Bayou-Picayune Podcast, S02 EP18: The Inventor of the Stolen Base
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Did you know the stolen base originated because someone questioned authority?
It’s true, and that leads to a second, deeper and more important revelation: Our social and cultural mechanisms, while promoting conformity and praising mediocrity, try their damnedest to stamp out creativity and innovation.
Let’s examine what I mean.
In 1856, a runner on first base (probably me in a previous life) ran to second base while the pitcher on the mound just stood there and looked at him.
The pitcher then appealed to the umpire to send the runner back to first.
But, when the umpire instructed the runner to do so, the runner refused, asking the umpire to show him where in the rule book it said he couldn’t simply “steal” the base.
The umpires called time, brought out a rule book, congregated and discussed the matter. Finally, the head umpire said there was nothing in the rule book either way on the subject.
So, the runner, David Pierson, said, “In that case, I’ll just stay here. Thank you very much!”
And that was how the stolen base became an integral part of the game.
I may be wrong about the name of the runner because I made up that fact, but the rest of the story is true.
Major League Baseball claims Ned Cuthbert was the first player to steal a base, but that was in 1865, almost ten years after David Pierson.
Whether it was, in fact, David Pierson or someone else, that player-genius has remained nameless and unacknowledged.
By contrast, let’s now take a look at three players who are enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York — Ty Cobb, Lou Brock and Rickey Henderson.
Cobb stole 897 bases during his long career and scored 2,246 times. Brock stole 938 bases and scored 1,610 times. And Henderson holds the major league record in both categories, having stolen 1,406 bases and having scored 2,295 runs.
All three players were expert practitioners of the art of stealing a base. They ran around the bases thousands of times and, as a result, are immortalized in Cooperstown, each with a plaque which details his exploits.
That’s what our society, our culture does. It rewards and honors the Rickey Hendersons, the conformists, who merely go around and around the bases.
But ask yourself this: Why isn’t there a Hall of Fame plaque for the player-genius who invented the stolen base?
Where is the Hall of Fame plaque for David Pierson?