While Rays fans are used to seeing center fielder B.J. Upton and left fielder Desmond Jennings display their quick feet while chasing down balls in the outfield or stealing bases, fans remember the rapid speed Jennings’ predecessor, Carl Crawford, had on the base paths as well. On Sunday, May 3, 2009, Crawford went down in the history books as he stole six bases during the Rays 5-3 win over the Boston Red Sox.
The game began with trusty right-hander James Shields taking the mound for Tampa Bay against the Red Sox, who gave Shields an eventful first inning. With the bases loaded, Shields gave up a single to Boston’s J.D. Drew, allowing Dustin Pedroia to score. However, Shields was able to escape the inning by striking out the next batter, Jason Bay. Carl Crawford began his legendary day in the bottom of the first inning by drawing a walk from Boston’s Brad Penny. With Evan Longoria at bat, Crawford stole second base but soon advanced to third base off of a throwing error to second base. Crawford went on to score off Carlos Pena’s double.
In the bottom of the third inning, Crawford dazzled again as he singled to shortstop and then stole second base as Carlos Pena was at bat. The fourth inning was painless for Shields as he struck out Drew and Bay, inspiring Tampa Bay’s offense to stay productive. Ben Zobrist led off the bottom of the inning by drawing a walk from Penny, eventually scoring off of Jason Bartlett’s single. Akinori Iwamura scored in the next play, followed by Michel Hernandez stealing second base.
However, Crawford stole the spotlight in the fifth inning while stealing second base with Evan Longoria at bat then stealing third base as Pat Burrell stood at the plate. James Shields stayed strong on the mound during the next two innings, even striking out Boston’s Kevin Youkilis and Jason Veritek.
Boston’s pitching was cracking under the pressure as Manny Delcarmen replaced Brad Penny in the seventh inning. Crawford continued his base-stealing quest when he stole second base, followed by a single hit by Longoria. Delcarmen loaded the bases when he hit Pena with a pitch, only to hit Burrell with a pitch in the following play, allowing Crawford to score. Hunter Jones relieved Delcarmen and stopped further damage from ensuing by striking out Ben Zobrist.
The eighth inning witnessed more action on the base paths as Dustin Pedroia stole second base with David Ortiz at bat. With Pedroia on base, Tampa Bay reliever J.P. Howell gave up a two run homerun to Youkilis, followed by Drew’s single.
Crawford’s performance in the bottom of the eighth inning led him to tie a major league record as he stole second base, making it his sixth steal of the game. Prior to Crawford’s steal, Barlett stole third base and would score a run off of Crawford’s single.
During the game, Crawford had no idea that he was racking up steals to tie the record. Even when fans cheered as the Rays posted a message on the scoreboard after his sixth steal, Crawford missed the scoreboard’s message and thought the fans were just excited about the play. The St. Petersburg Times reported that Crawford did not find out about tying the record until his television interview after the game with reporter Todd Kalas.
“I wish I had known during the game,” Crawford told the Times. “I probably would have broken it. At least I would have tried.”
Three other players have stolen six bases in a single game: Otis Nixon in 1991, Eric Young in 1996, and Eddie Collins, who accomplished the feat twice in the 1912 season. The record for most bases stolen in a single game is seven, held by George Gore of the Chicago White Stockings in 1881 and Billy Hamilton of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1894.
Crawford stole sixty bases in 2009, which is the most he has stolen in a single season during his career. But, fans got to witness Crawford at his one of his finest hours as he stole six bases in a single afternoon under the lights of Tropicana Field.