The art of stealing bases is a skill that’s synonymous with the Black Athlete. The Top 15 greatest bag swipers in MLB history (After Jackie Robinson integrated the game) are all African-American, with the exceptions of Cuban speedster Bert Campaneris and Brett Butler, who is an aberration — like the Larry Bird of base stealing.
Once they started letting brothers in the game, it became a skill that is dominated yearly by the African-American or Afro-Latino athlete. (There are six MLBbros in the Top 20 in stolen bases so far this season.)
The Best To Ever Do It
1. Rickey Henderson
Simply the greatest base-stealing technician that ever lived with 1,406 steals on his resume. Henderson is the only player to ever eclipse 1,000 swipes for a career. Marinate on that for a sec.
Pretty Rickey swiped 66 bases at the age of 40 and stole 31 at the age of 44, never deviating from his classic head-first slide.
He led the American League in stolen bases from 1980-1991. His combination of speed, power and bat savvy makes him hands down the greatest leadoff hitter to ever put on spikes, but also one of the deadliest multi-faceted weapons MLB has ever seen. A dynamic five-tool package with golden legs, unapologetic swag and soul.
2. Lou Brock
“Lightening” Lou Brock was the blueprint for the emergence of Rickey Henderson. In the ’60s and ’70s, the eight-time NL stolen base king played with the St. Louis Cardinals. With Brock on the move, pitchers saw nothing but streaks of red flying by them. He had 938 swipes in his career.
Brock was the standard-bearer for stolen base supremacy before Henderson obliterated his record, but due to the way the game has changed, Brock’s second-place position on the all-time list is pretty safe.
It takes a rare athlete, executing a combination of supreme athleticism and profound intellect to steal 50 bases for 12 straight seasons as Brock did from 1965-76. A Tribe Called Quest gives Brock a shout on their classic hip-hop joint Check the Rhyme.
3. Tim Raines
Nobody in the ’80s rocked a Jheri Curl better than Rock Raines, who also knew how to handle a bat as evidenced by his 2,605 hits and .294 career batting average.
As a leadoff missile, his stolen base prowess made him a lethal weapon. Raines swiped over 70 bases each season from 1981-86 and he led the NL in steals from 81-84, until Vince Coleman hit the scene.
ROCK RAINES WAS READY ALL THE TIME
Raines, a 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, was not only multi-faceted and down to pound the pavement for a bag, but he was the most precise base stealer among the sultans of swipe, finishing his big league career with the best-stolen base percentage (84.7) of any player with 400-plus steals.
4. Maury Wills
Wills is one of the most underrated players in history and egregiously still hasn’t been voted into the Hall of Fame. He won six consecutive National League stolen base crowns (1960-65). His 50 steals in 1960 marked the first time an NL player had eclipsed the half-century mark in swipes since Max Carey in 1923.
Wills is known as the principal offensive weapon of the Dodgers three championship squads between 1959 and 1965. Wills gained fame and respect as a stolen base king by swiping 104 bases in 1962, eclipsing a 47-year-old MLB record.
MAURY WILLS REFLECTS ON HOW THE SPIRIT OF JACKIE ROBINSON HELPED HIM ENDURE RACISM WHILE HE WAS A PLAYER
5. Vince Coleman
Coleman stormed the MLB scene winning NL Rookie of the Year in 1985, swiping 110 bases.
He swiped over 100 again for the next two seasons before tailing off with seasons of 81, 65 and 77 steals for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Coleman never stole more than 50 again after leaving St. Louis and he once said he didn’t know who Jackie Robinson was, but his bag-swiping omnipotence didn’t allow me to exclude him for his ignorance.
VINCE COLEMAN JOINS EXCLUSIVE 100-STEAL CLUB
Honorable Mention: Jackie Robinson (King of Stealing Home), Joe Morgan (HOF, 608 career steals), Luis Aparicio (HOF, nine-straight AL stolen base titles)
On this day (May 29th) in 1990 Rickey Henderson stole the 893rd base of his career breaking Ty Cobb’s American League record.
The Stolen Base King would go onto eventually obliterate Lou Brock’s MLB record of 938 and finishing his illustrious career with 1406 swipes.
Henderson set the single-season and career records for stolen bases over his 25-year Hall of Fame career and he did it with an unrivaled flair and effectiveness that made him one of the iconic superstars of the game.
“Yes I’m a hot dog. Yes I’m a showman. But remember this is baseball. This is entertainment. I’m an entertainer. Baseball was made to be fun.”
