Stealing Home

The Most Exciting Play in Baseball Was Accomplished by Rod Carew Seven Times in 1969

Rod Carew’s 2nd steal of home in 1969 – April 19, 3rd inning vs. California Angels. Harmon Killebrew is #3.

It’s a play you hardly see anymore-  the pure stealing of home plate. Not part of a double steal or a failed suicide squeeze attempt.

At the urging of Minnesota Twins manager Billy Martin in 1969, second baseman Rod Carew swiped home an astonishing seven times in one season, tying the major league record of Pete Reiser of the Brooklyn Dodgers set back in 1946.

You’d think that Carew must have stolen a lot of bases that year considering his constant stealing of home. Amazingly, Carew stole a total of only 19 bases that year!

Carew, the future Hall of Famer, told the story of how he perfected the steal of home in his 1979 autobiography Carew by Rod Carew with Ira Berkow (Simon and Schuster ,1979) which is excerpted here.

Carew stole home his record tying seventh time on July 16, 1969  in the second inning against the Chicago White Sox in the first game of a double header at the Twins home park, Metropolitan Stadium. The Twins ended up winning the game 9-8.

Shown here is Carew sliding past White Sox catcher Don Pavletich, the umpire is Bob Stewart, and the batter (number 13) is John Roseboro.

I especially like the fan in the right hand corner of the photo above the dugout making the call.

What I didn’t know was that Carew was called out on what would have been his eighth and record breaking steal of home. From his autobiography:

“…about a month later against Seattle [the Pilots] I had the opportunity to go for number eight, the record.  Skip Lockwood a right-hander, was pitching. I got a great jump on him, and I slid by the plate as the ball popped into the catcher’s mitt.

But the umpire called me out. I couldn’t believe it. J. C. Martin was catching, and he couldn’t believe the call either (he didn’t tell me that until the next day). I think the umpire’s vision was blocked, so he automatically gave me the thumb.

That was my last good chance to steal home in 1969.”

5 thoughts on “Stealing Home

  1. Bob Mlinar

    A baseball story for you. In 1959 I was 14. My father took me to a AAA Minneapolis Millers post season game. The Millers won the series and went on to play the Havanna Canes in what was called the Mini World Series. During the seventh inning stretch the Millers team came out of the dugout and threw baseballs into the stands (Metropolitan Stadium) I caught one. It was signed by the all the Millers. It was signed by Carl Yazstremski (he only played in postseason) , player manager Gene Mauch, Chuck Tanner, Roy Smalley Sr., Eliza “Pumpsie” Green (first African American on the Boston Red Sox in 1959 12 years after Jackie Robinson) , Earl Wilson, Willard Nixon, Chuck Schilling, and Tracy Stallard (gave up Roger Maris’s 61st home run) The ball was stolen within a year we believe by a neighbor boy whose father played for the Minneapolis Lakers. If anyone finds one of these balls now they know its history.

  2. Darrin Ballard

    I was at that game when RC was called out. The catcher was actually Gerry McNertny and it was actually the 2nd to last game of the Season.

    I was 8 years old and so jazzed to see Killebrew and Carew, Killebrew hit a home run (his 48th that season) earlier in the game…I think it was his first time up, and then Carew who had gotten to third on a double, got caught stealing and he went nuts (which was really out of character for him) and got thrown out. I have always wondered if he was ever thrown out of a game again.

    What great memories. The Pilots played one or two more games that season and moved to Milwaukee for the ’70 season, breaking, by then, a nine year old’s heart.

    1. B.P. Post author

      Darrin – You are correct!

      Rod Carew got the details wrong in his own autobiography, his co-writer Ira Berkow should have done better fact checking. It was only the second time Carew had been caught stealing home that season. Carew was previously caught September 10 when pitcher Tommy John alertly cut Carew down at the plate with a quick throw.

      The date of Carew’s final steal of home attempt was Friday September 26, 1969 (not one month after Carew’s 7th successful steal of home as he writes in his own book) and the catcher was Jerry McNertney, not J.C. Martin. Carew remembering Martin confirming that he was safe the next day is bizarre!

      The play occurred in the third inning. Jim Honochick was the home plate umpire.

      In his second at bat Carew singled and then advanced to third on a two out double by Graig Nettles. With Cesar Tovar at bat Carew took off for home. Carew appeared to beat the tag but Honochick had been knocked over by the slide and never saw Carew touch the plate and was called out.

      Carew was ejected for arguing and throwing his equipment, and Twins manager Billy Martin went berserk.

      The Seattle Pilots won the game 4-3 in 13 innings. The Seattle Pilots then played five more games at home, winding up in last place with a 64-98 record.

      Thanks for sharing your memories here.

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