There is a general rule in baseball: you can have power or you can have speed. Many players can hit 30 home runs or steal 30 bases but very few break the rule and do both.
Lou Brock had the speed—he was the first to break Billy Hamilton’s stolen base record—but never had the power. Sammy Sosa hit 609 home runs but averaged just 13 steals a season.
Here is a list of 15 of the greatest players blessed with the rare combination of power and speed. With the exception of the top few, the players included were either home run hitters who were also pretty fast or speed guys who could swing for the fences.
Also mentioned are players who retired before 1920, so one does not know for sure how their power would translate to the current era.
Ty Cobb made it into double figures in home runs just twice in his career, so it might appear to be a strange choice for this list. Bear in mind, however, that he played 70 percent of his career in the dead ball era, a time in baseball history when home runs were so scarce, Cobb’s 1909 total of nine long balls was good enough to lead the Major Leagues.
For his time, then, his power was pretty good. Couple that with the fact that between 1907 and 1921, he averaged just shy of 60 stolen bases, leading the league in swipes six times and in triples four times. He posted the highest slugging percentage for six consecutive seasons and eight times in a span of 11 years.
Davis will not make the Hall of Fame. He hit 30 homers twice and batted .300 just once. Despite that, by the time he retired, he had put together 282 long balls and 349 steals.
In the first decade of his career, Dawson averaged 30 steals and 24 home runs a season. Whilst his speed fell away in later years (he reached double figures in SB just once in his last eight seasons), his home run totals increased, up to a 49-homer tally in his MVP 1987 season.
Of all the players who hit more home runs than Dawson (438), only Barry Bonds and Willie Mays stole more bases.
Wagner retired in 1917, and so, he never got to experience the live ball era. That is a shame, because he managed to compile over 100 home runs. Wagner led the league in triples four times and is 10th all time in stolen bases with 723.
This is not as strange an inclusion as it seems. In the 1960s, Aaron stole at least 15 bases every year bar one and averaged 25, ranking seventh amongst all Major Leaguers for the entire decade. He joined the 30/30 club (30 HR, 30 SB in the same season) in 1963.
And we all know about his power. In the eyes of a great many baseball fans, Henry Aaron’s 755 home runs is still the true all-time record.
Crawford is in much the same situation as Cobb and Wagner—we do not know how he would fare in the modern game. Crawford played his entire career in the dead ball era, so there is no way of knowing how his 97 career home runs would translate post-1920. He did lead the league in 1901 with a staggering 16, however.
As for speed, there is no question. Crawford retired in 1917, but his 309 triples is still a MLB record. He also stole 367 bases.
In 2006, Soriano became only the fourth person in MLB history to reach 40 HR and 40 SB in a single season. The 30/30 club is much less exclusive, but Soriano has not only posted four 30/30 seasons, he is just four stolen bases short of averaging that for his career thus far.
He will be only 35 next season, so we will have to wait and see where he ranks by the time he retires. Already, however, he has made a reputation for himself as one of the most consistent power/speed guys in the league.
Joe Morgan had such a wonderful career it is a shame that he is now best known for being one of the worst commentators on TV or radio.
He never led the league in home runs or stolen bases and led MLB in triples just once, but he consistently put up the numbers, finishing his career with 268 HR and 689 stolen bases, good for 11th all time.
Mantle was one of the fastest men ever to play the game. A 1952 timing reportedly clocked him at 3.1 seconds from batter’s box to first base. However, he never really had the stats to prove it. He stole 153 bases and hit 72 triples in his 18-year career. He hit 536 home runs, peaking with 52 in 1956, when he won his first of three MVPs.
Abreu has been the model of consistency and durability in the last decade. He has played at least 150 games every year other than his rookie 1997 season and has had at least 20 stolen bases all but one of those years. He has also hit 20 home runs in nine of the last 13 seasons.
He never had his son’s power, but Bobby Bonds did have his speed, stealing 461 bases in a relatively short 14-year career. He hit 30 homers six times and retired with 332 under his belt.
Between them, Barry Bonds and his father tallied over 1,000 home runs and 970 stolen bases and neither will make the Hall of Fame. Bonds might be the most-hated player of recent times. Almost everyone suspects he used steroids. That is criminal enough by itself, but he used them to break baseball’s most sacred record. That is sacrilege.
The sad part is Bonds never needed PEDs to be a great player. In his first seven seasons, in which time he never hit more than 34 home runs, he stole over 250 bases. He continued to post SB totals in the 20s and 30s until the turn of the century, but he never stopped hitting home runs.
Obviously, A-Rod is still active, (and will be for another seven years, if he plays out his contract) so it is difficult to project where he will end up in the pantheon of the game’s elite. Still, we already know that he will go down as one of the greats, even though he cheated, and many will not talk about him as a great player because of it.
His home run-hitting prowess is well-known—Rodriguez is sixth on the all-time list with 613—but his speed is often overlooked. Thus far, he has stolen 301 bases, although 2010 saw him swipe just four bags—his lowest total in any full season. With 42 home runs and 46 steals in 1998, he became just the third member of the 40/40 club.
There might never be another player like Rickey Henderson. In his career, which lasted a quarter of a century, Henderson racked up 1,406 stolen bases. That is almost 500 more than anyone else and almost 1,000 more than any active player.
But he was far from a one-dimensional player. Henderson hit 297 home runs and holds the record for most leadoff dingers in history, with 81.
Is Willie Mays the greatest player ever to play the game of baseball? Quite possibly. You all will know about his stats and achievements already, but here is a quick summation:
After returning to the game in 1954 after serving in the military, Mays hit at least 20 home runs for 15 consecutive seasons. He led the league in the category four times, in triples three times and in stolen bases for four straight years. He made all 24 All-Star Games after 1954 and won 12 Gold Glove and two MVP awards. You can argue about who is the best player of all time, but the debate will always centre on Mays.