This article was written by Ray Gonzalez
This article was published in the 1978 Baseball Research Journal
The recent disclosure that Lou Brock had never stolen home in his 900 successful thefts came as quite a surprise. Modern players are still stealing home — Rod Carew has done it more than a dozen times in his career — but Brock, the greatest base stealer of this century, has never done it.
Get ready for another surprise — about another Lou. Did you know that Lou Gehrig, the 210-pound slugger of the Yankees, stole home 15 times in his career? This ranks him pretty high on the all-time list, not far behind players like Ty Cobb, George J. Burns, Johnny Evers, Eddie Collins, Frankie Frisch, and Jackie Robinson, and ahead of Hans Wagner and Max Carey. But what is old “Piano-Legs” doing among those gazelles of by-gone eras?
Gehrig was not a graceful runner, but he was not slow. In addition, he was a real team player, and an aggressive one, who several times stole in extra innings. He stole 102 bases in his career, not bad for the 1925-38 hitters’ era when he was a star. Twenty-three of his 102 steals were double steals with another member of the Yankees, and he was on the front end of most of those.
The double steal is not employed much any more, but was used a fair amount before World War II. The Yankees, and particularly their sturdy first baseman and captain, used it most effectively. But this strategy never really received much notice. The focus was on Babe Ruth, the home run, and Murderer’s Row. But in the midst of all the thundering bats the Bronx Bombers were also stealing some bases, occasionally two at a time.
The Yankees were an excellent all-around ball club in the 1920s and l930s, but there was so much emphasis in the press on hitting, that you had to almost read between the lines to get a more balanced view. Even when Ben Chapman stole 61 bases for the New Yorkers in 1931, Ruth and Gehrig were hitting 46 homers apiece and Lou was knocking in 184 runs. He also stole 17 bases that season, a career high for him. Three came in the April 27 game against Washington, during which contest Gehrig and Chapman engineered a successful twin theft from second and third base. Typically the double steal is initiated with runners on first and third.
Gehrig stole his initial sack as a rookie on June 24, 1925. It was a steal of home, and the record books don’t indicate whether any other player ever did this on his first theft. It was a double steal with catcher Wally Schang going down to second. On July 4, 1925, he stole his second base and it was of second base as Bob Meusel stole home. It was a double embarrassment for Philadelphia catcher Mickey Cochrane, who was the backstop during eight of Lou’s career thefts.
Lou’s favorite double steal partners were Ben Chapman and Tony Lazzeri. Chapman and Gehrig, alternating positions, worked it successfully five times. He did it four times with Lazzeri, with the Iron Horse serving as the “lead horse” each time. But Gehrig had more famous partners. In 1926 he stole home twice and Babe Ruth was his burglary mate on both occasions. This was a year before they became known as the “home run twins.” A decade later, Lou teamed up with Joe DiMaggio in two successful double steals. This was somewhat unusual for DiMag as it wasn’t long after when Yankee management decided he should not take the chance of injuring his legs stealing.
As a result, the elder DiMaggio, who was a very good base runner, ended his career with a meager 30 thefts. In contrast, Gehrig kept pushing to the end. His last two steals came in the same game, on September 7, 1938, against the Red Sox. Twice he walked and twice he swiped second. He really could be resourceful without using his big bat.
Carried below are his 15 steals of home and his eight other double steals.
Gehrig Steals of Home
- June 24, 1925 vs Wash. in 7th: double steal with Wally Schang
- Apr. 13, 1926 vs Bos. in 1st: double steal with Babe Ruth
- July 24, 1926 vs Chi. in 3rd: double steal with Babe Ruth
- June11, 1927 vs Clev. in 5th: double steal with Tony Lazzeri
- June 29, 1927 vs Bos. in 8th: double steal with Bob Meusel
- July 30, 1927(1) vs Clev. in 3rd: double steal with Bob Meusel
- July 19, 1929 (1) vs Clev. in 2nd: double steal with Cedric Durst
- June 7, 1930 vs St. L. in 6th: double steal with Bill Dickey
- Apr. 15, 1931 vs Bos. in 8th: double steal with Tony Lazzeri
- July 28, 1931 vs Chi. in 5th: double steal with Ben Chapman
- Apr. 12, 1932 vs Phil. in 9th: double steal with Ben Chapman
- June 20, 1933 vs Chi. in 6th: double steal with Tony Lazzeri
- June 28, 1933 vs Det. in 9th: double steal with Ben Chapman
- June 2, 1934 vs Phil. in 1st: double steal with Jack Saltzgaver
- May 15, 1935 vs Det. in 7th: double steal with Tony Lazzeri
Other Gehrig Double Steals
- July 4, 1925(2) vs Phil. in 1st-Gehrig to second, Bob Meusel home
- Sep. 9, 1926 vs Bos. in 4th-Gehrig to second, Earle Combs home
- Sep. 13, 1930 (2) vs Det. in 1st-Gehrig to second, Earle Combs home
- Apr. 27, 1931 vs Wash. in 5th-Gehrig to third, Ben Chapman home
- July 23, 1933(2) vs Clev. in 5th-Ben Chapman to second, Gehrig third
- Aug. 31, 1933 vs Bos. in 1st-Gehrig to second, Dixie Walker home
- July 18, 1936 (2) vs St.L. in 3rd-Gehrig to second, Joe DiMaggio home
- July 18, 1937 vs Clev. in 3rd-Gehrig to second, Joe DiMaggio third