I'm reading a biography of Ty Cobb by Charles Leerhsen. Cobb holds the unofficial major league record for stealing home. (Unofficial because major league baseball does not keep stats on stealing home.) Cobb did it 54 times. To show just how spectacular that is, the guy in second place, Max Carey, has 33, and George Burns in third place has 28.
Here's how Leerhsen describes the excitement of Ty Cobb's base stealing:
All the pretty slides and steals--897 lifetime, a record that stood for almost fifty years before it was surpassed by Lou Brock, then Rickey Henderson--all the crazy dancing off the bags and even crazier shouts to catchers that he was going on the next pitch . . . "I'm going, I'm going, watch me, oh, yes, I'm going!" (and then in fact did)--all that spoke to his core mission of, as he said many times, "creating a mental hazard for my opponents." He preferred, if possible, to defeat you without touching you, to puncture hopes, not hides, and in that way score runs (like the four he scored in Philadelphia on July 12, 1911, without getting a single hit). "I don't know how many times I tagged Ty out at second base," said Roger Peckinpaugh, a shortstop for several AL clubs, "yet he never so much as spiked me. On his slide to second, he'd usually throw his feet out toward center field, and try to grab the base with his hand. I'll never forget the feeling, though--just knowing that guy was taking that big lead off first and would be coming at me any second."Baseball is a beautiful game, but slow and often boring. Imagine watching Ty Cobb make every time he was on base a thriller never knowing when he would go or how he would do it, but knowing that he was going to attempt and probably succeed at stealing one or more bases.
Jacoby Ellsbury gave a little taste of that tonight.