The scores when a steal tied the game were 1-0, twice; 2-1, 4 times; 3-2; 4-3; and 6-5.



They have stolen home 26 times with only a runner on third: 22 with 2 out and 4 with 1 out.

There were runners on second and third 11 times, 10 with 2 out and 1 with 1 out.

Runners were on first and third 103 times, 84 with 2 out, 15 with 1 out and 4 with 0 out.

And the bases were loaded 4 times, 3 with 2 out and 1 with 1 out.



The Cubs' triple steal at St. Louis in 1984, described in Part 1 of this post, was the most recent of the 4 with every base occupied.

The first was on June 28, 1916, in the bottom of the fifth inning, with 1 out and the Cubs leading the Pirates, 1-0. Rollie Zeider pulled off the steal.

The second was a walk-off by Danny Taylor, on Aug. 24, 1930. It also was described in Part 1.

The third was on June 3, 1943, in the bottom of the eighth against the Dodgers. The Cubs were leading, 7-1, when Dom Dallessandro stole home with 2 outs and pitcher Lon Warneke at the plate.



Dallessandro's steal was the first of 3 by the Cubs in 1943. They had 2 in 1944, then 1 in 1945.

That raised their regular-season total to 80 in the 30 seasons that began in 1916, an average of 2.67 per season.

They have had only 64 in the 76 seasons from 1946 through 2021, an average of 0.84 per season, or slightly less than one third of their average in 1916-45.


The Cubs stole home 6 times in 1942, their highest total since they had 8 in 1924, just 1 below their record of 9, set a year earlier.

From 1916-24, they had at least 5 steals of home in 7 of 9 seasons. Their 5 in 1951 were their most in the last 80 years.

They had 4 in 1967 and 3 in both 1978 and 1988.

A Cub has stolen home at least once in 62 seasons starting in 1916, which is 58.5 percent of all 106 seasons.

But they did it in 70.3 percent of seasons from 1916-89 (52 of 74) and have done it in only 31.3 percent (10 of 32) in 1990-2021.



Here is how many times the Cubs stole home in each decade, followed by the running total of all decades:

1910s: 25

1920s: 32/57

1930s: 8/65

1940s: 20/85

1950s: 15/100

1960s: 10/110

1970s: 9/119

1980s: 13/132

1990s: 2/134

2000s: 3/137

2010s: 4/144

2020s: 3/147


They had 1 more steal of home, 13, in the 1980s than they have had in all seasons since.

They have had 59 since the start of 1950, only 2 more than they had just in 1916-29.



Which Cub stole home more than any other since 1916?

Two players share that distinction.


The name of the first Cub with 6 steals of home was mentioned earlier in this post, but not as any of the Cubs who made a steal.

Bob O'Farrell was the catcher for the Giants when Danny Taylor stole home to beat New York in 1930.



O'Farrell made his Major League debut with the Cubs in 1915, at age 18, and was their regualr catcher in 1920-24 before being supplanted by Gabby Hartnett.

He was traded to the Cardinals in May of 1925, then sent to the Giants 5 years later.

They shipped him back to St. Louis in 1932 and in 1934 he was dealt to the Reds. They released him on July 27, 1934, and 10 days later he returned to the Cubs, at age 37.

He played 22 games the rest of that season, then rejoined the Cardinals for the last 14 games of his career in 1935.


O'Farrell spent 21 seasons in the big leagues, 12 of them with the Cubs, for whom he played 666 of his 1,492 total games.

In those 12 years as a Cub, he attempted 29 steals. He succeeded 23 times, and 6 of them were thefts of home, all as part of double steals.

The first, on Aug. 7, 1918, at Brooklyn, was the only 1 with the Cubs behind, 3-1, in the fifth inning.

The next 2, both in 1922, came with the Cubs ahead, by 1-0 in the second inning and 7-1 in the seventh.

The final 3 all games in 1923.

On June, he broke a 2-2 tie with the Cardinals in the bottom of the eighth.

The Cubs led, 4-1, when he stole home in the top of the ninth at Cincinnati on Aug. 31, and were up by 7-2 when he did it for the final time, in the bottom of the seventh against the Pirates, on Sept. 27.


O'Farrell had 35 steals in his entire career, during which he slashed .273/.360/.338, for an OPS of .748 and an OPS+ of 98. As a Cub, he was .279/.364/.401, for .765 and 106.



The only Cub to match O'Farrell's 6 steals of home was shortstop Lennie Merullo.

He spent his entire 7-year career with the Cubs, playing his first game in September of 1941 and his last in August of 1947.

The epitome of a light-hitting middle infielder, Merullo batted .240/.291/.301, for an OPS of .591 and an OPS+ of 69. He hit only 6 home runs in 2,264 plate appearances.

He stole 38 bases, with a high of 14 in 1942 and no more than 7 in any other year.


Three of the thefts in 1942 were of home: with the Cubs behind, 1-0, in the third inning; ahead, 3-0, in the fourth; and ahead, 5-0, in the sixth.

In 1943, he broke a scoreless tie in the third inning and widened the Cubs' bulge to 11-1 in the sixth.

The Cubs led, 4-1, in the eighth when he stole home for the last time, tying O'Farrell's post-1916 record, on July 4, 1945.

The steals with the scores 0-0 and 3-0 came with 2 out and Merullo as the only Cub on base.


Merullo gained renewed recognition long after his retirement, as he became the oldest living Cub, a title he held for many years. He made multiple appearances at Wrigley Field and was interviewed several times during broadcasts of games.

