clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Phillies' long and epic history of opposing players stealing home

New, 4 comments

You are not special, Eric Campbell. But you knew that.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

/wanking motion
/wanking motion
Jim McIsaac

As you watched Eric Campbell of the Mets steal home last night, your reaction was undoubtedly a dismissive wave of the hand and an unimpressed sputtering of, "Please, it's been done!"

And it has.

If anything, Eric Campbell's was the least thrilling of all the stealings of home in the Phillies' history. Way to go, Eric Campbell. You've impressed exactly no one with your obnoxious shenanigans.

According to these unwritten baseball rules I have here, the correct response to an opposing player stealing home is to "trap he of the offense in the silo of the closest saw mill, and chant haunting hymns until first light." We'll spare you that, however, and instead point out all of the better home thievery that came before you.

CHICO RUIZ, 1964

"Chico Ruiz steals home with Frank Robinson at bat... dumb, dumb baseball play. But as it turns out, the 
catalyst..."

--Stan Hochman, Philadelphia Daily News

When a Philadelphian starts bitching louder and louder in a bar as whatever team is in season loses on the television behind them, everyone loves it.

"Oh, look at that classic Philadelphian!" they cry, elbowing and nodding to each other. "Let's buy him a meat and cheese cylinder so he'll regale us with tortured sports tales!"

Chico Ruiz stealing home is the point from which all that wonderful, misguided, at times hateful curmudgeonry flows.

Everyone knows the story; with a 6.5 game lead in their division, the Phillies had 12 games to go. They were playing the Reds in an innocuous game that no one knew would be their grim end.

With the score tied at zero in the sixth inning, and two strikes on Frank Robinson, dark spirits who hate Philadelphia took control of Ruiz's legs and he ran, screaming in terror and not understanding what was happening to him, toward home. No one understood why it happened, least of all Ruiz, but he wound up safe as Phillies pitcher Art Mahaffey threw a terrible pitch that catcher Clay Dalrymple hated.

"[That play] broke our humps," said Dick Allen, a rookie at the time.

But everything worked out in the end as the Phillies would go on to lose not only that game, but their next ten, watch their 6.5 game division lead disappear, and finish tied for second place like a bunch of pathetic losers for people to bitch about over the next several decades.

Please, now, enjoy an excerpt from the book "64 Intruder" by Gregory Gladling, a work of alternate history fiction that takes place in a world where Ruiz was called out at the plate.

"Tit-saurus," Dennis said.

The handful of patrons at the tavern laughed.

"Tit-saurus! Ha ha ha! Good one!"

BRYCE HARPER, 2012

Bryce Harper was new to baseball in 2012. "New" in the sense that he had not been a Major League Baseball player until now, but not "new" as in, no one had ever heard of him. In fact, sports media had all but crowned him the new King of the Game, Who Harkens Back to Those Tough-Nosed Mickey Mantle-Types, But Also he has a Bad Attitude and Needs to Learn How to Play the Game the Right Way.

Clearly, Harper scared and confused reporters, who seemed to want to slap him on the back and call him "son" as much as they wanted to yell at him and tell him he couldn't use the car this weekend.

Cole Hamels entered the narrative during this early season match-up, which Washington considered a big one, as they assumed it was the statement series they needed to prove the NL East was now their division. "You can have it," the Phillies said.

Harper stepped into the batter's box at Nationals Park; a brash, flamboyant move that sent Hamels over the edge. The Phillies ace sent a pitch directly into Harper's spine; a move that became difficult to claim was an accident when he later informed the press that he'd done it on purpose.

Before that, though, Harper had his vengeance as he moved from first to third, then used Hamels' loopy pick-off move to his advantage and stole home as the lefty threw to first.

The Phillies would lose two out of three to the Nats in this series, though the one loss hinged on a missed call at third base, where there was no umpire because he'd gotten sick and left. The Nationals still called it a "statement series," however, because they need those sort of labels to feel good about themselves.

JACKIE ROBINSON, 1950

[Stuff Nobody Cares About]

All catcher Andy Seminick could do was sit there in horror and wait for the ball to arrive from the hand of his pitcher, Russ Meyer. All the while, Robinson was bearing down on him, about to cut the Phillies' lead in half.

He was safe, of course, despite five Phillies clogging the base path in an attempt to stop him. But unlike Ruiz's steal, Robinson's didn't lead to a victory for the Dodgers, or a furious downward spiral for the Phillies. This was game one of a double-header on July 2, and the second game would end in an 8-8 tie, which is an even more offensive concept than letting a guy steal home.

CURT SIMMONS, 1963

The Phillies got to play the villain role in another story about the Cardinals being wonderful. The poor, innocent Redbirds had been victimized by the league, having been sent on a grueling road trip out west before flying 3,000 miles from San Francisco to play the Phillies for three games.

Having dropped six of nine during a pennant race with the Dodgers, the Cardinals were bummed, but fortunately, playing the Phillies was exactly the punch in the arm they needed to turn things around. Unfortunately, the Phillies were not able to punch the Cardinals in any other areas.

Curt Simmons was on the mound for St. Louis that day, facing his former team of 13 seasons (except for the one in which he left baseball to go fight in the Korean War). Simmons had been a part of the Whiz Kids' of the 1950 Phillies. Now, those days were behind him, as the young man had transformed into [EDITOR'S NOTE: Author's skewed conjecture follows] a shadow of a man, consumed with menace and feeling spurned by humanity. The Phillies were just another group who'd given up on him, and he would have his revenge.

Simmons - the pitcher, remember - opened the scoring with an RBI triple in the second, his eyes [EDITOR'S NOTE: Again...] spinning wildly and rolling back in his head as he babbled nonsense words at disturbed Phillies third baseman Don Hoak.

Using the body of the batter, Cardinals second baseman Julian Javier, as a shield, Simmons obscured himself long enough down the base path to hide his intentions, and made it 2-0 on a straight steal of home, receiving much congratulations from the demonic voices in his head.

CORKY MILLER, 2001

"I saw him coming and said, ‘Oh, no.'"

--Phillies catcher Johnny Estrada, via the Associated Press

Maybe the only thing more humiliating than letting a possibly deranged pitched steal home is letting a catcher do it. Catchers, with their rotting knee marrow and rusted joints, are typically laughed at hysterically when it comes to base running.

Corky Miller was a charming catcher with an illustrious mustache, immediately endearing himself to fans, despite low numbers. In fact, since his debut in 2001, he never played more than 39 games on the Major League level in a single season. But that hasn't stopped 2,000 people from owning a mosaic of his face.

As former Phillies catcher Johnny Estrada learned one day in 2001, when the Phillies were trying to beat the Reds to take the lead in the NL East from the Braves, sometimes, stupid bullshit happens.

Omar Daal took the mound for the Phillies, a sure sign that what is about to follow is a nightmare. Today, it was reality, and in the fifth inning, the Reds led off with two singles, one from Todd Walker, and the other from Miller. They were sacrificed over a base, and Walker crossed the plate on an RBI single from Wilton Guerrero, putting Miller on third with danger in his heart.

Estrada reached down and signaled for Daal to throw to first. Guerrero would steal five bases in 2001. This would not be one. Instead of catching Guerrero bolting for second, Estrada saw in his peripheral that Miller was breaking for home, the second Daal's foot left the ground.

It was Miller's first and only stolen base of the year. 13 years later, it remains the only stolen base of his career.