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Leader: Rickey Henderson, 335
With the possible exception of Sam Crawford’s triples total, Rickey Henderson’s 1,406 stolen bases is the most untouchable career counting stat on the books. Lou Brock, whose record Rickey broke in 1991, is in second place with a mere 938 steals, while the nearest active player (Juan Pierre, with 563) might not be able to play long enough to get even halfway there.
Just as safe, however, is Rickey’s career record for times caught stealing. Although Henderson leads Brock by only 28 in this category and stolen base numbers have remained surprisingly consistent over the past 30 years (at least in the American League), the modern game is producing historical highs in stolen base success rate—meaning that fewer runners are getting caught stealing than ever before.
Case in point: Lou Brock was successful on about 75.3 percent of his stolen base attempts and widely regarded as the best base-stealer of his generation. On the other hand, Juan Pierre’s 74.5 percent success rate makes him a surprisingly average base stealer, and he is the active leader with 192 times getting caught. Only five other players are even over 100, and all of them are close to the end of their respective careers.
By no means did this make Rickey a bad base-stealer; on the contrary, Rickey’s 80.7 percent success rate is behind only Joe Morgan and Barry Larkin among Hall of Fame inductees. But much like Cy Young’s loss record, Henderson managed to set this one simply because he had so many opportunities to do so. It’s tough to see another player getting as many opportunities ever again.