With more than six weeks left in the 1978 campaign, Seattle second baseman Julio Cruz, having a career year in only his second season in the majors, is just ten stolen bases away from tying the American League single-season mark of 96, set by Tigers legend Ty Cobb in 1915. And with 42 games remaining on the Mariners schedule, it appears that the major league record of 118, established by Cardinals veteran Lou Brock in 1974, may be in jeopardy as well.
“As long as I stay healthy, and can get on base, I think I can do it,” said Cruz before tonight’s doubleheader against the Angels at the Kingdome. If he were to steal a base per game, and barring injury or a sudden slump that would keep him off the basepaths, Cruz would break Cobb’s record on August 25th at Baltimore, and Brock’s milestone at home on September 19th against the Royals.
“Of course I’m playing him every game!” said a surprised Darrell Johnson, manager of the M’s, when asked if he was sticking with Cruz at second for the remainder of the season. “Why wouldn’t I? We’re fifteen games outta first, the guy’s hitting over .300, and he’s about to put this team on the map. You want me to play Bernhardt or Milbourne instead?”
With 86 stolen bases thus far in ’78, Cruz needs just three more to pass Washington outfielder Clyde Milan’s 1912 total to claim the second spot for single-season steals by an AL player in the modern era. Cruz considers that feat alone to be just another shining moment in a season already chock-full of them for the magic Mariners, who are currently tied for fourth place in the AL West. “For a second-year team,” he said, “we’re not doing too bad, are we?”