18 April 1888 – On this day 125 years ago, former Boston Red Sox outfielder Duffy Lewis is born in San Francisco, CA. Lewis was the starting left fielder for three world championships with Boston (1912, 1915, and 1916) and played as part of the team’s “Million Dollar Outfield” for six seasons with Tris Speaker in center field and Harry Hooper in right field beginning in 1910.
16 April 1909 – On this day one hundred years ago, future Hall-of-Fame outfielder Harry Hooper makes his major league debut for Boston in a 3-2 loss to the Senators in Washington. A graduate of St. Mary’s College in Oakland, CA with a degree in civil engineering, Hooper was lured to the Red Sox by owner John Taylor who, in addition to a generous salary, promised the youngster the opportunity to work on the design for a new ballpark he was planning for his club. Hooper never did contribute to the construction of Fenway Park, opened three years later, but his contributions as a player for 12 seasons with the Red Sox made him legendary.
Among his career accomplishments, which included being the only player to compete on all four Red Sox World Series teams between 1912 and 1918, he still stands today as the club leader in stolen bases with 300, 33 more than teammate and fellow flycatcher Tris Speaker, and triples with 130, 24 more than Speaker. He also remains in the top ten for games played (1647), at-bats (6270), plate appearances (7330), runs scored (988), hits (1707), total bases (2303), base on balls (826), singles (1301), times on base (2587), hit by pitch (54), and sacrifice hits (180). Despite hitting only 30 home runs in his time with Boston and 75 total in his career, he was also the first player to lead off both ends of a doubleheader with home runs, a feat matched only by Rickey Henderson 80 years later.
Hooper was also a top-notch defensive player, spending most of his career playing right field, and joined Speaker (center field) and Duffy Lewis (left field) in creating Boston’s “Million Dollar Outfield,” also known as the “Golden Outfield,” between 1910 and 1915. Besides being part of the greatest defensive outfields in the game’s history, all three were integral for Boston’s championship teams in 1912 and 1915. In the first series, Hooper batted .290 with two doubles and a triple, while Speaker batted .300 with a double and two triples while Lewis batted just .188 but hit three doubles and scored four runs. The second and final time they played (Speaker would be sent Cleveland following the season over a contract dispute), Hooper batted .350 with two home runs, while Lewis batted an astonishing .444 with a double, a home run, and five RBI and Speaker hit .294 with two runs scored. Hooper would finish his career with five solid years in Chicago, batting .302 with 45 home runs and another 75 stolen bases for the White Sox, and later joined Speaker in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971 upon election by the Veterans Committee.
Caught stealing on a pitch-out in the fourth inning of Sunday’s 11-7 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, Boston Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury’s streak of stolen bases to begin his career was stopped at 25, two shy of the major league of 27 set by Tim Raines in 1979. Through Sunday, the rookie flycatcher has 16 steals in 40 games this season; counting the nine he stole in 33 games played last season, his 25 is still the most by a first-year Boston player since “Leaping” Mike Menosky in 1920. Ellsbury still has a ways to go beat the franchise single-season record of 54 stolen bases set by outfielder Tommy Harper in 1973, who was also caught in 14 further attempts; at present, factoring in the number of games played versus the number of games played by the Sox, he is on pace to steal 56, which would be just enough to move him into the number one spot in club history.
If Ellsbury eventually wants to claim the franchise record for career stolen bases, it may take him a few more years. Former outfielder Harry Hooper, the only starter to play on all four World Series championship teams between 1912 and 1918, stole 300 in his 12 seasons in a Red Sox uniform, putting him first place all-time with the club. Hooper’s teammate for two of those championships, Tris Speaker, sits in second place with 267 over nine seasons, and another former Boston outfielder, Carl Yastrzemski, stole 168 over 23 seasons. Only 12 former players have managed 100 or more steals with the traditionally slow-footed club and most of the top base-stealers set their marks prior to World War II; since that time, Boston has relied more on the strength of its bats rather than its speed on the base paths.