Twenty-five years ago, Vince Coleman established a major-league stolen base record that still remains the standard for consistent excellence. But he also achieved a personal goal that season with one powerful swing of the bat.
On Aug. 26, 1987, Coleman hit a home run over an outfield wall for the first time in his three big-league seasons. The left fielder had gone 1,721 at-bats without hitting a ball out of the park, according to The Sporting News.
(Coleman had hit an inside-the-park home run on May 21, 1985, his rookie year, against the Braves’ Len Barker at St. Louis. Boxscore)
Facing Houston left-hander Jim Deshaies, Coleman drove an opposite-field home run over the right field gate at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium II. The fifth-inning solo shot was estimated to carry 386 feet.
“It’s a lot of fun to do it,” Coleman said to the Associated Press. “I had confidence in my ability that I’d hit at least one. I feel awfully proud.”
It was Coleman’s speed, though, that won that game for St. Louis.
With the score tied 4-4, Coleman doubled against reliever Juan Agosto leading off the seventh. Coleman moved to third on shortstop Ozzie Smith’s sacrifice bunt.
The next batter, second baseman Tommy Herr, grounded to shortstop Dale Berra, who looked toward Coleman, then threw to first to retire Herr. When Berra unleashed his throw, Coleman dashed for home. He slid across the plate with the winning run, beating the peg from startled first baseman Glenn Davis. Boxscore
“That last piece of baserunning was a beauty,” Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog said to the Associated Press. “Really, it turned out bigger than the home run.”
Said Berra: “I went to fake him back to third and then I threw. That’s the first time that’s ever happened to me.”
Coleman finished the 1987 regular season with three home runs. He hit 28, three off Deshaies, in a 13-year major-league career. (Coleman also hit two off Derek Lilliquist, now the Cardinals’ pitching coach). His single-season high was six for the 1990 Cardinals.
Most impressively, Coleman totaled 109 stolen bases during the 1987 regular season, becoming the first player in major-league history to swipe 100 or more in three consecutive years. He had 110 in 1985 and 107 in ’86.
“I think 100 stolen bases is a hell of an accomplishment,” Coleman told Rick Hummel for The Sporting News in September 1987. “But MVP honors are presented to the big home run hitters. I just get my personal satisfaction out of stealing bases and hope that I get compensated for it.”