Chico Ruiz steals home.. and Philly’s momentum
Prior to the start of a late September matchup between the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies in 1964, the Phillies stood 6.5 games ahead of the rest of the pack in the National League pennant race with twelve games remaining in the regular season. It wasn’t a matter of if the Phillies would raise the pennant; it was a matter of a when.
It was the top of the sixth inning, game knotted at zero. Art Mahaffey was pitching for the Phillies. With one out, Chico Ruiz singled. Next, Vada Pinson lined a single off of Mahaffey’s glove and was caught trying to stretch the single into a double by right fielder Johnny Callison, who nailed him with a throw at second base. There were now two outs in the inning, and Frank Robinson was digging in at the dish. Ruiz was standing on third.
Mahaffey quickly drew a favorable count against the dangerous Robinson and was just a splendid pitch away from getting out of his sixth inning jam. With a right-handed pitcher in Mahaffey, and a right-handed batter in Robinson, Ruiz inexplicably broke for home plate. Catching a glimpse of the 25-year-old Ruiz dashing home, Mahaffey rushed his delivery and produced a pitch that Philadelphia catcher Clay Dalrymple simply could not handle. Ruiz slid in safely, scoring what would be the game’s only run.
“Ruiz stole home with two outs and two strikes on Robinson,” Mahaffey would say years later while reminiscing on the infamous steal. “Now you must realize that with two outs and two strikes, if you throw a strike, Robinson swings and knocks Ruiz’s head off. It was just so stupid. Ruiz wasn’t even thinking.”
The loss to the Reds was the beginning of a ten-game losing streak for the Phillies. The Phillies would end the season tied for second place, their plans to raise the NL pennant erased.