When all is said and done, Ronald Acuña Jr.’s 2023 campaign will go down as one of the best offensive seasons in MLB history.
Part of that distinction will be due to the damage he’s caused with his legs, as he stole his 73rd base on Saturday, setting the Braves' Live Ball Era (since 1920) franchise record of 73 and breaking the previous record of 72 set by Otis Nixon in 1991. (Two players, King Kelly and Billy Hamilton, are credited with having seasons of more than 80 steals back in the 19th century, when the franchise was based in Boston.)
With Acuña making history, here’s a look at each franchise's single-season stolen base leader. Again, we are confining our list to the Live Ball Era, which began in 1920, and considering each franchise's entire history during that period.
Blue Jays: Dave Collins -- 60, 1984
While the Blue Jays' trade of Tom Dodd and Dale Murray will always be remembered for bringing future Hall of Famer Fred McGriff to Toronto, the deal also netted Collins, who had an eventful two years with the team. After hitting .271 in 1983, he broke out in ‘84, hitting an American League-leading 15 triples to go along with 60 steals, which was the fifth-best mark in baseball and set a new Blue Jays record.
Orioles: Luis Aparicio -- 57, 1964
"Little Louie" made his presence known on the basepaths right out of the chute, as he led the AL in stolen bases for the first nine seasons of his career, the first seven coming with the White Sox before he was traded to the Orioles before the 1963 season. While '64 was the final year of his reign, it was also the highest steal total of his career. Aparicio spent five years with the Orioles before being the first native of Venezuela to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984.
Rays: Carl Crawford -- 60, 2009
Crawford’s 2009 season will live on in Tampa Bay lore -- and for good reason. Not only did Crawford set the franchise record with 60 stolen bases, but he also tied the modern MLB record by swiping six bags in one game against the Red Sox. Crawford had five seasons with 50 or more steals during his Rays career and holds the franchise's career record for steals at 409.
Red Sox: Jacoby Ellsbury -- 70, 2009
The same year that Crawford was setting records in Tampa Bay, Ellsbury was doing the same with the Red Sox. He set a new Boston record with his 55th steal on Aug. 25, then added 15 more steals the rest of the season to solidify his record. While Ellsbury's career would have its ups and downs, this record could be one that stands the test of time.
Yankees: Rickey Henderson -- 93, 1988
Despite playing only 596 games with the team, from 1985-89, Henderson finished his Yankees career with 326 stolen bases, which was the franchise record until it was broken by Derek Jeter in 2011. Ninety-three of Henderson’s steals came in his incredible 1988 season, and incredibly, that ranks as only the fourth-best total of his career.
Guardians: Kenny Lofton -- 75, 1996
Lofton’s last season during his first stint in Cleveland was one of his best, as he led all of baseball in steals along with recording a then-career-high 75 RBIs, and set a new team record with his 255th steal that April. He ended up coming back to Cleveland a year later, and finished his career with 622 steals, including 452 steals in a Cleveland uniform.
Royals: Willie Wilson -- 83, 1979
After hitting only .217 with the Royals in 1978, Wilson turned things around in ‘79, hitting .315 with a .351 on-base percentage en route to a record-setting season on the bases. Not only did Wilson lead the Majors with 83 steals, but he also recorded 148 singles, which was the highest mark in the bigs.
Tigers: Ron LeFlore -- 78, 1979
LeFlore’s career featured a series of twists and turns, as he was arrested for armed robbery in 1970 and sent to Jackson State Penitentiary, where he started playing baseball and was noticed by a close friend of Billy Martin. Eight years after he was imprisoned, he set the Tigers' single-season stolen base record. He finished his Tigers career with 294 steals in six years.
Twins: Sam Rice -- 63, 1920 (Washington Senators)
Rice was active on the basepaths in 1920, as he led all of baseball in steals (63) and caught stealing (30). He recorded 346 stolen bases in his 19 years with the Senators, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1963.
