Jon Jay is the fourth center fielder in the last 60 years to lead the Cardinals in stolen bases in a season.
Jay topped the Cardinals with 19 steals in 2012. Other center fielders since 1952 who led St. Louis in steals in a season were Wally Moon (18 in 1954), Tony Scott (37 in 1979) and Ray Lankford (44 in 1991, 24 in 1995, 35 in 1996 and 26 in 1998).
(Note: Lankford shared the team lead with right fielder Brian Jordan in 1995 and with second baseman Delino DeShields in 1998.)
Jay is most like Moon from a statistical perspective. Here is how they compare in the seasons they led the Cardinals in steals:
_ Wally Moon in 1954: .304 batting average, .371 on-base percentage, 18 steals.
_ Jon Jay in 2012: .305 batting average, .373 on-base percentage, 19 steals.
Like Moon, Jay bats left-handed. Like Moon in 1954, Jay had most of his at-bats from the leadoff or No. 2 spots in the order in 2012.
Jay was part of a Cardinals team that improved its ability to steals bases. The 2012 Cardinals had 91 stolen bases under first-year manager Mike Matheny compared with the 57 steals by the 2011 Cardinals under Tony La Russa.
Moon was part of a 1954 Cardinals team that led the National League in steals (with 63) after having just 18 as a team in 1953. In winning the 1954 NL Rookie of the Year Award, Moon alone had as many steals as the entire 1953 Cardinals team.
At 24, Moon took over in center for Enos Slaughter, who was traded to the Yankees just before the start of the 1954 season. Flanking Moon was Stan Musial in right and Rip Repulski in left.
Cardinals manager Eddie Stanky, looking for speed and a more aggressive style of play, promised to buy a suit for every St. Louis player who would steal 10 or more bases in 1954.
(According to The Sporting News, NL president Warren Giles later ordered Stanky to stop offering incentives to players for individual performances. Replied Stanky: “I respect authority and I’ll respect Mr. Giles’ wishes, though … I do feel I must live up to the promise to give the prizes for 10 or more stolen bases.”)
Moon was the only Cardinal to reach the goal. With nine steals, third baseman Ray Jablonski fell one short.
On May 25, 1954, Moon swiped four bases in the Cardinals’ 9-4 victory over the Cubs at St. Louis. The NL single-game record at the time was five by first baseman Dan McGann of the 1904 Giants.
With ex-Cardinal Walker Cooper, 39, catching for the Cubs, Moon stole second in the first inning, second in the fourth, and second and third in the fifth. Jim Willis’ pitch on Moon’s steal of third was wild and Moon continued home. Willis was so steamed that he plunked the next batter, Alex Grammas, with a pitch.
In the seventh, Moon flied out. If he had reached base, Stanky said, Moon would have gotten the signal to attempt to steal because Stanky was aware of the record. Boxscore
“I would have given Moon every chance to get that fifth steal,” Stanky told The Sporting News. “He’s a nervy youngster and when he says he’ll have another go at it, I’m sure that he will.”
Moon told reporters he expected to “take another crack one of these days” at the record, but the most steals he ever got in a game after that was two.
Two weeks after his four-steal performance, Moon displayed recklessness rather than savvy on the basepaths in a game against the Phillies at St. Louis on June 6, 1954.
With the score tied 6-6 in the bottom of the sixth, the Cardinals had loaded the bases with two out and Jablonski at the plate. Moon tried to steal home, but pitcher Bob Miller’s delivery to catcher Smoky Burgess was on time to retire Moon and end the inning.
Stanky, coaching at third, was booed. The fired-up Phillies scored five in the seventh and went on to win, 11-8. Boxscore
Afterward, Stanky told St. Louis writer Bob Broeg, “When things go wrong on the field, it’s my fault. I gave the sign.”
But Moon told Broeg that he had run on his own.
Moon’s 18 steals in 1954 were the single-season high of his 12-year major-league career. He finished with 89 career steals in the big leagues.
With 17 of 24 votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America, Moon won the Rookie of the Year Award against top-flight competition. The Cubs’ Ernie Banks placed second in the voting (four votes) and the Braves’ Hank Aaron finished fourth (one vote).
Moon had 193 hits in 151 games for the 1954 Cardinals, with 12 home runs, 29 doubles, 71 walks, 76 RBI and 106 runs scored.