Throughout the century and change of MLB’s live-ball era (1920-2020), its 30 teams have combined to play 2,252 individual seasons. In terms of stolen base proficiency, it’s pretty much the 1976 A’s in a tier of their own, with the other 2,251 a significant step below them.
Led by center fielder Bill North’s 75 stolen bases, they had six guys who stole at least 30 bases. Barely anyone else has ever had more than three such players:
Collectively, those A’s swiped 341 bags when no one but the ’85 Cardinals has ever topped 262:
They stole at least six bases in quite a few games. The rest of MLB that season? Not so much:
But one team in particular, way more than any other team, was the subject of their wrath. And the identity of that team — the Minnesota Twins — does not make a whole helluva lot of sense.
Across 18 A’s-Twins games, Oakland thrice stole at least seven bases. That was half of the entire MLB total:
The Minnesota Twins employed three catchers 1976: Butch Wynegar, Glenn Borgmann, and Phil Roof, and each of the three had one of those games done on their watch. In two of the three, the A’s reached nine stolen bases against ’em, which:
In one of those games, they stole twelve (12) bases. No one else in the live-ball era has ever stolen 11 bases in a game, and only twice (a 2000 Marlins game and a 1996 Rockies game) has a team stolen 10.
Here you can see how the merciless basepath bullying the A’s inflicted on the Twins compares to everyone else:
They attempted 67 stolen bases against Minnesota when there were only two other teams against whom they attempted more than 43. And they married that volume with dazzling efficiency: a success rate exceeding 85 percent when they barely topped out at 75% against anyone else. That amounts to a whopping 57 stolen bases while being caught just 10 times:
Most teams fared far worse than average against the Twins! Minnesota’s 10 non-Oakland American League brethren were collectively successful on just 58.5 percent of their stolen base attempts when trying to run on the Twins — a rate that, from Minnesota’s perspective, would stand as literally the very best in the league.
If the Twins were gonna allow 57 stolen bases to a squad while only throwing ’em out 10 times, you’d think the rest of the league’s teams would’ve done a little better than this:
And in case you were wondering how 57 stolen bases by one team against another team in a single season stacks up, well, wonder no more. Not only is that the most in the live-ball era, but the 50 barrier has only been reached one other time:
57 stolen bases against a single team in a single season is pretty outrageous in a vacuum, as illustrated by the fact almost no one else in the live-ball era has ever even come close to that number; and yet here it occurred against the team that was otherwise as good at throwing out potential base-stealers as any team in the league, the team that might very well be the very last team in the league you’d suspect would’ve been the one victimized.