The greatest leadoff hitter the game has ever known was born on Christmas Day in 1958, in Chicago, Illinois.
He was selected by the Oakland As in the 1976 MLB Draft.
The dynamic leadoff hitter set a record with 130 stolen bases in the 1982 season, one of 12 times he led the league, and he was named American League MVP in 1990.
Henderson retired as baseball’s all-time leader in steals, runs, and walks. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009.
Henderson known for his speed and quickness developed that chasing chickens on his grandmothers farm in Pine Bluff, Arkansas at a young age.
His family moved to Oakland CA, where the future baseball great began spending his days at renowned Bushrod Park, proving his athletic capabilities across an array of sports.
With his great speed, Henderson became an All-American running back at Oakland Technical High School. He also excelled in baseball, producing a .716 batting average as a junior.
Henderson was selected by the hometown Oakland A’s in the fourth round of the 1976 amateur baseball draft, but he also received dozens of college football scholarship offers.
After deferring the decision-making to his mom, who worried her son was too small for football, he signed with A’s and made an immediate impact in the minor leagues.
Halfway through the 1979 season he received his call-up to the club’s outfield. He batted .274 with 33 stolen bases over the remainder of the 1979 campaign with Oakland, and by the following season it was clear he was a special player.
He stole 100 bases to set a new American League record, and by using an exaggerated crouch in the batter’s box, he compiled 117 walks for an outstanding .420 on-base percentage.
He also used his speed to run down every ball in his vicinity in left field, earning a Gold Glove Award for his defense in 1981.
In 1982, Henderson blew past Hall of Famer Lou Brock’s big league record of 118 stolen bases in a season, en route to an seemingly untouchable mark of 130. Although he was earning a reputation for showmanship,
Henderson was also a smart player who recognized the need for greater efficiency in his overall game. The following year he added another 108 thefts while slicing his caught-stealing total by more than one-half.
Traded to the New York Yankees after the 1984 season, Henderson dazzled the Big Apple fans in 1985 by batting .314 with 24 home runs, 80 stolen bases and an incredible 146 runs scored.
He was limited to just 95 games by a hamstring injury in 1987, and as such had his streak of seven consecutive stolen-base crowns snapped.
But he did return to set a team record with 93 steals in 1988.
Following a lackluster first half of the 1989 season, Henderson was reignited by a trade that returned him to Oakland, where he helped bring the A’s to the World Series, which they won in a four-game sweep over the San Francisco Giants.
The following season Henderson earned AL MVP honors, again helping bring the A’s to the World Series.
On May 1, 1991 Henderson achieved the inevitable when he surpassed Brock’s all-time record with career stolen base No. 939. True to form, at the end of a speech to commemorate the moment, he announced,
“Today I am the greatest!”
Henderson went on to play for the Blue Jays, New York Mets, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox and Padres for a second time.
Unsigned by the start of 2003 season, he kept playing at any level he could and joined the Newark Bears of the Independent Atlantic League, before finishing the season with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
He finished his career as baseball’s all-time leader in stolen bases (1,406), runs scored (2,295), and walks (2,190) and was the 25th player to reach 3,000 hits.
In his post-baseball playing career, Henderson still stayed linked to the game by joining the Mets organization as a special instructor in 2006 and became the team’s first base coach in 2007.
In 2009, Henderson was elected to Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. He was named on 95 percent of the ballots, on of the highest percentages of all-time.
In recent years, the baseball great served as a roving instructor in the A’s organization, imparting his hitting and baserunning advice to minor league players.
Before his 17-year career as a six-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner, and five-time stolen base champion, Kenny Lofton crossed through the Delta Omicron Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi as a college student at the University of Arizona in 1987.
With 622 base swipes, Lofton was one of baseball’s most recognized names in the ’90s, most remembered for his peak years with the Cleveland Indians (who he played with on three different occasions).
He also played for the Houston Astros, Atlanta Braves, Chicago White Sox, San Francisco Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Texas Rangers during his nomadic career.
He also played in an era where Black baseball stars were dynamic, and plentiful, multi-faceted and very marketable, with many exhibiting speed and athletics that enhanced their overall game and captivated the fans — even when homers weren’t being hit.
Lofton was born and raised in East Chicago, Indiana. The multi-talented athlete was an all-state basketball player and pitcher/center fielder at Washington High School.
He accepted a basketball scholarship to attend the University of Arizona, where he played on a team with current Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and even made it to the the1988 Final Four.