The franchise moved to Minnesota and became the Twins in 1961, and since that point, Chuck Knoblauch holds the record, having swiped 62 bases in 1997. Knoblauch also tallied Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards that year.
White Sox: Rudy Law -- 77, 1983
After spending all of 1981 in Triple-A, Law was traded by the Dodgers to the White Sox right before Opening Day in 1982. That set off a four-year Chicago tenure during which Law ran wild on the basepaths. He swiped 77 bases and hit .281 in ‘83, which earned him some down-ballot AL MVP votes and helped the White Sox earn a berth in the ALCS.
Angels: Mickey Rivers -- 70, 1975
Rivers made the most of his last season in California by nabbing an AL-best 70 bases while also leading MLB with 13 triples. Rivers was traded to the Yankees a year later, when he finished third in AL MVP voting after hitting .312 with 67 RBIs.
Astros: Gerald Young -- 65, 1988
Young impressed in his second season in the Major Leagues, recording 65 steals with 35 RBIs on 145 hits. His numbers tapered off the following season, however (he stole only 34 bases), which led to him bouncing around the league, spending time with the Rockies in their inaugural season before finishing his career with the Cardinals.
Athletics: Rickey Henderson -- 130, 1982
The 1982 season saw the "Man of Steal" at the top of his powers. At age 23, he led his league in steals for a third straight season, reaching triple digits for the second time. Henderson had 84 steals at the All-Star break (no one’s had more than 84 stolen bases in a single season since 1988) and finished the year with more steals than nine of the 14 American League teams.
Mariners: Harold Reynolds -- 60, 1987
From 1908-91, Henderson led the AL in steals every single season -- except one. That was 1987, when Henderson was limited to 95 games and Reynolds led the Junior Circuit with 60 steals, while also nabbing his first All-Star nod. A year later, Reynolds only had 35 steals but led the AL with 11 triples.
Rangers: Bump Wills -- 52, 1978
After placing third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 1977, Wills set a new Rangers record with 52 steals a year later. The record was a family affair for Wills, as his dad Maury recorded more than 500 steals during his 14-year career (and is featured a little lower on this list).
Braves: Ronald Acuña Jr., 2023 -- 73 (ongoing)
In 2023, Ronald Acuña Jr.’s baserunning has already either broken or put him in the conversation for several records, including when he became the first "40-70" in MLB history. One more record that the NL MVP candidate broke is the Braves’ single-season steals record, set by Otis Nixon (72) back in 1991 – the first of the Braves’ all-time record 14 consecutive playoff seasons. After tying Nixon Friday, Acuña broke the record on Saturday with his 73rd stolen base.
Marlins: Juan Pierre -- 65, 2003
The 2003 Marlins were special for several reasons, rallying from a 19-29 start to a World Series title, and Pierre’s baserunning was merely one of them. In his first season with the Marlins, Pierre contributed with a .305 batting average on top of his 65 steals, finishing 10th in NL MVP voting. Remarkably, the 65-steal output wasn’t even the highest of his career, as he went on to have 68 steals with the White Sox in his age-32 season in 2010.
Mets: José Reyes -- 78, 2007
Reyes was a special talent as soon as he hit the field, as he is still the only player in the 21st century with three consecutive 60-steal seasons. The final of those three seasons was 2007, when Reyes had 14 more steals than any other player. In the Live Ball Era, only Maury Wills has stolen more bases in a season while primarily playing shortstop.
Nationals: Ron LeFlore -- 97, 1980 (Montreal Expos)
Acquired in a trade from the Tigers, LeFlore made his only season in Montreal one for the record books, as he led the NL and ranked second in MLB (behind Rickey Henderson) with a staggering 97 steals – 19 more than he had in any other season in his career. He then signed with the White Sox as a free agent.
As for the span since the franchise moved to Washington in 2005, Trea Turner is the leader in the clubhouse for now, with 46 steals in 2017. But CJ Abrams is on his tail down the stretch in 2023, having already cracked the 40-steal mark.
