Now that we have our feet firmly planted in 2014, let's take a look back at a game from 1914 with implications 100 years later. The 2013 Tigers had their feet planted firmly on the bases, counting on gap hits and home runs to advance base runners. But the 2014 Tigers with Rajai Davis, Jose Iglesias and Ian Kinsler are expected to be more active on the bases. This of course comes with risks.
On Aug. 3, 1914, the Tigers hosted the Yankees at Navin Field. In the first inning, Donie Bush led off with a single and attempted a steal of second base. New York's catcher Les Nunamaker gunned him down. George Moriarty singled next, and also tried to steal. Nunamaker threw him out. Finally, Hugh High reached first. He must have figured that the odds were against a catcher throwing out three runners in one inning. Or maybe he thought he could show his teammates the right way to steal a base. So Hugh took off for second. Nunamaker took advantage of High's gamble and recorded his third caught stealing of the inning.
At least that how it went down according to "Play Ball - Great Moments & Dubious Achievements in Baseball History" by John Snyder. But the details are disputed, as the Baseball Almanac agrees that Nunamaker caught three Tigers stealing in one inning that day. But they say it was the second inning. Retrosheet has a box score but not play-by-play data, so we cannot be sure. The first inning seems more likely, as in the second inning the Tigers scored two runs. Nunamaker is credited with a stolen base of his own, but those he caught are not named. Every Tiger reached base at least once as Detroit won 4-1, so it could be either inning.
Searching further, we find that Pinstripe Alley of SB Nation addressed this event as well. Pinstripe Alley says it was the seventh inning with Hugh High the first out, after a walk. Sam Crawford then walked and successfully stole second, but was subsequently picked off by Nunamaker. Finally Bobby Veach walked and was caught stealing. Pinstripe Alley adds that Nunamaker's steal was of home for the Yankees' lone run. The wrinkles in this version ring true, but the details are inconsistent with the box score at Retrosheet.
If someone needs a good research project, try to dig up an account of the game from a Detroit newspaper. But no matter which inning contained the historic event of three runners thrown out by the catcher, it demonstrates that there are risks with being more aggressive on the bases. Hopefully the Tigers will not need many stolen bases early in games in mid-summer. But late in a scoreless regular season game, or down one run late in a playoff game, it will be good to have this weapon.