In his junior year of college, the itch to once again play baseball became too much shy away from so he walked-on to the baseball team at Zona. Although he only played five games he was recognized by scouts and was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 17th round of the 1988 MLB draft. Lofton then went on to play in the minor leagues after graduating with a degree in studio production. He made his MLB debut with the Astros in 1991.
Lofton is one of two men to play in a World Series and NCAA Final Four (1988).
During his career, Lofton was arguably the second-best leadoff hitter in the game behind the electrifying Rickey Henderson. He retired just eight hits shy of being a .300 hitter over his 17-year career. His 68.4 WAR ranks ninth among centerfielders all-time. Six of the eight players ahead of him are enshrined in Cooperstown at the Baseball Hall of Fame. The two not in are Mike Trout and Carlos Beltran.
The fleet-footed Lofton compiled a .299 batting average with 130 home runs, 116 triples, 1,528 runs scored in 2,103 games played. He was a tremendous defensive centerfielder with elite range.
Lofton currently runs a film production company called Film Pool Inc. There are few players of his ilk in the history of the game.
Billy Hamilton once stole 155 bases in the minor leagues but has struggled to hit consistently in his nine years in major league baseball.
Hamilton’s .241 lifetime batting average has hindered the impact he could make on the league, but every now and then he reminds us of his potential game-wrecking ability.
His four-hit game on Wednesday night and the way he murdered the basepaths, giving the White Sox a speedster at the bottom of the lineup to match Tim Anderson’s top-of-the-order spice, was dope. Even if it was — in the words of the great Luther Vandross — “only for one night.”
Baseball fans know the likes of Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and golden-armed Blake Snell — some of the San Diego Padres Padres top players.
With all that star power dripping from Petco Park, there’s a multi-faceted Black Knight that gets lost in the sauce. Having played just 110 games before this season, the 24-year-old centerfielder Trent Grisham is still a baby, but he is the party starter at the top of the lineup for the Padres and is having an All-Star season.
Grisham has quickly become a top player not only on his team but in the league. He’s hitting .348 through his last seven games. On the season he is hitting an impressive .306. He’s also tied for sixth in the league with six stolen bases.
Despite the challenges of the 2020 season, when Grisham joined the squad, he was eager and confident to put the work in and show people what he’s all about.
The 24-year-old takes pride in working hard and that is certainly paying off. In an article from The San Diego Union-Tribune which was published in 2020, Grisham talked about how he approaches the game and puts in the work.
“Essentially, for me, it’s all routine-based,” Grisham said. “I’m going to do the same thing every day because I know it translates. So that’s all I really do, is be the best at that routine every single day and have the right mentality … and let it translate.”
Grisham was a first-round draft pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, selected by the Milwaukee Brewers. He made his MLB debut during the 2019 season at the age of 22 and hit six homers in 51 games.
Let’s not beat around the bush here, the San Diego Padres are one of the most exciting teams to watch in baseball. They bring that youthful exuberance and a throwback combination of small ball, swag, timely blasts, and confidence that makes you want to watch them every time they are on TV.
From the plate to the mound, the Padres have the personnel to make a deep run in the postseason. The Padres have one of the top young players in the league in Fernando Tatis Jr., who quickly rose to stardom without ever playing a full season. They paired him with Manny Machado, who has already made quite a name for himself in the league.
Surrounded with young talent and experienced vets, the Padres will surely slug it out with the Dodgers and Giants for NL West supremacy until the very end.
That’s not happening without Grisham, who is challenging White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson and Blue Jays outfielder George Springer for best leadoff hitter in the game.
After spending his first year with the Brewers, he was traded to the Padres in November of 2019. Grisham took full advantage of the 2020 shortened season. The MLB Bro won the National League Gold Glove Award after leading NL outfielders with 134 putouts.
It was the first time since 2012, that a player from San Diego won the award. Now in 2021, Grisham is determined to keep rising to the top.
He’s quickly become a fan favorite and with him roaming the outfield, just know that if that ball is in the park, Grisham is going to find a way to make that catch. He also knows his role as the leadoff hitter and understands he can change the momentum of the game at any time.
When you have hitters like Tatis Jr. and Machado in your lineup, you know that there’s a pretty strong chance you’re scoring when you’re on base. The Padres made the right move in 2019 acquiring Grisham and this season could be the year we see a World Series title come to San Diego.
Grisham is another player that opposing teams have to worry about. Let me tell y’all, our MLB bro can ball!!!