He was 98 when he died on May 30, 2015, nearly 70 years after his last steal of home.



Only 1 other Cub has stolen home 5 times: Hal Jeffcoat, who accomplished the feat once each in 1949 and 1950, then 3 times in 1951.

The first and last were straight steals, when he was the only runner on base, both with 2 outs.

The first 2 made the score 2-0. The third and fourth, with runners on the corners, gave the Cubs leads of 4-3 and 5-4. They led, 5-0, when he stole home for the final time.

Jeffcoat played outfield from 1948-53, then was a pitcher in 1954-55 before being traded to the Reds.

In 8 seasons as a Cub, he batted .251/.293/.355, for an OPS of .648 and an OPS+ of 74.

He stole 49 bases and was caught stealing 19 times.



Four Cubs have stole home 4 times in regular-season games: Bernie Friberg, Cliff Heathcote, Les Mann and Ryne Sandberg.

Four more have done it 3 times: Javier Baez Charlie Deal, Charlie Hollocher and Fred Merkle.

Eleven did it twice: Jose Cardenal, Phil Cavarretta, Dom Dallessandro, Max Flack, George Grantham, Roy Hughes, Rafael Ortega, Andy Pafko, Tony Taylor, Ted Savage and Rollie Zeider.

They bring the total to 22 players with multiple steals of home. They did it a total of 67 times, 46.5 percent of all 144 such steals.



Subtract 67 from 145 and you get 78 players who have stolen home during the regular season exactly once.

The first of the 78 was Frank Schulte, whose steal came on June 12, 1916, with the Cubs leading, 7-1, in the top of the eighth inning at New York.

The most recent was Billy Hamilton, who increased the Cubs' advantage to 6-0 when he swiped home in the top of the second at Cincinnati on Sept. 27, 2020.


Among the other 1-timers: Richie Ashburn, Gene Baker, Lou Brock, Starlin Castro, Kiki Cuyler, Andre Dawson, Bob Dernier, Leon Durham, Dee Fondy, Charlie Grimm, Gabby Hartnett, Billy Herman, Jim Hickman, Glenallen Hill, Randy Hundley, John and Mick Kelleher, Bill Nicholson, Adolfo Phillips, Hack Wilson, Billy Williams and Don Zimmer.



Two additional 1-timers deserve special mention: Rick Sutcliffe and Hippo Vaughn, the only pitchers to steal home.


Vaughn's steal came on Aug. 9, 1919, at home against the Giants. Each team scored a run in the second inning, then neither scored again going into the bottom of the eighth.

Vaughn drew a 1-out walk and went to third on a single by Max Flack. But Hollocher popped up, "so they tried the double steal," I.E. Sanborn explained in the Tribune, "and it was desperate the way [catcher Mike] Gonzalez had been nailing every Cub who tried to steal.

"This time he tried to stop Flack at second, apparently thinking Vaughn would stay on third. But Hippo didn't stay there. Instead, he tore home and had an easy finish, because Gonzalez's throw was poor and went through [shortstop Art] Fletcher."

Buck Herzog followed with a triple that drove home Flack and a few minutes later Vaughn completed a 5-hit, 3-1 victory.


Vaughn stole 12 bases in his 13-year career, according to his Overview page at But it shows no steals for him in 1919, the year he swiped home, so he certainly had at least 13.



In 14 big league seasons, Sutcliffe had 4 steals, all of them during his 8 years as a Cub.

His steal of home came on July 29, 1988, a steamy night in Philadelphia.

The Cubs took a 3-2 lead with 2 outs in the fifth, when Andre Dawson doubled home a runner from first, then scored on a single by Mark Grace.

Sutcliffe then led off the seventh with a double. He held second on a line out, then took third on a fly out.

Mitch Webster walked, putting runners on the corners for Dawson.


Alan Solomon on the Tribune described what took place next:

"On Kevin Gross' very first pitch, the pitcher didn't go home. He threw to first and had Webster picked off by plenty. . . . With Webster trapped and two out, Sutcliffe figured he might as well break for the plate.

"Well, maybe 'break' isn't quite the right word.

"Sutcliffe sort of started moving toward the plate. First baseman Ricky Jordan, appropriately stunned at seeing a sweat-soaked battleship cruising down the third-base line, threw the baseball into the Cub dugout.

"Webster, given credit for stealing second, was waved all the way around on the wild throw. And Sutcliffe had stolen home."

After the game, he all but shrugged off what he had done, telling reporters, "We spend a lot of time working on that in spring training."


With the bases empty, Dawson singled, knocking out Gross. Grace coaxed a walk from reliever Bruce Ruffin, then Vance Law, who had homered earlier, slammed a 3-run shot, making the score 8-2.

Sutcliffe was lifted after allowing a 2-out RBI double in the seventh. The score then remained 8-3 until the finish.



Solomon's account of the game began this way:

"PHILADELPHIA -- Vance Law hit two home runs Friday and drove in four. Law has hit two homers in a game before, and he has driven in four runs in a game before, too.

"Never before has Rick Sutcliffe stolen home. And never before has anyone . . . ever . . . done it . . . slower."

At one point, Solomon called Sutcliffe "the red-bearded blur."

"You guys shouldn't be too surprised by it," he quoted Sutcliffe as saying. "I stole a base last year, too."

His final 2 would come in 1989.



Rafael Ortega's steal of home on Aug. 25, at Wrigley Field against the Rockies, made him the 99th different Cub since 1916 to turn the trick.

Ortega is the only player currently under contract to the Cubs who has stolen home for them, so whoever does it next, other than Ortega, will become No. 100.

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