Henderson reached stolen base milestone at Tiger Stadium 25 years ago

LEFT: Rickey Henderson slides under the tag at third base for his 1,000th stolen base, on May 1, 1992, at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. RIGHT: Henderson wipes dirt from the bag after his historic theft.

It is easy to remember big moments from the Detroit Tigers at Tiger Stadium or Comerica Park, but some of baseball’s great moments have happened in Detroit, too—they just happened to be for opposing players and teams.
It can create quite a buzz.

Sometimes it’s history waiting to happen. On June 1, 2003, Roger Clemens took the mound at Comerica Park as a member of the New York Yankees, aiming for his 300th win. The game was sold out, the Yankees led early and it looked like the veteran would get the milestone win at the expense of the hometown team. But the scrappy Tigers clawed back to tie the game, disappointing Clemens’ family and many dignitaries who were in the crowd for the game, including Reggie Jackson, George Steinbrenner, and Rev. Al Sharpton. The Yankees eventually won in 17 innings, but Clemens was forced to wait until his next start for #300.

One of the more forgotten baseball moments for opposing players happened on May 1, 1992 at Tiger Stadium as Rickey Henderson took center stage, accomplishing something that no one had ever done and since has never done.

On that day, Henderson stole the 1,000th base of his career at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. The 1,000 stolen base club still is a one-man fraternity consisting of only Henderson. And just like his career record-breaking steal a year earlier, Henderson’s 1,000th was a steal of third base. Henderson doubled of Tigers starter Walt Terrell and stole third base. After receiving an ovation from the Detroit crowd, Henderson pulled the bag out of the ground and wiped it of dirt, taking it as a memento.

Strangely, Tiger manager Sparky Anderson and Henderson had crossed paths over a stolen base record ten years earlier, with controversial results. On August 24, 1982 in a game played at Oakland’s Coliseum, the A’s used some chicanery to try to get Rickey the single-season stolen base mark. But this story is about ’92 and the all-time steal record.

The game was a 7-6 win for the Oakland Athletics and was decided by the bullpen after shaky starts by both team’s starters. Oakland’s Dave Stewart, in the middle of four consecutive 20-win seasons, walked seven in six innings, allowing four earned runs. Terrell lasted just 4 1/3 innings after allowing five earned runs on 11 hits with three walks. Mike Henneman took the loss for Detroit, allowing one run in the final two innings. Jeff Parrett took the win in relief for Oakland as Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley notched the save despite allowing two Tiger hits in the ninth-inning. He struck out the side, but not without some stress for the Athletics.

But it was Henderson who made the most noise in the game with his milestone that still has not been anywhere near approached. He retired with 1,406 career steals and Lou Brock is still second.

Ironically it was a year to the day that Henderson broke the all-time stolen bases record set by Brock, the St. Louis Cardinals great, with his 939th. Despite playing before interleague play, Brock had some memorable moments at Tiger Stadium, too, the biggest was something Tiger fans will never forget.

In Game 5 of the 1968 World Series, Brock tried to score standing up on a one-hop hit to left field but Willie Horton fired a perfect strike to catcher Bill Freehan to nail Brock at the plate. It completely shifted the momentum in the series and the Tigers went on to beat the Cardinals.

Henderson had a little better luck and earned one of the game’s truly impressive milestones—and he did so at Tiger Stadium.