6 starter questions about stealing home plate

Jackie Robinson Steals Home

For those who aren’t baseball obsessives, stealing home plate is a mysterious quirk of the sport. For that reason, we’re answering six basic questions about the most magical way to reach home.

The basics

Q: What is stealing home plate?

The same way a runner can steal second or third, they can steal home and earn a point for their team. It’s rare (especially today), but it’s not against the rules.

Q: Who’s to blame?

It depends. Usually, people blame the pitcher for having a slow wind-up, but sometimes a slow catcher’s throw can give the runner enough time to hit home.

The batter can also play a role. A batter whose stance blocks third is likely to help mask the runner from the catcher.

Finally, the runner obviously needs to be hyperaware and fast on their feet to steal.

The records

Q: Who’s stolen home the most?

Ty Cobb holds the record with 54 steals of home plate. The famously ferocious player beat Max Carey by a full 21 steals.

Q: Who’s stolen home the most in a season?

Cobb holds that record as well (with eight), besting Pete Reiser’s seven steals.

Q: What about Jackie Robinson?

Robinson is famous for stealing home, especially against Yogi Berra and the Yankees.

Though his 19 steals are impressive, he doesn’t hold the record.

The culture

Q: Has stealing home changed?

Yes. It’s less common.

This 1989 New York Times article provides a diagnosis of why. Wind-ups are shorter, it’s a risky play, and players are more aware of the threat.

That said, there are still a few spectacular steals to watch for.

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