Dee Gordon was a joy to watch on Friday as Jimmy Nelson tried in vein to stop him from stealing second base. Not once but twice as he scored both times he was on base. In an interview, he credits Davey Lopes for assisting him in this extraordinary art of grabbing an extra base and forcing the opposing team to shift into another zone while he is on base. You could see him cheat toward second on each pitch attempt which forced Nelson to try to catch him off base time and time again. In one span Nelson threw more pitches to first than to home. When Gordon got to the grass cut approximately six feet off first base, everyone in Dodger Stadium knew that he was about to light out. And boom. He was gone. He had stolen on the pitcher Nelson who probably had never seen anyone like Gordon on first before. Wait until he gets to Cincinnati and meet Billy Hamilton (not to be confused with Billy Hamilton of the Boston Braves who ranks #3 on the all-time stolen base list).
In the annuals of ‘The Show’, there are all kinds of base stealers. Certainly one is ‘The Rickie’ Henderson as he stole everything in sight. But back in the day, there were a couple of other guys who flashed spikes better than most.
The guy who get much of the early century attention is Ty Cobb. He was just mean. Going into a base, he would flash his spikes like a knife wielder at a butchers stand. More than one took the cuts Cobb delivered as he slashed his way into the Hall of Fame.
No one every mentions Max Carey. Ty Cobb was, in the early days of the game, regarded as the greatest base-runner of all time and yet Max Carey (born Maximilian George Carnarios) had a better base-stealing record than Cobb. Carey stole 738 bases in 18 years of major league competition, an average of 41 per game. Cobb stole 892 bases in 24 years in the big leafs, an average of 37 per season.
H.G. Salsinger, in his ‘The Umpire’ column in The Detroit News August 12,1951, noted ‘While attending Concordia College, he adopted the name Max Carey when he played his first professional baseball game in order to retain his amateur status. The name would stick his entire career.’
He played for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1910 until 1926. He played his final three and a half years with the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) before retiring in 1929. He managed the Dodgers from 1932 to 1933. He was also the manager of the Milwaukee Chicks and the Fort Wayne Daisies of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. He entered Baseball’sHall of Fame in 1961.
Carey led the NL in base stealing for 10 seasons while Cobb led the American league for only six. Carey set an all-time record in 1922 when he stole 51 bases in 53 attempts. He still leads in the stealing of home plate.
The customers packed the ball parks to watch Cobb run bases but who ever paid money to see Carey run? And who ever mentions Carey’s name when base-stealing is discussed?
Milwaukee Brewer fans haven’t seen too many stolen bases since the days of Molitor. Pauly still holds the Brewer record with 412. Maury Wills less the Dodgers as he stole 490 in his career. Dee Gordon ranks #692 in all time stolen base history in baseball. It’s a long way to Max Carey’s rank on the list. But unlike Carey, people do pay to see him play and steal that base.