delayed steal

A stolen base on which the runner advances to the next base after the pitch; e.g., when the catcher throws the ball back to the pitcher.

Rajai Davis executing a delayed steal
Rajai Davis executing a delayed steal

The success of the maneuver hinges on the extent to which the element of surprise has caught a fielder unaware or out of proper defensive position, as, e.g., when the second baseman and shortstop are playing well back and neither makes a break to cover second base. Lee Allen (The Hot Stove League, 1955, p.115) noted that the maneuver was “apparently first employed by Miller Huggins . . . in 1903.” John J. Evers and Hugh S. Fullerton (Touching Second: The Science of Baseball, 1910; Peter Morris): “Frank Chance, in 1906, commenced to work the ‘delayed steal’ persistently and was proclaimed the discoverer of the play. Yet [Mike] Kelly, [Billy] Hamilton, [Bill] Lange, [Tip] O’Neill, [Charles] Comiskey, [Hugh] Duffy and many others used the play, and ‘Sadie’ Houck stole in that way with much success.” 1st use. 1906. H.G. Merrill (The Sporting News, Dec. 22, 1906; Peter Morris) wrote that Kid Elberfeld was “said to have developed the ‘delayed steal’ last year” but claimed that a minor leaguer named Bill O’Hara had employed the play regularly in 1905.

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