Rod Carew’s Seven Steals of Home in 1969

In his autobiography, Carew, Rod Carew talks about how he came to be a stealer of home in 1969. Some excerpts:

I also added a new wrinkle to my baseball repertoire at Orlando in the spring of 1969: stealing home. Billy [Martin] and I talked about my being more aggressive on the bases. Although I stole a lot of bases in the minors, I had stolen only 5 and 12 in my first two seasons with the Twins. He thought the team should put more pressure on opponents than we had. He said I could use my speed to advantage in a game situation in which we needed a run and the guys weren’t hitting. I had stolen home once before in the minors.

Billy worked with me for hours on stealing home. He suggested I take a slow, walking lead, instead of the lead in which you come to a stop. How far I should lead depended on how far the third baseman was playing off the bag, and whether the pitcher took a stretch or a windup. That walking lead was essential: you’d have momentum already started toward home.

We had it timed to the split second. If a pitcher wound up–instead of pitching from a stretch–and took six beats from the time he began his windup to his release, we determined that I ought to make it home safely. We also had the batters practice getting in the catcher’s way, without being called for interference.

“As long as you give the hitter the sign and he flashes it back to you,” Billy said, “then he should know that on the next pitch you’re coming and he shouldn’t swing.” Ideally, the batter is right-handed, and he ought to be trying to protect the plate and obscure the catcher’s vision a little bit. Billy said, “And you can’t be afraid of being thrown out, because that’s going to happen occasionally. You have to do it recklessly.”

Roger Nelson was a lanky right-hander nicknamed “Spider” because of his long dangly arms. He was pitching for Kansas City in the second game of the 1969 season. I arrived at third in the fifth inning. We were losing 3-2, two outs, and Graig Nettles batting. I took a modest lead, watching the third baseman and watching the pitcher. Spider Nelson went into a bi-i-i-g windup. All arms and legs. I counted. Nettles took a pitch. I signaled that I wanted to go. Martin and Nettles got the message. When Spider went into his windmill act again, I took off. When Nelson saw what was happening and finally untangled himself, he threw high, and I slid home safely. It was my first steal of home in the major leagues. I couldn’t wait to try it again.

Ten days later, we’re playing California. I was on third in the seventh inning. The score was tied, and Hoyt Wilhelm, the old knuckleballer, was pitching. His knuckler takes all day to arrive at the plate. It looked appetizing. I flashed a sign to Billy that I thought I could go. He flashed back an okay.

Harmon [Killebrew] was at the plate. I flashed him the sign. It’s a tap on my belt buckle with my right hand. It appeared he answered by tapping his belt buckle with his right hand. Wilhelm started into the windup. I went. I was coming down the line, and I was amazed to see that Harmon was preparing to hit the pitch: if he swung, I’d end up a double down the left-field line. Suddenly out of the corner of his eye he saw me, and he held back in the nick of time. I came sliding in and beat the knuckleball home. It proved to be the winning run of the game.

Eleven days later, I stole home for the third time in April. Two weeks later I stole home again. It was really getting exciting now. Whenever I got on third, the fans were yelling, “Go, go!” The other team’s dugout was yelling, “Watch him!” “Hold him on!” Everybody was anticipating something.

In June I stole home two more times. I now had six steals of home this season. That tied the American League record held by Ty Cobb for steals of home in a season. Pete Reiser of the Dodgers set the major-league record in 1946 with seven.

In the second inning against Chicago, on July 16, I was on third when Jerry Nyman went into a windup. He just forgot I was in the game. His teammates were hollering, “Hold him on, hold him on!” Too late. I slid home with number seven.

But generally it was getting harder and harder to go now. Everyone was watching me when I got to third. Pitchers were taking a stretch now instead of winding up.

But 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.”

You can buy Carew’s book, published in 1979, here at

Published in: on February 22, 2010 at 8:07 am  Comments (1)  
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  1. According to the data I saw, Rod got on first and stole 2nd, then 3rd, and then home against Mickey Lolich on May 18, 1969. (Cesar Tovar was on second, so he could only steal 3rd and home, which he did.)

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