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I recently came across a fun factoid about Rafael Palmeiro

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: he stole exactly one or two bases in 10 of his 20 seasons (h/t Diane from VORG
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). This made me wonder who has the most seasons with exactly one steal. It makes for a fun list.

In MLB history, 26 players have had at least 7 seasons with exactly 1 steal. They include the namesake of one of baseball’s most prestigious awards and a 4-time winner of that award. Not to mention a few other Hall of Famers.

Rk Player  Yrs From To Season Links
1 Johnny Edwards
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11 1961 1974 Ind. Seasons
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2 Greg Maddux
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9 1988 2008 Ind. Seasons
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Boog Powell
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9 1962 1976 Ind. Seasons
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4 Ramon Hernandez
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8 1999 2009 Ind. Seasons
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David Ortiz
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8 1998 2011 Ind. Seasons
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Rondell White
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8 1993 2006 Ind. Seasons
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Rick Dempsey
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8 1974 1990 Ind. Seasons
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Ted Simmons
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8 1971 1987 Ind. Seasons
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Ed Kranepool
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8 1965 1977 Ind. Seasons
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Frank Howard
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8 1962 1972 Ind. Seasons
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Brooks Robinson
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8 1957 1972 Ind. Seasons
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Walker Cooper
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8 1940 1953 Ind. Seasons
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13 A.J. Pierzynski
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7 2000 2009 Ind. Season
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Paul Konerko
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7 1999 2011 Ind. Seasons
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Jose Guillen
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7 1997 2010 Ind. Seasons
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Gregg Zaun
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7 1995 2003 Ind. Seasons
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Rich Aurilia
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7 1995 2008 Ind. Seasons
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Todd Zeile
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7 1994 2003 Ind. Seasons
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Wade Boggs
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7 1982 1999 Ind. Seasons
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Jack Clark
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7 1975 1992 Ind. Seasons
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Graig Nettles
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7 1969 1987 Ind. Seasons
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Willie McCovey
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7 1960 1978 Ind. Seasons
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Dick Schofield
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7 1954 1968 Ind. Seasons
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Roy Sievers
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7 1949 1961 Ind. Season
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Sad Sam Jones
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7 1921 1933 Ind. Seasons
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Cy Young
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7 1890 1909 Ind. Seasons
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Generated 1/9/2012.

What a fascinating collection of players. Nearly all of them are notable for something, though of course none of those things are “stealing bases.”

Johnny Edwards

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had a 14-year career as a catcher, making 3 All-Star teams and winning 2 Gold Gloves. He stole 1 base 11 times, 2 bases twice, and 0 bases just once, in 1965. That year was, oddly enough, his best year (at least in terms of WAR and OPS+). He was caught 23 times, which works out to a success rate of just 39%.

Greg Maddux

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you  know about. You may have even heard about his (relative) prowess with the bat, though truth be told his only notable hitting skill was sac bunting. But did you know that Maddux is one of only two pitchers since 1950 to reach double figures
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in career stolen bases (he has 11 in all)? The other guy was a pretty good pitcher in his own right: Bob Gibson
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, who had 13 steals. Maddux stole at a much higher rate than Gibson, though. Maddux was caught just 3 times (79% success rate) while Gibson was caught 10 times (57%).

Boog Powell

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, the lovable, lumbering 1st baseman who spent his prime years in Baltimore, played 15 full seasons in the majors. He stole 1 base in 9 of them and 0 bases in 4 more. But strangely, he stole 4 bases in 1972 and 7 in 1968. And he was only caught once in those two years combined! That’s just bizarre, especially considering that his success rate was a miserable 31% in all other seasons. Overall, he stole 20 bases in his career and was caught 21 times, for a 49% rate.

Ramon Hernandez

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had 8 steals in his career, but never more than 1 in a season. He was caught 4 times (67% success rate), 3 of which were in 1997.

Rondell White

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is an interesting case. He started his career with two 1-steal seasons, then averaged 16 steals per year for five seasons from 1995 to 1999. After that, he stole 5 in 2000… and never again had multiple stolen bases in a season. It must have been the turf at Stade Olympique, wreaking havoc on White’s knees. He stole exactly 1 in every year from 2001 to 2006, which I believe is the most consecutive seasons with exactly 1 steal (Ed Kranepool
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also had 6 straight). White was successful in exactly two-thirds of his career steals (94 steals, 47 times caught). Those 94 steals are by far the most of anyone on this list.

Todd Zeile

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had the 2nd-most steals on the list, with 53. He had a high of 17 steals in 1991 and also posted 8- and 7-steal seasons. His success rate in those years was poor, though (just 53%), and in most other years he didn’t attempt many steals. Overall, he was caught 51 times, for a 51% success rate.

One of the more surprising players on the list, to me anyway, is Gregg Zaun

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. He’s mostly been a backup, and he’s downright slothy. Before this, I would’ve been surprised to hear that he had 7 steals in his career, but he actually once stole 7 in a season. It was the distant future… the year 2000. Robotic beings ruled the world, and apparently they were giving Zaun the green light. He was successful in 7 of 10 attempts. His career success rate was 55% (23 steals, 19 times caught).

I won’t run down all the players, but suffice to say, it’s a diverse group. Catchers are well represented (7 in all), but there are also 3 pitchers (Maddux, Cy Young

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, and Sad Sam Jones
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). And pretty much every other position makes the list, too. There’s no true center fielder I suppose, though Rondell White played a few seasons there. There’s no true 2nd baseman, either, though there are two shortstops (Rich Aurilia
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and Dick Schofield
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), and I’m sure either could handle second base just fine.

I always enjoy digging up arcane factoids and lists, but I have to say, this is one of my favorites. I hope you enjoyed it, too. At the least, I guarantee that this is the only list you’ll read today that has Greg Maddux and Boog Powell back-to-back.

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3 Responses to Most Seasons With Exactly 1 Stolen Base

  1. Tommy Walker
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    says:

    I’m still here– great stuff.

    Reply
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  2. Burly
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    says:

    Johnny Edwards (15 SB in 38 attempts) and Boog Powell (20 SB in 41 attempts) were a couple of lead-foots who would have been better off just keeping still. Greg Maddux, however, stole 11 out of 14 attempts in his career, thus actually benefiting his team by swiping the occasional base when the other team wasn’t paying attention to him.

    Sort of like Roger Clemens, who turned out to be a pretty good hitter (for a pitcher) when he played for the Astros after twenty seasons in the AL where he didn’t hit at all, Maddux was just a good baseball player, pure and simple.

    Reply
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  3. Ken Schmidt says:

    Just discovered your site, love stuff like this! Johnny Edwards stolen base pattern is just amazing.

    Reply
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