Phillies: Juan Samuel -- 72, 1984
Samuel’s rookie season of 1984 was notable for several reasons beyond his stolen base total, as he also had an MLB-high 19 triples, made the NL All-Star team and finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting behind only Dwight Gooden’s legendary rookie season. As for the 72 steals, that was 19 more than he had in any other season of his career.
Brewers: Tommy Harper -- 73, 1969 (Seattle Pilots)
It may be a little-known fact that the current Brewers franchise played its inaugural season as the Seattle Pilots before moving to Milwaukee in 1970, but that one season was all that Harper needed to set a still-standing record of 73 steals. As for the Milwaukee era, the leader is Scott Podsednik, who had an MLB-high 70 steals in 2004, one season before he was traded to the White Sox, with whom he won the 2005 World Series.
Cardinals: Lou Brock -- 118, 1974
Even with the recent rule changes that have led to more stolen bases, here’s a record that should be safe for a long time. The Hall of Fame outfielder was a strong base-stealer throughout his career, leading the NL in stolen bases eight separate times. But for whatever reason, Brock was on a different level in 1974, putting up 44 steals … more than he did in any other season in his career.
Cubs: Juan Pierre -- 58, 2006
You shouldn’t be surprised to see Pierre’s name on this list again, as the outfielder was among MLB’s premier baserunners during the 2000s and early 2010s. In his only season with the Cubs, Pierre decided to set a franchise record on his way out, part of a seven-year streak (2001-07) in which he had at least 45 steals in each season, across four different teams.
Pirates: Omar Moreno -- 96, 1980
If it seems like the year 1980 has popped up often in this story, you’re not wrong. Between Henderson, LeFlore and Moreno, 1980 is the only season in the Live Ball Era to have three players with at least 95 steals. In fact, no other season in the Live Ball Era has featured three players with even 85 steals.
Reds: Eric Davis -- 80, 1986
After two seasons in a reserve role, the training wheels were taken off of Davis in 1986, and Cincinnati saw what the 24-year-old was capable of doing. Davis barely snuck by Dave Collins, the franchise’s previous record holder in the Live Ball Era, who had 79 steals in 1980. The total of 80 steals was 30 more than Davis had in any other season of his career.
D-backs: Tony Womack -- 72, 1999
In only the second season of the franchise’s existence (and his first with the team), Womack wasted no time setting a record that still stands today. With a career-high 72 swipes, Womack was an integral part of what remains the only 100-win team in D-backs history, also scoring a career-best 111 runs.
Dodgers: Maury Wills -- 104, 1962
Wills’ 1962 season holds a distinction that none of the other 29 mentioned on this list can claim: MVP honors. With a .299 batting average, an MLB-high 104 steals and Gold Glove-winning defense at shortstop, Wills barely edged Willie Mays for the NL’s most prestigious individual honor. Another fun fact about the 1962 Dodgers is that they went 102-63, matching that year’s Giants (103-62) for the most regular season games played by any team in MLB history (because they played a best-of-three tiebreaker for the NL pennant).
Padres: Alan Wiggins -- 70, 1984
The 1984 Padres featured an interesting assortment of names, including Rich “Goose” Gossage, Steve Garvey, Tony Gwynn and Bruce Bochy, but it was Wiggins who stole the show on the basepaths. Along with his career-high 70 steals, he also had career-best totals in runs (106) and hits (154), helping San Diego reach the World Series, where it fell to Detroit.
Rockies: Willy Taveras -- 68, 2008
Getting on base is generally conducive to racking up a high number of steals, but Taveras’ 2008 season was an anomaly. Taveras’ .308 on-base percentage was actually a career low at the time (min. 10 plate appearances), but he managed to overcome that and have twice as many steals as he had in any other season of his entire career (second-most was 34, in 2005). Taveras’ 90.7% success rate on stolen base attempts in 2008 is still the highest by any player with at least 60 attempts in a season in the Live Ball Era.