There’s Something The Cleveland Indians Haven’t Done in 51 Years

A Cleveland Indians Pitcher Has Not Stolen A Base Since 1967

In 1967 Cleveland Indians pitcher John O’Donoghue accomplished something that was not that uncommon at the time. On July 5, in the bottom of the fifth against the Detroit Tigers, O’Donoghue reached base on a force out. He then stole second base.

His steal was so uneventful it was not mentioned in most newspaper accounts of the game.

That unremarkable steal wound up being quite an achievement. It is the last time a Cleveland Indians pitcher stole a base. That’s right, 51 years ago, 1967. That it is the longest stretch any team in major league baseball has gone without one of their pitchers stealing a base.

There are three teams that came into the league through expansion where no pitcher has ever stolen a base. Two AL teams, the Seattle Mariners (1977) and the Tampa Bay Rays (1998) and one NL team the Miami Marlins (1993). Every other team has had a pitcher steal a base in the subsequent years.

Of course stolen bases have been steadily declining over the years for all of baseball.

But the idea has been propagated that pitchers are one-dimensional entities today. They’re specialists. They’re starters. They’re relievers. They may only be brought in to pitch to one batter. They’re not hitters. And they’re definitely not base runners.

At least that’s what managers at all levels above high school baseball seem to be telling pitchers. And the majority of two generations of pitchers believe that premise and act accordingly . Don’t be aggressive running the bases. You could end up like former-Yankees ace Chien Ming Wang whose promising career was derailed running the bases in 2008. After several comebacks, Wang was never the same pitcher who twice won 19 games in a season. Wang is currently inactive, but not officially retired

“We don’t hit, we don’t run the bases,” former pitcher Mike Mussina said. “You get four or five at-bats a year at most, and if you happen to get on base once or twice, you never know. We run in straight lines most of the time. Turning corners, you just don’t do that.”

Earlier in June Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka was running a straight line, tagging up from third base on a sacrifice fly. Tanaka suffered an injury that probably brought nightmare flashbacks of Wang to Yankee executives and fans. We’ll see if Tanaka returns to form after somehow pulling both of his hamstrings while scoring on the play.

Getting back to pitchers stealing bases, it used to be that pitchers were usually the best all-around players from little league up to high school. Pitchers could do it all, hit, pitch, field and run.

That probably began to change with the introduction of the designated hitter to the American League in 1973. Throughout baseball history not many pitchers have been considered great hitters or runners.  But the majority of pitchers pre-DH, were athletic and seasoned enough to run the bases without getting hurt. Not today.

These guys make too much money to risk injury running the bases at full tilt. Even in the National league where the pitchers hit AND run, many pitchers are not properly prepped to do so and they don’t practice baserunning skills.

An interesting sidenote about John O’Donoghue, four weeks previous to his stolen base, on June 2, 1967 O’Donoghue hit a grand slam off, Tigers pitcher Denny McLain in an 8-2 Indians victory.

If you are a Mets or Yankees fan you may be wondering which pitcher last stole a base. For the Mets the answer is  Jacob deGrom on August 4, 2017. The Yankees are one year behind the Indians for the team with the longest time without a pitcher stealing a base. Dooley Womack stole a base 50 years ago on August 23, 1968.

 

 

 

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