In my latest installment of the New York Yankee Top 10’s, we examine the best base stealers the Yankees have been blessed with in modern history. In my other top 10 articles, I have covered everything from top position players, pitchers, catchers, and more obscure top 10’s such as memorable moments in Yankees history and top 10 best seasons. Today we examine those unique players that run like the wind and become base stealing specialists.
Some players that were fast on the bases never became great base stealers. A good example is Billy Martin; he only stole 19 bases over seven years of play during his playing days with the Yankees. Other players that weren’t so fast on the base, like catcher Yogi Berra weren’t expected to steal many bases and didn’t. In his 19 years with the Yankees, he stole only 30 bases. Compare that to Derek Jeter; in his 20 years with the Yankees, he stole 358 bases. Fans don’t even like to hear the name of Jacoby Ellsbury, but in his short time with the Yankees, he stole 108 bases. An honorable mention has to go to Alfonso Soriano, who stole 130 bases for the Yankees, Bernie Williams for his 147 stolen bags. The “Scooter” Phil Rizzuto’s 149.
10. Horace Clarke– 151. Clark was a second baseman who probably is not known to many young Yankees fans, but he would steal 151 bases; he was only caught 58 times. Clarke had speed on the bases and was a decent player. However, he also has the distinction of never reaching the postseason in his ten-year career.
9. Roberto Kelly– 151. Kelly did not spend his entire career with the New York Yankees, but he stole 151 bases while a Yankee. In 1990 he stole his career-high 42 stolen bases. Unfortunately, he was with the Yankees for only four whole years. He was an All-Star in 1992. He was then traded to the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder Paul O’Neill. Over the life of his baseball career, he would steal 235 bases. He was lucky enough to be back with the Yankees in 2000, where he finished out his career playing ten games that year.
8. Alex Rodriguez – 152. Rodriguez was one of the best baseball players ever to play the game. He was a brilliant hitter and defender and continued that trend when he came to the New York Yankees, being just as good a hot corner defender when he changed from being a career-long shortstop. What many present-day Yankee fans don’t know is that he was an excellent base stealer. Few were ever more successful; he had an 84% success rate. While with the Yankees, he stole 152 bases. An 84-percent success rate is second for the Yankees all time. After hip surgery and as his time in the game waned, he was 24 for his last 27 attempts. A-Rod was one of the smartest Yankees base stealers ever. In his career with the Seattle Mariners, the Rangers, and the Yankees, he stole 329 bases and fell four home runs short of 700.
7. Mickey Mantle– 153. Mantle was known as a player that played through many injures and still hit 536 long balls. Many only know him from his 1961 race with Roger Maris for the most home runs of the season. Maris finally won with 61. But, not only was Mantle one of the best switch hitters over his career, but he was also an excellent base runner. In this Yankee career, he stole 153 bases. Many think the total would have been much higher if he hadn’t spent so much time trotting his home run trot. He was caught just 38 times.
6. Roy White – 233. While playing and still today, Roy White is often overlooked for the fine baseball player he was, primarily due to some of the star players he played with. But White was a giant in his own right. Even though he didn’t hit many home runs, he was a consistent contact hitter with a career .271 batting average over his 15 years, all with the Yankees. He also was an excellent base runner, stealing 233 bases for the Yankees.
5. Hal Chase – 248. For most New York Yankee fans, Hal Chase is one of the more obscure Yankee players even though he played 15 years in the majors, mainly because it was 1905 to 1919. Chase stole an excellent 248 bases for the Yankees when base stealing was not widely known. He had a .291 career batting average, playing his best with the New York Yankees in the nine years.
4. Willie Randolph – 251. Willie Randolph hasn’t played for the Yankees in years, but you still hear his name frequently, mostly being in consideration for managing the Yankees. But, it is doubtful the talented second baseman ever will, being that he has been passed by twice already. The ever-popular Randolph had a career batting average in his 13 years with the Yankees of .275. He was a great contact hitter and drove in six short of 500 RBIs. He also was one of the best Yankee base stealers, stealing 251. That’s an average of about 20 per year.
3. Brett Gardner– 274. Of present-day New York Yankees, veteran Brett Gardner is the hands-down best Yankee base stealer, even though his stealing has waned in the last few years. He is still the best stealer over the previous six seasons. During his base-stealing prime between 2010 and 2011, he stole 96 bases. Even at age 38, few in the major league can compete with his wheels around the bases, and his 274 career stolen bases.
2. Ricky Henderson- 326. Whether to put Henderson or Jeter as the best Yankee base stealer was somewhat of a dilemma for me, but I decided to go with career stats with the Yankees and not most productive years. That said, know this, Ricky Henderson is the major league’s record holder for the most career bases stolen (1406). No one in baseball comes close to that and likely never will. However often overlooked is that during his four years with the Yankees, he was the most dominant base stealers the Yankees have ever seen. He had his best stealing years with the Yankees. Pitchers feared him as they knew if he got on base, he would probably steal.
1. Derek Jeter – 358. In his Yankee career, Derek Jeter broke many records; one of the most overlooked was he was one of the most consistent base stealers throughout his career. He stole 358 bases for the Yankees over his 20-year career. The Hall of Famer stole a career-high 32 bases in 2002 while only being caught three times. Well past his prime and in his last year in baseball in 2014, he stole ten bases, only being caught twice. Over his career, he had a 79% stealing success. Throughout his career, the Captain was one of the most reliable base stealers for the Yankees.
EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow him on Twitter @parleewilliam.