With stolen bases finally coming back to baseball, we thought it was a good time to check out the most MLB stolen bases in a season.
Back in the day, even before there were rules to reduce pickoff throws, stolen bases were a common occurrence. On top of that, players with the most stolen bases were valued appropriately. Hopefully, those days are coming back, potentially putting the stolen bases record in jeopardy.
Most MLB stolen bases in a season
After all, stealing bases isn’t always as easy as it looks. That’s why we felt it was appropriate to list the players with the most stolen bases in a single season. Therefore, here is an official ranking (as of 2023) of the most MLB stolen bases in a season.
T10. Billy Hamilton, 102 (1890)
Modern baseball fans probably know a different Billy Hamilton. For what it’s worth, the Billy Hamilton who broke into the big leagues in 2013 was also quite the speedster. He just never got on base frequently enough to lead the majors in stolen bases.
However, the Billy Hamilton who played from 1888 to 1901 led the National League in stolen bases five times, including the 1890 season when he reached 102 stolen bases. For what it’s worth, Hamilton also won two batting titles during his career, so he was on base and had a lot of opportunities to steal bases. Ultimately, he finished his career with a .344 average and 912 stolen bases.
T10. Jim Fogarty, 102 (1887)
Not much is known about Jim Fogarty, but do know that he had 102 stolen bases in 1887, although that wasn’t enough to lead the league because another player on our list had more.
However, Fogarty would lead the National League in stolen bases two years later in 1889 while playing for the Philadelphia Quakers. Sadly, Fogarty died in May 1891 of tuberculosis, cutting both his life and career short.
9. Maury Wills, 104 (1962)
For six straight seasons from 1960 to 1965, Maury Wills led the National League in stolen bases. He did so as the shortstop for the Dodgers, becoming the team’s long-term answer after PeeWee Reese retired.
His 104 stolen bases in 1962 was a modern-era record that stood for over a decade. Setting that record also helped Wills to win MVP honors in 1962. He also won a Gold Glove that year and is arguably one of the most overlooked players in Dodgers history.
8. Vince Coleman, 107 (1986)
Spoiler alert, this won’t be the last time we see Vince Coleman on this list. In fact, outside of the two players at the top of this list, Coleman is arguably the best base stealer in MLB history.
He’s surely among the fastest players to ever play the game. The 1986 season was just his second in the majors, as Coleman began his career with three straight seasons with over 100 stolen bases, an accomplishment that seems like it happened in an alternate universe compared to today’s game.
7. Rickey Henderson, 108 (1983)
We’ll learn more about Rickey Henderson’s record-setting 1982 season later. But his follow-up season in 1983 was also one for the ages. Henderson led the American League in both stolen bases and walks that season.
That became the fourth season that Henderson led the AL in stolen bases, something he would eventually do 12 times in his career. It was also the third time that Henderson posted at least 100 walks, 100 stolen bases, and 100 runs scored. Keep in mind that no other player during the modern era has accomplished that feat more than once, making 1983 a special season for Henderson.
6. Vince Coleman, 109 (1987)
This is Coleman’s second appearance on this list, although it won’t be his last.
As mentioned, he began his career with 100-plus stolen bases in three straight seasons. But Coleman also led the National League in stolen bases in each of his first six seasons. Only three other players have led the league in steals for six straight seasons, putting Coleman in exclusive company.
5. Vince Coleman, 110 (1985)
This is the third and final season from Coleman that appears on this list. The thing that’s special about his 110 stolen bases in 1985 is that Coleman was a rookie. He didn’t make his MLB debut until the eighth game of the season and then proceeded to steal 110 bases.
Those 110 steals were enough to make Coleman Rookie of the Year and place 11th in MVP voting. As we know, Coleman stole more than 100 bases in each of the next two seasons, although he never managed to surpass the 110 he accumulated as a rookie.
T3. Billy Hamilton, 111 (1889 and 1891)
During both the 1889 and 1891 seasons, Hamilton was credited with stealing 111 bases. Obviously, Hamilton played a much different brand of baseball than the one we see today, as stolen bases are viewed differently and credited a little differently. But the numbers say he was one of the best of all time.
After his career was over, when a magazine tried to discredit some of his stolen base records, Hamilton defended himself, saying: “I was and will be the greatest base stealer of all time. I stole over 100 bases on many years and if they ever re-count the record I will get my just reward.”
T3. John Montgomery Ward, 111 (1887)
Just two years before Hamilton stole 111 bases in a season, John Montgomery Ward was credited with reaching that same mark. Ward was one of the great players of the 19th century. He played a multitude of positions, including pitcher, and was also a player-manager for most of his career.
He even pitched a perfect game in 1880, so his stolen base numbers are the least of what he accomplished during his career, especially since they weren’t even kept for the first half of his career. Fortunately, Ward was eventually put in the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1964 so that he can be remembered for his accomplishments.
2. Lou Brock, 118 (1974)
It’s truly unfortunate that Lou Brock can’t hold this record. He was truly one of the great people and players of his era, especially when it came to running the bases.
Among his accomplishments during a Hall of Fame career was leading the National League in stolen bases eight times in a nine-year span. For 12 straight seasons, Brock stole over 50 bases, including the 1974 season when he set the record with 118 stolen bases while being MVP runner-up to Steve Garvey.
1. Rickey Henderson, 130 (1982)
The gold standard for stolen bases belongs to Henderson, and that’s likely the way it’ll stay for a long time. He swiped 130 bases during the 1982 season, breaking the record that Brock set less than a decade earlier. By the all-star break in 1982, Henderson had already stolen 84 bases.
In today’s game, 82 stolen bases in a full season are almost hard to imagine, yet Henderson was there in the middle of the season. In other words, Henderson’s record of 130 stolen bases in a single season will probably never be broken.
The same can be said of his 1,406 career stolen bases or even his 2,295 career runs scored. Remember that Henderson was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2009 and will long be remembered as the best leadoff hitter in MLB history in addition to being the all-time and single-season stolen base king.