Greatest Players of All-Time Series–Position Players: Base Stealing/Base Running
Here is a list of the top base stealers/base runners of all-time. We have used a formula that compares, era to era, a composite of base stealing and base running. The list has been pared down to the top 24 pictured below (click on the thumbnail to enlarge each picture). Hope you enjoy!
Players from #13 through 24 (all tied):
Lou Brock LF
Lou Brock, a left fielder, played 19 years, mostly for the St. Louis Cardinals. He batted .293 and attained an on-base percentage of .343. Brock won 8 stolen base crowns, and kept defenses on edge when he was on base. He was selected for 6 All-Star games, and is a member of Cooperstown.
Max Carey CF
Max Carey was a great ballplayer who played mostly center field for 20 seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates. His career on-base percentage was .361, and he was an intimidating base stealer. He won 10 steals crowns, and stretched many a base hit into extra bases. He was also an outstanding defender. He is in the Hall of Fame.
Oscar Charleston, a Hall of Fame center fielder, was known as an outstanding base stealer and base runner. He could disrupt a defense into losing a game with his base running skill. Charleston was a multi-tool player with an amazing combination of speed and power.
Ty Cobb CF
Ty Cobb played ball like his “hair was on fire,” said a peer. He played center field for 24 years with the Detroit Tigers, and is a Hall of Fame member. He intimidated defenses with his very aggressive base running, capturing 6 steals titles. His career on-base percentage was .433 to go along with a .366 career batting average.
Tom Goodwin CF
Tom Goodwin, a center fielder, was a very good base stealer, who added his own study of pitchers’ pick-off moves to go with his great speed. In Goodwin’s case, hard work paid off–over 14 years he became one of the best base stealers of All-Time.
Michael “King” Kelly, a Hall of Fame catcher, was the most popular player of the 19th century. His base running exploits packed the stands with fans, shouting, “Slide, Kelly! Slide!”. He played 16 seasons, for mostly the National League franchises in Chicago and Boston. He averaged around 40 steals a year, even though early records are incomplete.
Bill Lange CF
Bill Lange did everything well on the baseball field, and base running was no exception. People who knew of his exploits said he was rarely thrown out on steal attempts. He was an outstanding base stealer, a superb hitter and a stellar defender in center field. He played in the 1890s.
Rudy Law CF
Rudy Law, a center fielder, made his mark in the Majors as a base stealer. He had a very high percentage of steals attempted/steals made, and wreaked havoc on the base paths. He played for 7 years, mostly with the Chicago White Sox.
Omar Moreno CF
Omar Moreno, a base runner “on a mission,” played 12 years, mostly with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was a very clever base stealer, and never let defenses rest when he was on base. He stole nearly 500 bases in his career.
Darby O’Brien, a left fielder, was one of the fastest players in history. He was over 6′ tall, unusual for a great speedster. He averaged over 50 steals a season until a sudden illness claimed his life at age 29. He played for Brooklyn in both the American Association and the National League for 6 years.
Gary Pettis CF
Gary Pettis, a center fielder, was an outstanding defensive player, and an exciting base stealer who thrilled fans with his aggressive base running. He was one of the few players in his era who had the “green light” every time he got on base. He played with the California Angels and other AL teams for 11 years.
John Ward SS
John “Monte” Ward, a remarkable Hall of Famer, was a skilled shortstop and a master thief on the bases. He also pitched before hurting his arm, good enough to throw the 2nd perfect game ever. As a base stealer, he was at the top of the league throughout the 1880s and the 1890s, playing 17 seasons for mostly Providence and New York of the National League. Monte had 111 steals in one year.
#11 (2 tied):
Hub Collins 2B
Hub Collins, mostly a second baseman, was a fearless base stealer, who played for almost 7 seasons for mostly Brooklyn of the National League. He averaged over 55 steals a year, until he died suddenly of illness at age 28. His career on-base percentage is .365.
Pop Lloyd SS
Pop Lloyd is one of the top two shortstops (together with with Honus Wagner) to ever play the game. This Hall of Famer did everything on a baseball field well, including base running. He routinely turned base hits into extra base opportunities, and led the league many times in steals. He could work a pitcher with the best of them.
#7 (4 tied):
Jerry Benjamin was a fleet center fielder for the Homestead Grays, and batted lead-off. Even on infield hits, a wag once observed, “There goes a double,” knowing full well that Benjamin would immediately steal 2B. Benjamin either led or was near the top of Negro League steals titles every season in the 1930s and the 1940s.
Rickey Henderson, a left fielder, was one of the greatest base stealers in the history of baseball. He is in the Hall of Fame, largely on the strength of his base stealing. He played 25 years, mostly for the Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees. He won 12 steals crowns, including 3 years of over 100 steals. His career on-base percentage is an amazing .401.
Jimmie Lyons LF
Jimmie Lyons, a left fielder, played for a number of black barnstorming teams and Negro League squads from 1910 to 1932. He was a frightening presence on the base-paths, and terrorized opposing defenses throughout his career. Lyons is one of the premier base stealers of All-Time.
Otis Nixon CF
Otis Nixon, a center fielder, batted lead-off for most of his 17 years with the Cleveland Indians, Montreal Expos and Atlanta Braves. He averaged over 40 stolen bases a year, and had 620 for his career. He was a premier base runner for all his teams.
#5 (2 tied):
Jim Fogarty RF
Jim Fogarty was a right fielder who made base stealing an art form. He played for 7 seasons and averaged 65 steals a year. If he hadn’t died suddenly at age 27, his totals would have been even more amazing. He played in the 1880s for the National League’s Philadelphia franchise.
Billy Sunday RF
Billy Sunday played right field and had blazing speed on the base paths. He played in the 1880s with mostly Chicago and Pittsburgh of the National League. It was said that if he got on base, he was going to be standing on 2B by the next pitch.
#1 (4 tied):
Hugh Nicol played right field for 10 seasons for mostly St. Louis and Cincinnati in the American Association. He was born in Scotland, and his family emigrated to America. He was an electrifying base stealer in the 1880s, and if he had been a better hitter, his steals totals would have been even higher.
Billy Hamilton was a center fielder for 14 seasons, including the 1890s. He stole over 100 bases for 4 years, and had a total of 914 for his career. The fans called him “Sliding Billy” in appreciation of his base running exploits. He batted .349 for his career and had an amazing on-base percentage of .455. He was one of the great base stealers in the history of baseball, and is in the Hall of Fame.
James “Cool Papa” Bell may have been the best base runner in the entire history of baseball. He played center field for 25 years, with mostly the St. Louis Stars and Pittsburgh Crawfords. White players who watched him, and those who played against him, said he was the best base runner they had ever seen. He was reputed to have circled the bases once in 12 seconds flat. His base running exploits are the stuff of legend. He was voted into Cooperstown.
Vince Coleman was the kind of base stealer you would buy a ticket to watch. He played left field for 13 years with mostly the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Mets, during the 1980s and 1990s. He won 6 base stealing crowns including 3 years of over 100. He was one of the best ever.
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