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The time Joe Magrane stole home against the Dodgers

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Joe Magrane
Joe Magrane never stole a base in his career. Technically.

Thirty years ago the Dodgers were coming off a second straight 73-89 season, the first time in nearly two decades the franchise suffered through consecutive losing seasons. While researching a separate topic, I came across a Peter Gammons article in Sports Illustrated from August 1987 about how the once proud Dodgers lost their way, with this tidbit:

In a July 6 rainout, Cardinal pitcher Joe Magrane stole home while the infield tried to run down Jim Lindeman between first and second. The reason? St. Louis players were told to run home any time Steve Sax gets the ball because of his hesitancy to throw. Sure enough, Sax held the ball as the 6'6" Magrane lumbered toward the plate.

I’m a sucker for pitchers stealing bases, so this caught my eye. But stealing home? This is special.

Since this washed away steal by Magrane, 16 times a pitcher has stolen a base against the Dodgers, but never has the steal been of home plate. In fact, no pitcher dating back to at least 1930 has stolen home against the Dodgers.

Technically Magrane didn’t either, because the game was rained out, with the Dodgers trailing the Cardinals 3-2 in the bottom of the fourth inning. Magrane singled in the third inning and was on third base when current Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, the Dodgers’ starting pitcher, picked Ozzie Smith off first base. Sam McManis of the Los Angeles Times described the ensuing rundown:

Jeff Hamilton, playing first base because of an injury to Pedro Guerrero and Lasorda's preference of using a right-handed-hitting lineup against a left-hander, began the rundown by throwing to shortstop Dave Anderson at second.

Anderson chased Smith back toward first and threw to Hamilton. Hamilton ran after Smith toward second and threw to second baseman Steve Sax.

At that point, Magrane seemingly saw that the Dodgers were preoccupied with Smith, so he broke from third. Sax turned and cocked, but he froze. He did not throw to home plate, and he did not throw to first,either. Magrane had scored the go-ahead run, and Smith was safe.

"I bobbled the ball before I threw it, and that's why I didn't throw it," Sax said. "I don't know if I would have gotten (Magrane). It would have been close."

Magrane never stole a(nother) base in his career, and had a good sense of humor about getting robbed of history.

“It worked perfectly,” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I would have been nine short of Rod Carew.”

Note: Carew stole home a career-best seven times in 1969, and 17 times in his career.

“You know when you get your first hit, you want the ball?” Magrane continued. “When you steal your first base, you want the base, but with the rains coming I didn’t want to delay the game for 20 minutes while they uprooted home plate.”

But that wasn’t the only surprising theft in this forgotten game.

Dodgers catcher Mike Scioscia also had a steal washed away by the rain. The slow-footed catcher already had four steals halfway through the 1987 season, which would have been his career high had he not stolen any more. He ended his career with 29 stolen bases in 53 attempts in his 13 major league seasons.

“If I lose the stolen base crown by one, I’m going to remember this night,” Scioscia quipped to reporters.

Scioscia would end 1987 with seven steals, his best baserunning season. He finished a mere 102 stolen bases behind Cardinals outfielder and future firecracker enthusiast Vince Coleman.

The Dodgers and Cardinals would make up this game with a doubleheader two days later, one day after another doubleheader to make up for an earlier rainout in May. St. Louis won all four games, including two 10th-inning walk-off victories. Like I said, this was a bad Dodgers team.

Another loss from the rainout was Jack Clark, who hit what would have been his 25th home run of the season but instead had to settle for sitting on 24. Still, this was just the 79th game of the season for St. Louis, putting him on pace for roughly 50 home runs.

"Boy, was he (ticked) off, or what?" Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda said of Clark, per the LA Times.

Clark, who would end his 1987 season with a career-high 35 home runs, tormented the Dodgers two seasons earlier, hitting a three-run home run in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 NLCS at Dodger Stadium, sending the Cardinals to the World Series. The long-debated issue at the time was whether Lasorda would intentionally walk “that so and so” Clark to instead pitch to Andy Van Slyke.

In 1987, the Dodgers walked Clark 16 times in 12 games — once intentionally — though he still dominated, hitting .395/.564/.842 with four home runs, five doubles and 17 RBI.

But Clark didn’t get that fifth home run, instead washed away with those rare stolen bases to history.